Your calendar is not getting any less full. Like me, I am sure your personal calendar is stuffed, your work calendar is jammed and then you have the calendar your mother in law expects you to follow… hers! Calendars dictate your time but also can tell you when you are free! I can't tell you how to manage your personal calendar but I could send you a template email to send to your mother in law (insert appropriate emoji). Your youth ministry calendar is the one that you have an opportunity to leverage.
There is a natural rhythm to the ministry you oversee. Most of the time it's dictated by school breaks, your personal life and adult leaders availability. Let's scrap that mind set for a second and look at the calendar with a different filter. Look at your calendar and ask yourself, when would I have the biggest opportunity to build relationally with students? Every church is different, schools have different calendars and there are certain variables in each context. You are in charge of the calendar for youth ministry. Are you leveraging it well?
When do you kickoff certain ministries? Does it line up with a natural rhythm of school and family life for your students?
Kickoffs and Ending Celebrations are momentum builders that set up the future. Natural calendars for families, school, etc are already in place. Build your ministry calendar to line up with those so you can maximize your time together.
Are you planning activities during school breaks to make the most of relational time with your students?
Every school break that lasts more than 1 day is an opportunity to schedule some hangout time and have fun with your students and their friends. Whether its sports, video games, board games, taco bell, movies, etc, you have an opportunity to build relational equity by giving your students something to go do!!
Do your big weekends make sense for your students AND their families?
There is nothing worse than planning an event that happens to fall at the same time as a massive school event, sports, or weekend where nearly every family at your church decides to go somewhere. Make sure you schedule your D-Now weekend or fall retreat when the majority of your students have no conflicts. Choose the week of summer camp when you know your athletes and marching band kids wont practice. Make your Kickoff to the school year before school starts so you can actually celebrate without a wave of anxiety creeping in, or kickoff well after school started so your students actually are optimistic about the school year.
Do you just do the same thing or do you try new things and mix it up for your crew?
Please, try new things out. Please, try and fail instead of relying on the same events or programs to get the job done. Your students need you to try, be creative and risk failing in order to get to a final product that is awesome! Try something new and fail, its all good!!!
Your calendar can be the most freeing thing if you are strategic about it and intentional about when you do what you do. Have the students in mind first and your leaders will get on board. Cast vision well and pray like crazy for God to do some amazing things in the youth ministry you have the great privilege of overseeing for this season of your life!
When I started as a new youth pastor, I new I couldn’t do it all. I inherited a group of leaders when I started at my first church and began to recruit more. As the new school year approached, I planned a leader meeting so we could all get on the same page and so that the leaders knew what was expected of them. I tried to be as prepared as I possibly could be, I made a booklet with pages of information for them, ways to help them be the best youth leader ever. The leader meeting happened, I handed out the booklets and went through it all. No one had any questions at the end of the meeting and I left pumped about how awesome I was at leading leaders. I could barely fit my head out the door that night, the pride was oozing from my ears. A few weeks later we had our kickoff and it went ok but I noticed the majority of them didn’t really know what to do and weren’t engaged with what was happening. Instead of meeting after the kickoff to debrief, I assumed that my leadership musk would rub off on them and that they would just figure it out. After an entire semester of this type of thing happening, I finally asked some of the leaders if they feel like they are doing a good job. They said that they didn’t because the booklet that I gave out at the beginning of the year gave them so much information, tasks and stuff to do that they didn’t know where to begin or what to do each night. I realized quickly that evening that whats clear to me, the youth pastor, wasn’t going to be clear for my volunteer leaders that are giving only a few hours of their time to youth ministry. I wasn’t clear, I wasn’t leading them well and it wasn’t obvious to them how they could do a good job in their current role. (insert deflated head emoji)
I was learning a valuable lesson and continued growing and learning for the first number of years in youth ministry. Your volunteers need simple to understand expectations, clear roles and obvious ways they can “win” with students. Anyone who gives up their personal time or time with their family needs to find what they are doing to be valuable and that they are doing it well.
Give your leaders one focus for a semester of ministry that is easy to see, evaluate and measure. Be strategic with those focuses when you get your leaders together to help them understand the reason behind the focus and how they can be effective within that focus. For your small group leaders building community within the group is a big deal so give them a focus of getting together with their small group outside of church time 2 times that first semester. A focus could be just being consistent and getting to know each student in their group on a deeper level. What I can your volunteer team focus on that will add exponential value to the ministry. Be strategic!
Give them feedback and help them grow. Your leaders need to know if the job they are doing is good enough. This means that you have to meet with them on a somewhat consistent basis so they can hear feedback from you, the leader. Be specific and do not shy away from the hard conversations if they aren’t doing the job you need them to do. They will be better leaders in the long run if you lovingly and gracefully help them see how they can improve.
Celebrate with them when they are absolutely killing it! Have an award for rockstar leaders that you give out frequently so they know if they are doing a good job. Every student ministry should have a traveling trophy, championship belt or a gold spray painted bobble-head of a mediocre baseball player on hand to give to amazing leaders who are making the ministry a better place to be.
I had to learn the hard way to keep things simple, to give good feedback and to allow them opportunities to try and succeed! Don’t wait until the middle of a school semester to give your leaders clarity, do it NOW!
You are the authority on youth ministry at your church. Yes…YOU! It is your responsibility to walk alongside families and through the ups and downs of adolescence give them tools, resources, encouraging words, challenges, and opportunities to raise their teenager. One of the ways that is most effective is setting up parents to have the winning conversation with their child, instead of you! Most of the time we are thinking about events for our families to attend at our church on our time.
What if you didn't create another event that brought families to you and your church building? What if you gave parents or caring adults a kit to take the conversation to their home?
Subscription boxes are all the rage right now in just about every area of life. Why not make a box for parents to take home and have an experience with their son or daughter that leads to a life giving, crucial conversation?
You can do this! Its not difficult, it just takes some strategy, some thought, some fun and many hands to make all these boxes happen.
What could come in the Mom/Daughter Box:
-Two mugs- ones that you can design yourself with a sharpie then bake to make the mug design permanent
-Hershey kisses or dove chocolate
-Conversation guide- this is where you need to be strategic
-Things to Remember
-design the experience so the caring adult doesn't have to think about it!
-set the stage for what you want to talk about.
My recommendation is talking about identity. This world throws so many things at teenage girls and a lot of times it’s hard to cut through the lies and get to the truth of who God says that they are. Design the conversation and questions to focus around who God says that they are.
What could come in the Dad/Son Box:
-Make your own chili kit
-Interactive type game(Fun for teenage boys)
-we made up a game using a deck of cards where each suit required something different.
-hearts = push ups
-diamonds = sit ups
-spades = questions to answer honestly
-clubs = special challenges (random acts of silliness)
-Conversation guide - Be strategic with this conversation
-Things to Remember
-design the experience so that it’s a win for the adult AND the teenage boy.
-make the experience line up with the conversation
My recommendation is talking about purity and pornography. Our teenage guys are inundated with sexually explicit media at every turn. It’s harder than ever to keep your mind focused on good wholesome things. The only way to combat this is to get caring people involved in their lives and actually talk about it. It’s an awkward conversation to talk about porn with a teenager but it needs to happen. The conversation shouldn't point towards shame but the freedom we have from this through Jesus.
The pictures at the top of this post give you an excerpt from the conversation guides for each of these conversations, think of what this could look like for your church and your students.
Give the caring adult that is bold enough to tackle these conversations everything. Think through the entire experience and make sure to give them step by step instructions, even if you think it’s obvious. Leave no detail out! The conversation is the most important part, but the experience will earn them the right to talk about the topic openly and honestly.
Remember, if you are the only one having important conversations with your students then chances are in the long run you lose. Get parents involved and give them the keys to conversations that matter.