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.
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.