I have never been a huge “outdoorsy” guy or someone who desires to rock climb, scale a cliff face at Yosemite or scale Everest. That kind of activity isn’t something that gets me going! I can totally understand why people love it. I am sure there is some sense of accomplishment by the actual physical activity but the real reward is making it to the top to see how far you have come. I have been to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. Why would I climb to the peak when they have a perfectly good road to the top where I can drive and save myself the time? It was incredible to look out over miles and miles of God’s creation. Down the mountain you could see the lush green valley and the city of Colorado Springs. You could also see the Rockies as the mountain range stretched over miles and miles. That moment is etched into my brain, it was awe inspiring. We have these types of moments in our faith as well and they are so important. As a student pastor these mountain top moments may look different for you than it does for your students.
1. Mountain Top moments are when you feel close to God like never before.
Mountain Top Moments make you feel like you are really in the presence of our creator and king. These are powerful and life shaping moments that I believe God uses to give us an idea of whats to come!
I remember being a high school student headed to summer camp in New York. I remember the worship, “This is the Air I breath” was my jam. I remember the speaker, not his name but what he said challenged me to the core. I remember the decisions I made that week to change how I as going about my life. It was a pivotal week in my faith journey. It was one of my first mountain top moments that I will never forget.
2. Are you giving your students the opportunity to have mountain top spiritual moments?
Are you creating times where teenagers can get away from the routine of life they are currently in and spend intentional time with our Savior. We’re talking about Summer Camps, Missions Trips, Retreats, Get Aways, Discipleship Meetings, even regular church programming. These moments are faith-shapers. Teenagers need to know that the mountain isn’t forbidden, its attainable and all are welcome.
Obviously within these moments there is a place to teach, guide and shepherd. Some students feel loss when they lose sight of that feeling and those emotions. The truth is… its ok. It’s ok to feel different and not feel the same. The feelings are not what fuel our faith, its the experience that allow us perspective and allow us self evaluate. God uses that perspective to help us make necessary changes in our lives that propel us into greater knowledge and love for Him.
3. Are you planning for the moments?
Are you looking at your calendar and planning for moments, or times where you want to lean in a little harder to what God may be trying to teach the teenagers you shepherd? Your year starts now, it starts with a plan and ends with praying like everything depends on God (because it does).
What mountain top moments are you praying for this year??
Christmas Break for Youth Ministry could be something that actually builds momentum at your church. How many times during the year do you get distraction free, school free students with nothing but time on their hands? These couple weeks are a huge opportunity for you as a youth pastor to build momentum even though you may not have consistent programming. Here are 2 areas that "COULD BE" for youth ministry over Christmas break at your church.
Relationships Can Grow
Your students have a ton of down time over the holidays and are more than likely looking for something to do. Why not invest in making your church available for your crew to come and hang out, play games, be with one another? Down time with no agenda can be life giving to you and your students. Non programmed time is great for relationships. Do you want your students to listen more during messages? Do you want them to invite their friends to Youth Group? Do you want to see them grow in their faith? I believe all of those questions stem to their relationship with you. (obviously, they will grow in their faith because of their relationship with you alone). The more they know you and your heart for them, the more they will lean in during messages. The more they know you and your heart for them, the more they will be open to inviting friends because they trust you. The more they know you and your heart for the Lord, the more they can see what that looks like for them as they get older.
Unplanned hang out time at your church
Spontaneous trips to places in town - movies, Taco Bell, Starbucks, etc
Sledding night (if you have snow)
Nerf Wars at the church
Video Game Tournaments
Open Gym - volleyball, basketball, make up new sports, etc
Star Wars Marathon (insert any collection of movies they would love to sit and watch all the way through)
Invite Families over for dinner at your place
Get creative with it but make something happen
Christmas break is great for spending relational time with your crew.
You Can Get Rest
This is an opportunity for you to recharge and rest. With a lot of down time, you have the ability to recharge the battery and get ready for the next semester of programming, trips, intentional discipleship and walking alongside families going through "stuff". You have to find what fills you back up, you have to allow yourself to get recharged, you have to allow God to continue to sustain you and be the fuel that keeps you going. Take it from someone who isn't good at Sabbath, you need it, you have to take it and it shouldn't be something you take into consideration.
Get rest this Christmas Break!
It's not to late to set something up, send out communication and let students know about opportunities to get together! It has everything to do with taking advantage of your time!
Relationships > Tasks
I remember it all to well, the day my lead pastor walked into my office with an envelope in his hand. He asked if I had a few minutes to chat, which we all know is code for "you're screwed". He gave me the letter and let me read it. It was from an anonymous parent that was less than pleased with how things had went for their teenager in the student ministry I was leading. The letter was scathing, calling me names I'd rather not repeat and questioning my leadership. The parent, who wrote the letter, held nothing back. Instead of delivering the letter to me, of course, they sent it to my lead pastor. I was mad, I was hurt and since the letter wasn't signed with a name I tried to figure out who could have written such a letter. I will never forget that conversation, I will never forget the letter and I still to this day have no idea who wrote it. So my question is, how do you handle criticism?
If you are in ministry long enough you learn quickly that criticism comes with the territory. As a general rule, most people respond to criticism poorly. I know that my first reaction is to put up my walls and get defensive. I get defensive because I feel they are taking a shot at my character, my identity and my competency. If I am totally transparent with you, I hate criticism, constructive criticism and negative criticism. I don't like knowing Im not good enough or at least feeling like I'm not good enough.
Taking a defensive stance on criticism is the least effective way to approach push back. Below are three ways I am learning (yes, learning cause its still hard sometimes) to deal with criticism.
1. Consider The Source
Who is it that is bringing criticism? The answer to this question dictates how much stock you should place in the push back. There are people who are going to negative about pretty much anything. There are people who will always go to bat for you. When the people that usually go to bat for you are giving you feedback, you should probably listen a little harder. On the flip side, do not give the wrong people more credit than they should have. Ask yourself, "does this person bring a perspective that I should listen to?" The answer to that question will lead you into the next point.
2. Where's The Truth
Once you have determined whether the person giving feedback is a perspective you need to listen to, you need to find the truth in their statement, feedback or criticism. More often than not, they are not 100% correct in what they are saying. What if their feedback is 50% right? Shouldn't that be enough to take note of and acknowledge? Even if its just 10% correct, its worth taking in and acknowledging the truth that is there. When you look for the truth in the feedback/criticism you are approaching it with humility. That posture of humility when receiving feedback/criticism helps you evaluate honestly and allows you the opportunity to grow and not be offended.
3. Humbly Respond
Your response to the person bringing the feedback/criticism will let them know what type of a leader you are. Humble leaders are gracious in their response, quick to acknowledge truth and will own mistakes or short comings to provide a clear road to resolution. Every person deserves a gracious response, no matter the circumstances and no matter how fired up you might be. If you need to wait a day, a week or longer in order to garner a humble response then wait the appropriate amount of time. Your response will leave a lasting impression of you and your organization.
Those are just some things I have learned and still need to be reminded of often. So what about you? How do you handle criticism? Do you have any good tricks you use?