Starting at a new church is scary, exciting and motivating all at the same time. You want to exceed expectations, you want to make a good first impression and lets be honest you just want the students, their families and everyone else to like you. There are 7 ways to make sure the first three months at a new church set you up a great tenure.
2. Plan Something Can’t Miss
In the first 3 months do some creative planning on a big event, get away or amazing night. This is an opportunity to let everyone know that you value fun and fun is a common language everyone can understand. Leverage resources from your church, go all out, make it something your students want to bring their friends to, etc. Color War, black lights, food trucks, giant foam slip n slide, water wars, mess fest, there are great ideas out there, find out what your students would love and blow it up!!
3. Create Opportunities for Parents to Meet & Get To Know You
When you start, get dates on the calendar to invite parents to a meet and great. Parents need to trust who is leading their children. The more parents know you, the more trust they will give you, the more opportunities you will have for influence. Ask parents to lunch, coffee, over to your home, to the church for dessert, anything to get in front of them.
4. Every Student Matters
The tendency will be to connect with the students that are easy to connect with. That is low hanging fruit. Seriously, go after those students for sure. The students that are on the fringe and on the fringe for a reason. Make sure the fringe students know that you care about them just as much as the core kids. If you do this, you will see some of those kids become more involved because they know you care. People over programs is a good rule to have. If you can spend time with students, you can find time to respond to emails later.
5. Engage With The Rest Of The Church Staff
The staff you are on needs you to value what they do just as much as you want them to value what you do. The best thing you can do when you start is to sit down with each department and ask what ways you can serve them are. If they know you have their back right off the bat, they will go to battle with you when the time comes. Ministries within the church can’t function effectively if they are off on their own. Make sure your ministry isn’t a silo, its part of the church and will be part of the vision to reach that community for Christ.
6. Over Communicate
Set the tone for communication early. Parents, Students, the rest of the congregation need to be over communicated to. The tension is that we think if we send to many emails or texts that they will stop reading them, which is possible. The flip side is that no one knows whats going on at all and that might be more problematic. Starting at your church over communicating will give you the option to pull back if need be. You want to be known as someone who get details to people quickly and thoroughly
7. Pray and Spend Tons of time with the Lord
You can’t pour into others if you are empty. Start a habit of spending time with God. Pray all the time, carve out specific time where you can focus on your relationship with God. This is by far the best thing you can do for your church, your students and yourself. If you’re filled up, you’ll be able to pour out what God is teaching you to those around you. Leading from empty doesn’t work, don’t get to that point, stay fueled up and connected to your Savior.
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!
Multi-site churches are becoming more and more common. It has become a great strategy to continue reaching more people with the Gospel. With any strategy, contextualizing for other departments look a lot different depending on where you work. For student ministry, the multi-site model is a different beast entirely. Churches don’t go multi-site because it makes student ministry easier. Student ministry is forced to adapt and figure out the best way to go after the beast that is Multi-site student ministry.
There are many different models to go with when it comes to student ministry in a multi-site church. There is not one clear cut winner when it comes to a model of ministry but more of a “whatever works for your church” mentality. I do believe there is a way to use your staff, your resources and your time more effectively.
In order to grow leaders and not robots, the team must own the ministry. Ownership won’t happen if all they are doing is what they are told to do. Robots don’t help the capital “C” church down the road. In order to grow leaders, the team must feel like they can make it all happen. There are so many tasks that need to happen on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis that it can be overwhelming and paralyzing. If you are on the student ministry team at a multi-site church, chances are you are still trying to figure out what the best way is to get everything done that needs to get done.
One thing that I believe works to increase ownership, use resources more wisely and create more margin for the team is when you compartmentalize the main buckets of student ministry. You can use staff more effectively and allow their strengths to be utilized in a greater way. What if your team broke into smaller teams and focused on a specific area of ministry while the other group worked on an entirely different area of the ministry? Here is what I mean by that. If you have 4 people on staff for student ministry at your multi-site church, have 2 of your stronger writers focus on curriculum that all of your sites will implement and to other 2 staff members focus on a small group strategy. The same 2 staffers could then focus on events while the other 2 focus on leader development. This model of strategy is scalable and allow the voices of the team to be heard in specific areas of the ministry.
Breaking down the areas of student ministry of focus will require the team to trust each other, and be ok if its not “exactly” like they would have done it. It will require having the entire team on the same page. It will require clarity on vision and direction. It will require humility from everyone to make it happen well. It will also, in my opinion, be a catalyst for your ministry!
Focus groups within multi-site student ministry will allow ownership to take place, the ministry will get a better product in the end and each staff member will not have to do absolutely everything the ministry requires. Breaking down the various sections of student ministry allows the team to use their time more effectively, utilize resources better and give greater ownership which will all help the team grow in the leadership capacity.