Category Archives: Leadership

Reflections of an Intern

62f49b237c2fe6861446e264bc4293bb[GUEST POST BY:  DEVIN GOODWIN, INTERN EXTRAORDINAIRE]

No Task is too Small

I’ve been given many tasks while being an intern. This ranges from sweeping the floor to filling water for the fridge. But none of it is meaningless. This continuously points to the servant leadership that Christ desires for all.

Cling to Mentors

Listen to everything that your mentors tell you. These are the Godly people who you desire to be in the future. Ask them questions. See how they interact with problems. See how they follow after Christ. This is all God’s way of pointing you to Himself and showing you how you can serve Him in vocational ministry in the future.

Invest in People

Just because you are only in that position for a short amount of time doesn’t mean that you can slack off with the relationship side of ministry. Find people who you can disciple and point to Jesus. They need to see how personal He is and a lot of the ways that He is personal is through His body. The Spirit points us to the people that we are meant to be with and we are able to use what we are learning in Scripture to point others to a greater knowledge and love for Him.

Don’t Focus so much on your Work that you Neglect Christ

sidebar-1 Just because you are doing the work of the ministry doesn’t mean that you can stop investing in your own relationship with Christ. Make sure you are spending time in the Word and having deep times of prayer. Find things that stir your affections for Him. This can be by getting into nature, reading a good book, spending time with others, drinking a good cup of coffee, watching a good movie, or anything else that really gets you excited to serve Christ.

Don’t put yourself on a Pedestal

While being in a ministry position as an intern it is easy to think that you need to have it all together. This is insane! Thanks to sin, we will never have it all together. But this gives us the ability to follow after a relationship with Christ with other flawed people. So if you are hurting, let them know because then they can start to point you to Christ even better than before.

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My Intern Starts Today…What Do I Do?

Today is the day conceptional words on white board

Today is the day conceptional words on white board

The intern’s first day.  It’s been on your calendar for months now.  Almost blinking at you with red, neon lights.  What will I have him/her do for the whole summer?  How much is too much?  What if I tell them all I know in the first day and then having nothing else to share?

With anything, it is good to have a plan.  Internships should provide on-job training for a future occupation.  What type of training will you provide?  Internships aren’t like what you see on the movies where you just have them take in your dry cleaning, pick up donuts & coffee, and answer all your phone calls.  A church internship probably does not want to resemble the “Devil Wears Prada”.  It should be more like “The Youth Pastor Wears Old Nike’s”.

Here’s a basic plan for your youth intern:

  • Early Communication. Stay in touch with the intern from the time you offer the position to the time it starts.  Begin to attach them in youth leader email updates.  See how they are doing.  Pray together.  Let them know the “dress code” of the office.  Fill them in on details they are wondering like weekly pay, lunches, and office hours.
  • 1st Day – “Orientation”. Provide the intern with a basic schedule.  Review the tasks that will be required.  Take time for questions and concerns.  Give a tour of the building.  Show them how to use the copier, fill out reimbursement slips, and how to not set off the alarm in the morning.
  • Schedule. Use Google calendar, or something similar, and allow this to be a collaborative effort.  Invite secretaries, other staff, and the intern to join the online calendar.  Put on the calendar major church events, service times, days off, and meeting times.  This provides a great structure for the internship experience and expectations from the beginning of what the schedule will look like.
  • Task List. Separate this into 3 categories.  Daily tasks, Weekly Tasks, & Visionary Tasks.
    • Daily Tasks – one-on-one meetings, , journal & reading. In the beginning, have them journal every 30 minutes of their work day.  Then broaden it to an everyday journal.  Provide 5-10 books that will promote growth in their ministry growth.  Examples include “The Seven Checkpoints” (Stanley), “The Greenhouse Project” (Walker/Calhoun), “Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry” (Fields).
    • Weekly Tasks – staff meetings, discussion questions, lesson preparation and execution, hospital/visitation, student discipleship
    • Visionary Tasks – Big event planning, camp/mission trip participation, parent meeting preparation, youth leader preparation, children’s ministry administration
  • Must-Haves.
    • Include a big event planning somewhere in the process – promotion, execution, even hosting, and clean-up. Experience with planning a larger event with you guiding the process will be a tremendous help.
    • Exposure to wide range of age groups. While youth ministry is often focused on teens, many churches require youth pastors to have experience teaching different age groups.  This means teaching children and even preaching to adults may be good to add to your task list.
    • Journaling – this is a good exercise for the intern to reflect on their experience each day. The journal will reiterate lessons that will save them from heartache later in their ministry down the road.
    • Teaching Opportunities. Take time to say “this is why we do this”.  Ask questions that begin with “why do you think I would” or “what would you do if…”.  Keep the training ongoing even in conversation.hellomynameisintern

This is a good start for your internship experience.  If you implement this model for your intern, it should provide them with great training and experience for their next phase in ministry.  Hoping this will allow them to walk away more excited about how God can use them in mighty ways serving Him.

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Book Review: Deep Influence

Book Review:  Deep Influence by T.J. Addingtondeepinfluence1

The Good:

Give Me Your Heart.  Right off the bat, the author goes after your heart.  This is not a surface “how-to” leadership book.  It truly follows the title and goes deep into the heart issues of leadership.

Are You Talking to Me?  Application is heavy in this one.  My goodness, the pages are full of tasks for any leader.  From personal exercises to interaction with staff, this book covers all bases of leadership, and provides practical tasks to make it happen.

Listen up Leaders.  This is a true leadership book for those in ministry and in the workplace.  It holds great value for those that want to leave an impact on those around them for generations to come.

Multiplication.  I caught myself saying YES when I consistently heard motivation for discipleship.  This is how it should be.  There needs to be a call for more discipleship and influence of others.  This book does a fantastic job of pleading for more discipleship AND showing the reader how to accomplish it.

The Bad:

Me, My, I.   While it comes close to arrogance at time, the author tends to talk about himself and his position of leadership a great deal.  While I like personal stories, it nearly becomes boasting at times.  The amount of personal pronouns in this book gets to be a little much at times.

Made Me Feel Bad.  OK, so this isn’t really a bad thing.  When you read a leadership book you should walk away challenged and with the realization that you need improvement.  This book will convict you.  You will find something wrong in your leadership, so get ready.

The Grade:  B.  Providing practical, deep, and influential practices of leadership, this book should be picked up by any leader seeking to improve.  Not allowing even the most successful to gain a feeling of arrival, anyone, at any age or accomplishment will find great value in the principles this book’s challenges and practical steps to better leadership.

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5 Ways A Pastor is Like Being an NFL Coach

The Super Bowl is just around the corner, the playoffs are here, and the NFL is dominating the sports world. As I think of the life of an NFL coach, there are many similarities between the life of a pastor and the life of an NFL coach. Here are five examples that may or may not be true in your ministry:nfl-coaches-ownersmtg-belichick

Power Struggle

All too often, the coach and GM do not seem to get along. We saw this in the case of Jim Harbaugh. Why in the world would you fire a coach that led you to 3 straight conference championships and one year removed from a Super Bowl? It makes little sense. But it was the power struggle that forced the hand of the owner.

When a church does not work like the body described in I Corinthians 12, there will be power struggles. Church members holding ministries too tightly and pastors forcing their hand in places where grace was needed… can cause a power struggle. It makes little sense when we all should be reaching for the same goals of reaching the lost and building the faith of believers. Yet, Satan grabs a foothold on the team and causes separation.

Work Long Hours

This is a great article. An inside look at the life of a Super Bowl winning coach, John Harbaugh. NFL coaches work ridiculous hours trying to gain that extra advantage on their opponent and to make their team better.

Many pastors lives are no different. I love this article. Some congregations expects a pastor to fulfill these roles each week, but there just isn’t enough hours on the clock. As a result, pastors are putting in crazy hours to fulfill very high expectations. Am I complaining? No. I find it a privilege to serve my people, but it makes for long hours at times (More so for pastors in senior or lead pastor roles).

Criticism Often Comes From the Fans

You’ve seen it driving down the freeway. Fans have bought billboards asking for their coach to be fired. Have you ever gone on a message board for your team? Goodness, the criticism is ridiculous. Even when the team wins, fans are screaming about how bad the QB or coordinator’s play calls were. Most of the criticism a player or team receives is ironically from its own fans.

Now, I’m hoping there will never be the day where I drive down I-70 and see my picture on a billboard asking for me to be fired by my church. However, the principle is often true. Criticism of pastors often comes from within and from the church members, which the pastor loves and seeks to serve. It’s not a new thing, there was inner conflict all throughout the early church, and it often came from within.

Losing The Turnover Battle

If you are like me, and your NFL team suffers from years of futility, this time of year is not about enjoying the anticipation of a playoff game. But the inevitability of a search for a new head coach. (I have the daunting task of being a Bills fan, so we are usually searching for more than just a coach)

If you are a football fan, you know that the Monday after the season, many coaches receive the pink slip. It’s become so notorious for firings, it has become known as “Black Monday”.   According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, “Going back to the start of this century, there have been 95 head-coaching changes since 2000 — an average of 6.8 per season.” That’s astounding.

So how does this compare to the life of a pastor? Lance Witt, in his book “Replenish” outlines a similar problem. According to his research from various surveys, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month. John Larue’s article in Christianity Today revealed 23% of pastors had been fired at some point, and 34% of pastors pastor a church where the previous pastor was forced to resign. With only 1 in 10 pastors actually retiring as a pastor, it shows you how much longevity is a challenge.

Rely on Elite Players vs. Developing Role Players

Look at the best teams in football. They typically have great drafts, team players, and key role-players. The teams that rely simply on their star players will never get very far. It has to be a team effort.

It is the same with the church. Have you heard of the 80/20 rule of church? In many churches, 80% of the ministry work comes from 20% of the people. This should not be true. Pastors must disciple and train up volunteers and people to serve.

It seems like discipleship has become a lost art. It should not be like the ugly step-sister of the Great Commission, but should be an integral part of the process. Not only should we go and share the Gospel, but ministry should be about discipling new believers, challenging them to serve, and equipping them to longevity in ministry.

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So now what?? Much of what was written was negative about the church. The last thing I would want to do is stop this blog leaving the church in a bad light. Even in the NFL, there are good coaches that consistently lead their teams well and have produced a winning culture.

I’m blessed to be in a church that is led Biblically, and by God’s grace has a culture of love, accountability, and is Gospel-driven.   Although we do not claim to be perfect, by any means, please do not take this article as a venting session of our problems, because that is far from the truth. But the purpose was to shine light on some flaws of the church that we each can do our part in changing.

Here’s what you can do to build up the church. Be in prayer for your pastor.   Encourage him. Support the leaders of the church. Find ways to serve. Don’t allow the church to be like the NFL. Do your part in making the church like the beautiful bride of Jesus Christ.

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5 Steps to Improving Church Announcements

You know the drill. The youth pastor oftentimes is responsible for church announcements. I get it. It provides face time for other staff members on stage, and a connection with the adult audience. Makes sense. However, church announcements can be a recipe for disaster. Let’s just take a stroll down memory lane to my church internship experience…(cue blurry picture and piano music for the flashback)

It was 10 years ago, and I was asked to announce the dessert fellowship to welcome new members who were recently baptized. Seemed simple enough…that is until I opened my mouth. It went something like this, “For all those that want to be baptized…no wait, we are going to baptize people…nope, dessert will happen after the service over there…you know where the basketball hoops are, what’s that called…

Yep, it was that bad. Sweat was pouring off my face, and I seriously debated sitting back down and asking the senior pastor for a “re-do”. Unfortunately, there are no “re-do’s” in church announcements. Over the years of doing this, there have been a few lessons I’ve learned in the process:announcements-710x325-crop

  1. Write it Down. Sure most blogs on announcements will tell you to not read a paper. While that’s true, it’s important you at least write out what you are going to say. It might even be smart to practice it, or you might end up looking like the Chevy guy after the World Series. I felt his pain…I’ve been there (see story above). In fact, I had to change the channel, it was too painful.
  2. Applicable to Crowd. The best announcements are those that affect the entire seated audience. The announcement that the 2-year-old Sunday School class is out of goldfish crackers would be best sent over email to the parents.
  3. Short & Sweet. Get to the point. Long-drawn out announcements are never a good idea. People will begin to drown you out. Give only the necessary information.
  4. Use Humor. Oftentimes, I will intentionally or non-intentionally allow humor to be part of the announcements. It relaxes the crowd and also allows the announcements to be more enjoyable. Rather than a simple reading of events they could just find in their bulletin.
  5. Videos.  Recently, I’ve been implementing videos during the announcement time. Since this can be time-consuming, I’ve only committed to doing these the 1st week of each month to highlight each month’s important events. See an example here.
  6. Research & Learn From Others. Here is how the pros do announcements. Learn from others.  Want more?  Try here and here.

Speaking of learning from others. Got other ideas? I’d love to hear from you! Leave some ideas in the comments below.

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3 Ways to Face Criticism in Ministry…Jesus-Style

Have you ever faced criticism in your ministry?  Either you responded with a question like “Is Bill Gates rich?” or a denominational question about the Pope, or you are new to ministry.  Not to be a downer here if you haven’t already, in due time, you will face some sort of criticism of your ministry.  Criticism comes from a variety of sources:  well-meaning parents, mean parents, accidentally by a student, incidentally by a student, consistently by a student, a senior pastor, your senior pastor, various church members, your wife, your kids, yourself…the list goes on.

Well you know who else faced criticism in ministry?  I know.  I kind of gave it away in the title.  Yes, it’s Jesus.  One clear example is found in John 11.  Let me quickly set this one up for you.  He just lost a dear friend.  He was so deeply moved, in verse 35, it says he wept.  I’ll give you a second to read that verse (just one second).  In verse 36, we see people empathize with Jesus.  However, in verse 37 is where we find criticism, basically saying, “Why didn’t Jesus do something about this?”

It’s interesting the circumstances. Jesus was suffering from a personal tragedy, yet people voiced their displeasure with his ministry to others.  Sound familiar?  Isn’t it usually after a long, exhausting overnighter that left you excited at decisions that were made, when you heard from a parent “Where was the youth pastor when these two snuck off together?”  Or maybe after a long, intense, spiritually and emotionally charged mission trip, a student that doesn’t attend complained “Why haven’t you planned any fun events this summer?”

How do we respond to these types of pins that let the air out of our ministry balloon?  Here are 3 ways to face criticism, Jesus-style:criticism2

Don’t Let It Affect Your MOVEMENT

I love the next verse following the criticism in verse 37.  It says “Jesus, deeply moved again”.  It was almost as if John was taking a shot here.  “Did you hear that, critical people, Jesus is hurting here!  Hello, do I need to give you more time to read verse 35?”  Just in case you didn’t notice the first time he WEPT!  It seems like John is sticking up for His friend and Savior here.

But the main point is this:  The criticism did not stop Jesus from being moved with compassion.  It didn’t stunt his emotions.  It didn’t stop his movement towards the cave.  How often does criticism stop us in our tracks?  Where we forget about the life decisions made at camp or the spiritual impact of an event or lesson, and we focus on the words of a few.  Jesus didn’t let it stop Him.

Don’t Let It Affect Your MINISTRY

God has given you a purpose for your ministry.  It is important you do what is best for the students that you are shepherding.  Sometimes you have to look past the criticism when you know what you are doing is clearly the ministry God-directed.  Sure, you have conversations, but your ministry cannot change to please the minority.

Look here.  Jesus told them to remove the stone in verse 39.  Martha saw this as stupid (actually she saw this as smelly, but you know what I mean).  Jesus took the time to explain this was for the glory of God, and he continued.

See what I mean.  Some will see what you are doing as foolish.  Maybe you cancel a traditional event, or you cut back office hours to spend on campus.  As long as it is God-led, you have the support of key leaders and administration; you may just have to tell people, this is being done for God’s glory, and keep moving.  That’s what Jesus did.

Don’t Let It Affect Your MISSION

What is our ultimate mission?  I would hope it would resemble the great commission, and your mission is to reach students with the gospel and make disciples.  Criticism can stop us from completing this mission.  “This will cost too much money”.  “Students will never listen to this…or come to this”.  “The youth pastor looks too much like Mr. Bean” (Okay that last one may just apply to me).

Check this out.  According to most of your Bibles, the story of Jesus Raises Lazarus is over.  Or is it?  In verse 45, because of this miracle, what happens to several of Mary’s friends?  They believe!  That’s right.  Because Jesus didn’t let criticism stop Him from His ultimate mission, the lost saw the power of Jesus, and they believed!

What if you stop short of your mission because of criticism?  Would it result in the lost not seeing the power of Jesus and believing?  Don’t miss the story in your ministry either, because in the next verse in your story, there may be a teenager that becomes a child of God.  Jesus knew the end of the story, and he kept with His mission.

 

Your movement, ministry, and mission are too important.  Maybe criticism is the stone in your way, and you just need Jesus to take away the stone.  And, in the end, God will get the glory, and you might see a miracle happen in your ministry…you might see students come to Jesus.

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Double Book Review: I’m a Church Member & Closing the Window

churchmemberBook Review:  I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer

The Good:  First off, bravo for the impact of this book, yet it taking only 30-45 minutes to read.  Don’t let the brevity full you, like a featherweight boxer it still packs a punch.  This book contains 6 chapters and 6 ways to become a better church member, each with Biblical backing and strong conviction and practicality.  Rainer does a great job combating what he calls the “country club” philosophy of church membership and promotes a giving, serving, and putting others first membership philosophy.  The opening illustration in each chapter keep the reading fresh and applicable to real life.  If anything, you have to read the “child facing two scenarios” illustration in chapter 6.  Priceless.

The Bad:  The pledge in the back of each chapter may be a little corny.  I get the concept, but could be condensed in the final chapter holding all the truths.

The Grade:  A.  There a great misunderstanding of both the importance of being a member of a church and also the responsibilities associated with church membership.  This books helps solve that mystery.  It is a much needed kick in the pants for those that would rather their backsides not be bothered and heavily cushioned during a church service.  It puts people in motion to properly serve and function in the church body, like Christ, the head of the church, intended.

Book Review:  Closing the Window by Tim Chester

closing-the-windowThe Good:  My fingers may get tired from typing if I listed how important this book is in today’s society, especially for young people.  Here’s a stat for you…93% of teenagers have access to the internet.  Do you know the percentage of teenage boys who have been exposed to internet pornography…93%!  Girls aren’t far behind, with exposure at 62%.  I realize this is under the GOOD column.  Here is the good news, this book provides a solution to the problem.  It offers a five-tier process that breaks through the myths and straw-like answers that often fail, and presents a Biblical, life-transforming model that withstands for the long haul.

What’s great about this book is its approach.  While there are underlying reasons for the use of porn, it goes even deeper than the emotional or personality struggles.  The solution starts and ends with God.  Think about it, you really think someone can defeat porn using filters, accountability, or DVD pass codes.  Come on, those should be used, but the user will find a way around those man-made barricades if he or she so desires.  Removing porn from your life is not about what you are losing or blocking, but what you gain.  Many try to take porn away, but don’t replace it, and then find themselves returning to fill the void.  Let me use a quote from the book to explain:  “What happens if you weigh a life with porn against a life without porn?  Put like that, porn will always win, for it offers excitement, pleasure, thrills…by definition…a lesser life…weighing a life with porn against a life lived for God’s glory.  Porn versus glory, porn versus God, fleeting pleasure versus lasting pleasure, shame versus glory, destruction versus eternal life:  which looks the lesser now?”

The Bad:  The only bad…how this book is not better known (this picture above was only available on google images) & how this book is not required for every man to read.  Let me ask you a question:  Do you or anyone you know ever struggled with porn?  Virtually everyone will answer yes to that question.  Whether you need help, or you are in a position to offer help, you need to consider reading this book.

The Grade:  A+.  Please listen to me when I say this, this is not just a book for someone that is addicted to pornography.  This book will help you in your marriage, it will provide you with a proper view of women, and along the way provide Biblical and life-lasting ways to defeat lust in your life.  I’ve read in multiple articles that this book is the best book on counseling someone who is addicted to pornography.  It did not disappoint.  Read it to get out of your addiction.  Read it to help others with their addiction.  Read it to prevent addiction.  Read it to bring you closer to your spouse (or to your future spouse) and read it to become closer in your relationship with God.

 

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3 Leadership Principles from Jesus’ Life

Let me set this up for you, and I’ll try to do this quickly, since most of you probably will be skipping this intro anyway, and just skimming down to the bold list below.  Hey, I read blogs too, I’m not offended.

So, here is the breakdown of the story found in John 13:1-20.  Jesus begins to wash the feet of the disciples.  Peter refused to be washed by His Savior.  Jesus calms Him down, and ends up washed all of the disciples feet (yes, if you know the story of Jesus, that includes the one that would betray Him).

What does this story have to do with leadership?  Well, I am glad you asked.  Goodness, that was corny, but I’m still writing, and unwilling to push backspace.   Okay, no more waiting, here is the list of leadership principles in Jesus washing feet:

jesusleadershipHumility.  This was is pretty obvious, but it can’t be skipped over.  As the ultimate leader, Jesus was willing to do tasks that usually given to servants in the household.  Jesus was willing to clean the filthy feet of those that were about to scatter, abandon, and even betray him.  That takes it to a new level.  Talk about humility.  Jesus was going to receive nothing in this exchange, except rejection.

Service.  No act of service was beneath Jesus.  He was willing to wash filthy feet, and he was willing to give His life.  In terms of being a leader, nothing should be beneath us in service of God and others.  As a pastor, there may not be someone around to plunge the toilet.  As a youth leader, you may have to mop up the vomit.  As a servant in God’s kingdom, you may have to out of your comfort zone for the Gospel to be heard.  Don’t let any service for others, and especially God be beneath you.

Vision.  This was a brilliant move by our Savior.  Jesus was giving a powerful illustration of what He wanted from his followers.  Jesus, by humbly serving His disciples, was teaching the men, who Jesus would leave the Gospel message in their hands, how to be a leader.  He taught them they were not above the message or the subject of the message (verse 16).  Christ saw this as an opportunity to show how them an example of true humble service.  Serve God and others humbly, never thinking more of yourself.  Jesus said if He is willing to do this, as Lord, you should be willing to do it for others.

Humility.  Service.  Vision.  Want to be a leader?  I’d say these three things would be a good place to start.

 

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Mission Trip Training – 10 Steps to Prevent Disaster

What is the best way to prepare for a mission trip?  In a word…TRAINING.  You want to avoid the Romeo who tries to ask out the missionary’s daughter or the insurance deductible for what is left of the new orphanage wing…Well, here are 10 steps that will help prevent disaster and set the table for God to work.  (Disclaimer:  Accidents, Trials, and Difficulty can/will occur during mission trips, but there are some difficulty that can be avoided)MissionTrainingPortfolio

1.      Application Process

Mission Trips are serious business.  They must be handled differently than a trip to an amusement park.  You don’t just put a sign-up list on your bulletin board with cool font and clip-art graphics.  No, most of the trips are designed for those students serious about serving God and getting their hands dirty for Jesus Christ.   So what do you do?  You have an application process.  Have each student fill out an application, get references from their parents/guardians and another adult, and must be turned in by the deadline.  Following the application, have them interview with yourself (include parents & other leaders in the interview).  Lay out the expectations of the trip, the assignments, the attendance policy, and the behavior expected in each participant.  If the student cannot meet the expectations, it is in your and their best interest they are not part of the team.

2.      Here’s Your Notebook

Make it look official.  Give each student a notebook with the assignments, place for notes, support letter samples, contact information, prayer requests, release forms, etc.  Students will be able to keep their program assignments and other materials in one spot, and will be advised to take their folders on the trip.  Although it takes some work to put these notebooks together, it is well worth the effort.

Lessons for the notebook notes include Evangelism training, Bible studies on Missions, and assigned reading review.  Guest speakers from the church provide a great way to connect the generations in this effort.  I’ve had elementary teachers and children workers come speak on child evangelism, working professionals speak on leadership or give a “How to Paint” tutorial, and Spanish teachers teach us about Latin culture.

3.      Strict Attendance & Expectations

When I say strict, I mean it.  I give the students one excused absence from training which would include vacation, sickness, etc.  If they miss more than one, they will receive an extra assignment.  Two absences will result in a meeting with the parents.  Why so strict?  I want these students to take this trip seriously.  They will be representing Christ and our church in another state/country, and skipping training shows they don’t see the trip as important.

Also, as part of their attendance each time we meet, I ask each student about the following:  Devotions, Church Attendance, Book Reading, and other assignments.  If there is consistent neglect of these things, additional assignments, and/or meeting with the parents will occur.  If the negligence continues, the student may be dismissed from the team.

4.      Get Your Church On Board

Each year, we prepare a short 15 minute presentation to the church about the trip.  The students present the trip by preparing a PowerPoint, explaining the training, preparation, funds needed, and trip tasks.  A student also will pray for the trip following the presentation.  This shows ownership of the trip and the church will most likely get on board when they hear about the trip from the teenagers themselves.  (And when you get back, makes sure to organize a testimony service)

5.      Unwrap Gifts

unwrapThe last few years I have required that each incoming/new student fill out a Spiritual Gift Inventory.  Using the results of the inventory, I place each student in the groups that best suit their gifts and abilities.  Why would I place a shy introvert whose gift is serving in the lead teaching role?  Similarly, why would a type-A, brilliant communicator with a teaching gift be put in a primarily behind the scenes role?  Sure, there will be times when you go out of your comfort zone, but the primary role should be one that reflects their gifts and abilities, which will in turn allow them to reach their greatest potential for God’s glory.

Tasks and responsibilities could include/but not limited to:  Communicator, Work Coordinators, Team Encourager, Communication Assistants, Ministry Coordinators, Photographers, Prayer Coordinators, Public Relations, Praise Band Member, Teaching Team, Hospitality Team, Cleaning Crew, & Supply Team (Stay Tuned for Task & Responsibility explanation list later in the blog this month)

6.      Unity Doesn’t Just Happen

Unity takes so much work.  This past year we did a unity game and it was complete silence, frustration was high, and people were getting offended by their misuse.  But, we kept at it, continued to do unity games periodically in training, and the final unity activity gave me goosebumps…communication, laughter, leadership, encouragement…that was worth the effort.

7.      Provide Leadership Opportunities

Stretch your students to reach their potential in leadership.  Give them responsibility.  Allow failure, but be there to pick them up when they fail at times.  If the teens aren’t pushed and are not taken out of their comfort zone, your spiritual growth opportunity will decrease significantly.  Allow them to lead music, teach lessons, take the pictures, share the Gospel, lead the devotions…You let them lead, and it may be more work in the outset, but the blessings will be so much more than you ever expected.

8.      Practice Makes…It’s Never Gonna Be Perfect

This is a no-brainer.  You have to schedule time to practice.  Whether it is puppets, music, teaching lessons…give them time to practice during training.  Allow students to be leaders during these practices, particularly the upperclassmen running these practices of their particular part in the program.

9.      Don’t Forget About the Gospelmission-trip-checklist

Speaking of practice, give the students opportunity to practice sharing the Gospel, both real and imaginary.   Here’s what I mean.  Each year, I set up the gym like wherever we are going.  I typically ask 2 or 3 small groups to come and participate in a mock evangelism event acting like different kinds of people.  One year was a park in inner-city Chicago or New York, and other year we were at a camp with a whole bunch of adults acting like elementary kids.  It gives the teens opportunity to practice in a less-pressure filled environment.  As the teens mature and gain more experience, take them door-to-door or to local parks to talk to people about Jesus.

10.  Prayer

Last, but certainly NOT least, is prayer.  Inside the notebooks should be a list of prayer requests that you have for the trip.  Encourage students to pray for these regularly.  Design a prayer card with the team’s picture on it and send those out in your support letters.  Have those cards available in the lobby of the church for people to grab and put on their refrigerators.  Also, as seen in the responsibility list, designate 1 or 2 students to be prayer leaders.  Have these leaders design a prayer book for the trip, and during training have them lead the prayer time and also keep track of individual prayer requests along the way.

See 10 Keys to a Successful Student Mission Trip for more trip information and resources.

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My Youth or Student Ministry Philosophy

This philosophy of ministry has come with learning some things the hard way, from valuable mentoring from veterans in the ministry, and reading many youth ministry books...but the most important factors in determining my philosophy of ministry…God’s leading (you will notice each point is supported with Scripture) and what developed true spiritual life change in teenagers.  After reading, would love to hear your reactions, and also what you have in your philosophy…always willing to learn from others.  Here is my philosophy of ministry:

philosophyYouth Ministry Philosophy

Spiritual Growth – REAL Faith

Colossians 1:23 – If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

There is an epidemic of students graduating from High School and from the church. What will keep the students in the faith?  What will keep them interested, involved, and in the church?  The cure is the development of a faith that is grounded, settled, and not easily moved.  The goal of youth ministry should be to assist in the development of the student’s faith (notice it is the student’s faith, not their parents’ or pastor’s faith) to where the entrance into adult life, the arguments of secular professors, and the tragedies of life will have no affect on the student’s faith in their great God.

Evangelism

Romans 10:13-14 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Every believer and follower of Jesus Christ has been called to reach the lost.  Youth ministry has a responsibility to enable, encourage, and exercise evangelism.  The largest mission field in the United States right now is on the high school campus.  There needs to be training for these students as they enter the battle.  These students need to be taught how evangelism works.  Evangelism is not something that comes easy to many students.  They need to be encouraged to share their faith with others and bring their friends to church.  Finally, the students need to have opportunities to exercise evangelism.  Whether this is through specific outreach events or mission trips, the students need to put their faith into action.

Assistant Coach

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

“The responsibility for raising spiritual champions, according to the Bible, belongs to the parents…the responsibility is squarely laid at the feet of the family.  This is not a job for specialists.  It is a job for parents.”  (George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting).

The goal of the youth pastor and his ministry team is to be an assistant coach to the head coaches, the parents.  It is the parents’ responsibility to raise the children, and the youth ministry should assist with that goal in various ways.  This assistance occurs through the teaching of God’s Word, spiritual counsel and encouragement, and prayer.

Alongside those essential spiritual actions, there are practical aspects that need to be brought to the table.  A good assistance coach will help in game planning, go to the coach when they see a player struggling or injured, and help inform the coach where they lack the knowledge.  Youth ministry is no different.  The youth ministry team should help the parents game plan.  In other words, they should help them develop the spiritual goals for their child and allow the programs and teachings to aid in reaching those goals.  Also, it is imperative for the youth ministry to go to the parents when a student is struggling spiritually.  There will be times when behavior is inappropriate, words throw up red flags, or things are said in small groups where the parents need to be made aware.  Then, the youth pastor can aid in the recovery process.  Lastly, there needs to be parent meetings that include youth culture updates, upcoming event information, discussion/advice from other parents and other essential communication that will act as support in the parenting process.  After all, it is the responsibility of the coach for the team’s behavior, but the assistant coach has a vested interest in the outcome of the game.

Discipleship/Mentorship/Relationship

Matthew 28:19-20 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

The Bible does not say to have many programs and hope disciples will result from each event.  While there are programs that are effective in that respect and reaching young people, youth ministry can easily miss the target.  One significant determining factor of young people leaving the church is relationships.  Recent research has supported this claim (Group Magazine, March/April 2010 & Essential Church, 37, 64-65).  Teens, sadly, will not remember each Bible study and Sunday School topic, but they will remember the times where a leader or pastor discipled them, mentored them, and built a relationship that helped them grow spiritually.  Discipleship, mentorship, and relationship are at the heart of youth ministry.  These methods are a replica of the ministry model that Jesus Christ established with his disciples.  If youth ministry focuses on the next big event and neglects the discipleship and mentoring that could be happening, it is simply spinning its wheels.  The youth ministry team must establish a plan of discipleship where the leaders are forming and building relationships where discipleship and mentorship can happen.

Equip/Service Training

Ephesians 4:12 – to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (ESV)

If there is no equipping the saints for ministry, the ministry can go only as far as the pastor.  Equipping should happen in multiple aspects of youth ministry.  In other words, the equipping should not stop at just the students, but should extend into church members, parents, and youth ministry staff/volunteers.  The students need to be trained and given opportunities to serve.  It should be a priority of the youth ministry team to help the student discover their spiritual gifts and talents that can be used to build up the church body and give God glory.  These students need to be connected in ministry within the church body, and not just participate in ministry exclusive to the youth ministry.

Similarly, the youth pastor should continually find ways where others can be trained in ministry, used in ministry, and can grow in their love to serve in ministry.  The youth pastor needs to see potential in the people around him and provide opportunities for service.  Also, the process should intertwine with the mentoring/discipleship process where those in ministries are consistently training and encouraging the next generation.

Worship Opportunity

Psalm 100:1-5 – Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

The youth ministry needs to be an environment where the Creator of the universe, the Almighty God, the Savior of all mankind can be worshiped.  Therefore, the music, teaching, conversations, social interaction, small group time, programs, and leadership team all need to advance and promote worship and not detract from it.  The youth pastor is responsible to maintain a spiritually healthy environment where reverence, respect, glory, and praise is given to the Father.

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