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.
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!
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.