Friday, August 5, 2011

Connections... the right stuff

The success of your ministry is going to depend on the spending the time that you don't have to get stuff done the right way. what i mean is that you need to understand that you are not going to feel that ever have enough time in your day to get stuff accomplished. here is the funny part... you are right. but the reason that you and i don't have the time is that we do not utilize the clock the way that we should. and if we do, it is only for short periods of time. let's face it, we are all procrastinators that would rather be other stuff instead of the work that we need to be doing. yeah, i am definitely guilty. but what you and i have to do is figure out a way to get it done anyway.

in this equation are going to be the peeps in your ministry. these are your warriors; the ones that are going out in the field every day and hook up the ministry opportunities that you can only dream of. there is no way that you are going to connect with all the students in your ministry even if you made the rounds every mid-week program nite - this would be impossible. and for this you need to trust your warriors. and even more so than that you need to be making connections with them on a consistent basis, or you will suffer at least one of a couple fates.

the first of these is that you may lose them altogether from your ministry. they will not feel loved and eventually fade away. and you will prolly never even know what hit you. your staff member will end up missing a nite or two of programming thinking that you will not notice. the ironic thing is that this is true. yeah, you will remember that this person or persons did not show up, but like most other things, you will let is slip your mind like the rest of the stuff you should be getting done in your ministry. then he will inevitably tell you sometime down the road that he is "feeling God pushing him in a different direction of ministry." by this time you are a gonner. there is no going back at this point and you can count yet another leader casualty to your ministry. you will not know what happened, you will be flabbergasted at the notion that this staff member could have possibly expected you to be able to "babysit" him... get over yourself - it's your fault. you are the leader. and being the leader calls for the ultimate responsibility.

however, there is a worse fate than this if you could believe there to be. maybe this staff person will stay in your ministry but get off track with the vision of the group, for lack of you as the leader providing it. then your students will be taught stuff that you do not want them to be taught, bad theology, negative thoughts of your ministry or the church as a whole - you get the picture. by the time that you know this person is doing the stuff that she is, she has already contaminated her group and maybe even the attitudes of other leaders around her. getting rid of her will just make you look bad and ultimately hurt your group.

there is tons more stuff, but you pretty much get the idea that if you are spending time with your staff and connecting with them, they will be on your side and feel loved, as they should. there is no reason for you to be losing staff peeps if you just put in a little, or should i say a lot of time. but this is time well spent. relationships are what matter the most and you cannot shortcut them. do your homework. know your staff members - your warriors. remember, they are getting beat up daily and the enemy is going to try and bring them down. be a good leader and spend time pouring into their lives. it is well worth the time you don't have.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Youth Ministry Syllabus: Part 2

Remember, you are the pulse of your ministry. If your staff sees you putting in the time and taking your job seriously, they will do the same. If they have all the material... they are the ones responsible now. Wow! That's right. Transfer responsibility and you will create an expectation of them. They will not come unprepared because you have set them up for success. Now if they fail, it is on them (well, it is still on you – but you catch my drift). They will do crazy stuff like bring your lessons and group questions all marked up with ideas they have for their group, ideas of stuff specifically for their students and ways they can be a better leader.

Also, they will come with questions for you about the passages you have chosen for the next few months, which makes you be accountable for the stuff that you put out. And we all know that it is nice to not have to have anything in writing so we do not have to answer. However, that is not good ministry. Good ministry is getting your material out on time. So, even though you may behind the curve already for this year, you still have time to get on it. Put in the extra time. Put in the long hours now and you will thank yourself later on this year when you are coming up to the holiday season and you are ahead of where you have ever been.

Setting your staff up for success will put you way beyond where you could get the group on your own talents and skills. So, get them as much material and calendar items as quickly as you can. The more they have the more success you will give them and will build confidence as a team. They deserve the chance to do the best they can with the students God has put in their groups. And you will stay sane... at least for a long period of time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Youth Ministry Syllabus: Part 1

I would be shocked to ever hear a youth pastor to say that he or she has over-planned. The reality is that we like to do just enuff the make sure things are going to happen. Many to most of us do or have lived the motto “Excellence is the enemy of Good Enuff.” there are just too many activities and meetings going on in your day to worry about making stuff perfect. I mean common, you have more on your plate than the average person. You are expected to work long hours. And not just the ones during the day, but all the extras that your senior pastor does not see. The ones cleaning up after a crazy midweek program all by yourself because all your staff has to leave right after group to get enuff sleep to make it through the day tomorrow. What about you??? yes, I know that you are living the fast life, and sometimes it is dragging you along – much of the time on your face. And for this reason we need to be on point as much as possible to allow wiggle room for the madness that comes up that we do not expect.

One of the best ways you can prepare yourself and your staff is to distribute information ahead of time, you know, like a proff does at the beginning of a semester or quarter in college. I am talking about so much information that your volunteers and interns are wondering if you are sane anymore. For instance, it is the beginning of September and most of us are in a place where we are scrambling to get the Fall schedule in order cause our midweek “kick-off stuff” is right around the corner. You know, weeks or sometimes only days away. You are still cleaning sand out of the car or unpacking from your last pool or house party of the summer. You have not had time to even look at what your Fall is going to look like yet. I know that it can be straight up madness. I have been there. Sometimes I still am. But I am getting better. And yo can too.

Start here. If you know what you are going to be doing this Fall and the stuff you are talking about, the activities, teams and outreach events – write them down. And do it in way that you can distribute it to your staff in early September before your school ministry season begins. You will see a world of difference in the way that your staff – and you for that matter – approaches ministry. And this is why. Your staff sees you in a couple of lights. The first is that you are running around and doing a million tasks at the same time. Secondly, they think you make up stuff at the last second, you know, right before the event or outreach nite starts. If you give them a packet of lessons, scripture, teams, games, phone numbers and ideas ahead of time they will take stuff more seriously.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Never do this to your leaders...

So I was sitting in on a staff meeting for a local non-profit organization, just doing some observing and whatnot. One of the key leaders on the team asked a question to the big boss in charge. Now, let me first say that the question that this key leader asked was not the best, nor was it the right time to bring it up. However, I say that to set up the re-sponse given by the big boss. Instead of deflecting the question or telling the key leader to get with her after the meeting, or any of a million other ways to respond, she just lit into this guy. I mean she showed no mercy, telling him that it was none of his business to ask the question that he did, that he was out of line, that he had no right to even be think-ing about that particular question. And the thing is… she was right on with her assess-ment.

What she got wrong was the way she handled the situation. And not even really because of the impact it would have on that key leader. Who it really affected were all the other young and up-and-coming leaders in the room. They all saw the way that the big boss treated a senior leader on staff, someone who had been with the company for years. And I mean she just ripped into this guy! So, what am I saying? As a leader, you are going to hear a lot of asinine stuff from your staff. And it is the most frustrating to hear it from someone who knows better than to bring stuff up, as this key leader did in this instance. However, that does not give you the right as the big boss to act like that… ever.

My question is: How do you handle situations like this? If you want to be an effective leader then you should really check your response mechanism to see if you are handling your bidness. Ask around… sincerely. You may be surprised with the feedback – good or bad.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I never got too far...

I was talking with one of the peeps the other day and he said that he was leaving his current church because he was no longer “being fed.” Ok, seriously, what does that mean? I have known this guy for some time now, back to about the time that he made the decision to follow JC. I remember him way back then and how fired up he was on youth group and church and would brag that the reason that he came was that the message was so easy to understand and he felt that he could get it without too much religious talk. Now, I guess that is not good enough.

I asked him what he mean by not being fed to which he responded that he was just deep enough into his faith that he needed more, and that his current church was not offering that. He said that both the pastor and youth pastor were talking too much on topical stuff and not using enough of the Bible. Funny.

I have seen a lot of kids and parents and others who have been changed by our ministry and other ministries of the homies and got all in to the God thing. Then some time down the line it seems that something grabs a hold of them and the way that they think and all of the sudden their current church is not good enough when it comes to the message anymore. What?!

I always ask the same question, which has something to do with them coming to know JC personally in the same church and or ministry and how that exact message spoke to them. Most of the time they do not really get what I am saying and it is really just like banging my head against the wall. Here is my point. If you know what you are all about in your ministry and you have peeps telling you that you are watering the Gospel down just because it does not speak to them, don’t worry too much about it. As you grow, especially, you will deal with that more.

I remember a lot of the peeps, sometimes leaders in my youth ministry would mention to me after the message or in the time after the outreach nites, would ask me why I never really would get into crazy Bible stuff and calls to discipleship so on and so forth. I never really got it, and still do not to tell you the truth. But after a while, and even more so now, I take that as a compliment. I never get too far off the fact that God wants to meet you and me and the peeps to which we minister where we are. And if that is how you came to Christ then it should be good enough for you later on. And I’ll tell you why.

As soon as you become a follower of JC you are no longer given an excuse and are on the team. Now that you are a believer it is your job to help others come to know him as well as grow in your own relationship. Now, if you get to the point where you are in a church that is not good at the latter, then you have the responsibility, within the governance of the leadership, to do something about it. The wrong thing to do is to leave and give the copout that you need to go somewhere else where you are fed more. Give me a break.

So, next time you are thinking about leaving the ministry that brought you into a relationship with JC, think again. Maybe God wants you to do something about it and continue to use the tools and peeps in that ministry to bring more into the kingdom. Remember, if it was good enough to help you follow, it’s prolly still good enough.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Next season...

One of my boys tweeted me earlier this evening about some potential stuff that he will be doing for the next several months to years. He said that he was looking forward to the “next season” of his life. I love this way of looking at life. This guy and I share a common mentor… you guessed it – Kevin Cobb. When I was first working at the church with Cobb, he would talk to me about what it would take to be successful over the many years of ministry that God had in store for me. I never really knew what he was talking about. I was young and invincible. All I really wanted to do was get stuff done at that moment in time. I was not looking into the future. Over the next several years, Cobb gently helped me understand that many season of life that I would face.

Now that I am older and wiser (if not only a little more) I understand what he means. I want to be better now than I was yesterday or yester-year even. If I do not continue to grow then I am spitting in the face of every man and woman that has put time into my growth. With the gazillion hours that Cobb alone put into me, I would be ashamed if I did not run this life so hard that I go sliding into the grave. So I guess I want to know what you are doing to prove that you deserve the life you have been given. I know you are worth it and there are peeps that believe in you. There are men and women that have put time into your development. If you ever give up then you do them a disservice. What season of life are you in at the moment? What are your struggles? Who knows them? What are you looking forward to doing?

Call someone you know believed in your when no one else would. Ask them what they think you should be doing? They will tell you. I just talked to Cobb earlier this week. And from the millions of conversations we have had over the years, you might think that I would not need to hear it from him again. Hmmm… it’s completely the opposite – I yearn for his counsel more now than I ever had. He has weathered the season which I will forge. Who has done the same for you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who needs planning...

You gotta make sure that in your position known to those on your team. When you run a program or some other kind of event, peeps need to know what is happening. One of the most important parts of that process is letting them know when it is going to start and end. If your team is uncertain of when stuff is going to get over, then they are more apt to get lethargic early and give up. And when it comes to relationships and effectiveness on all fronts, which will totally mess stuff up for you. John Wooden used to take two hours to plan a practice that would last for less a period of time than the planning session. It was important for him to let his team know his expectations so they could give him their best effort up to the end. If the players did not know when the practice was going to end, as many coaches did not, then he knew his boys would not give it their all and always hold something back.

For youth pastors this is touchy. Take camps for instance. If you take your group up to a summer camp that starts on Sunday and will end on Saturday, watch how peeps respond on Friday nite and Saturday morning. It’s like camp is already over for some of them – both kids and leaders. But if you can keep your leaders in the game and help them understand the importance of running to the last second, the event will be good up to the end. How do you do this? Wow, over many years of doing the wrong stuff and learning under Cobb, we found out how to get the most out of every second of every event. It is exhausting beyond belief, but worth it for those under your leadership.

Do you plan well… or at all? I would strongly suggest that in whatever field you work, when you are given the opportunity to lead that you do your best to plan ahead. By doing this you tell your team that you respect their time and they will work harder because they know you are working harder as well. When peeps feel like stuff is thrown together, they do not feel appreciated. And we have to continually remind our teams that they are the reason we lead… for them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Write that down...

I ran into one of my former church ministry students the other day and she proceeded to tell me about one of the stories that I told to the junior high group some seven or so years ago. And to tell you the truth, until that moment I had totally forgotten about that particular story. But as soon as she recounted it I remembered it and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Not the story itself, but that she could remember it and that she was able to apply my experience to her life then and it stuck with her until now.

Then she asked me, as many a student does, if I made up my stories. And the great part about it is that I don’t! All my stories are my own. As much stuff as I steal from other youth peeps I know that the stories that I tell about my life and apply them to my messages, my stories are true and are my own. In fact, I count it as a blessing and a compliment that peeps do not believe the stuff that has happened to me.

And the sweeter part about my stories is that now a lot of them that I tell today now involve my time with the peeps in my ministry, both kids and leaders. And I know that as I continue to do ministry I will continue to have more stories, as I am always looking for the teaching moment in my life to apply to myself and pass on to others. So, when you are out and about, chillin and doing ministry and life, never forget stuff. Write it down – I do… all the time. I go home and remind myself on paper of the moments in my days that speak to me. You will be surprised how much you can bless and help others with the stuff in your life. So, tomorrow or today even, look at your day as a series of lessons that God may just have you give to others.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Just shut up for a second...

I ran into one of my friends from a long time ago. We were both excited to see one another and of course had a million things that each of us wanted to share. I was sooo tempted to talk forever and let him know all the good stuff that was going on in my life. But then I remembered what John Maxwell said about listening to others. Leaders learn to listen intently and actively. And so I did what did not come natural to me. I listened to him and asked questions and had a genuine and sincere interest in what had been going on in his life for the past several years. When we were done catching up about an hour later, I would have to say he dominated the conversation with about eighty percent of the words. And I must say, I was much more satisfied with learning about him than I would have been telling my story. I mean, I already know MY story. I gained much by listening to his.

I guess my question today is, When is the last time you listened sincerely to someone else’s story? I mean really listened and cared and took a genuine interest in his or her life? You will be surprised all you can learn from others. Whether they are younger, older, smarter, whatever. I would challenge each of us to hold our tongue next time we are in conversation. Try it… it’s harder than you think. We are usually just waiting for our turn to talk. But true leaders take a real interest in others and want to know their stories, for no reason more than simply knowing who they are leading.

Slacking off...

The sign of a good leader is one who chooses not to slack off when others are not watching. When I am around my staff and they do their best, I expect it. However, it is when no one is around that leaders do the hard work. For example, one of the best leaders that came up through our program was a young dude who worked tirelessly to get stuff done. When everyone was gone and the church was locked up, he always found a way to get in and do some more work. Now, this guy had special gifts and talents that others did not, but he never took for granted that ministry came pretty easy to him. He was getting program stuff ready or preparing a message. Sometimes he was just in there praying or cleaning, or helping someone else do stuff that they would not be able to hack because they were out of time. This guy was never out of time. Sure he was busy, but he never used that as an excuse. He overcame the obstacle and worked hard always.

John Wooden says that we should not compare ourselves to anyone else when it comes to our ability. This guy was the epitome of that. He was really good at some stuff and not so good at others. I am the same way. There are about three parts of ministry and team stuff that I am really good at. The rest of it can be done better by someone else. And that is the challenge with leadership. You have to constantly be on the look-out for those who will fit well within your team. When you can find others that are better than you – and lead them – you will be well on your way to successful mentorship, ministry, and leadership in whatever area you are in.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

MO question of the day: Sooo, has anyone already broken a Resolution for this year??? Do tell :)

MO question of the day: Sooo, has anyone already broken a Resolution for this year??? Do tell :)

Answer here

Easy answers...

I was reading a blog by my good friend and confidant and was very interested in his view of New Year’s resolutions. He said that they are never as easy as we would view them or hope them to be. You know; losing weight, quit smoking, etc. I immediately thought to myself that maybe it was that easy. I was in disagreement with him until I realized the reason I felt that way was because I have the accountability he was talking about. I guess the reason I feel that I reach more of my goals than many of my friends is simply because I have them. It is funny, because I miss more of my goals than I fulfill. This was disturbing to me for a long time. I was like, why even have goals if I am just going to miss them, you know??? It was mad frustrating. Then I talked to a mentor.

He asked me how many of my goals I actually hit during a year. It was an astonishing horrible 40% or so. I couldn’t believe that I was so bad at hitting my goals. But my mentor assured me that the more goals I set, and the harder I make them, the better I will get as a person. So I guess I am wondering the same about each of you. I have peeps in my life who keep me accountable to my goals. Sometimes I don’t want to talk to them because I know I have to tell them that I missed a goal. But then I realize that the goals that I do hit are because of my responsibility to me and those who pour time and energy into me. Do you set goals? Who keeps you accountable? How are you going to make this year better than the last?