Monthly Archives: August 2009

Volunteer Leaders Retreat

This past weekend, my leaders and I went on our annual Leaders Retreat.  For the past 5 years, I have used this time right before our fall kick-off for a few different reasons.  For starters, after a summer fill with vacations and trips for all the leaders, I like to get all the leaders together to share about the summer, catch up and develop community.  Building and developing community is very important in a leadership team.  The make-up of a leadership team can be very diverse.  For instance, you have leaders who are college students, in the workforce, who have children and who are single.  When you go away for a day, a night or a weekend together, it provides a great way for everyone to get to know each other on a different level.  Taking some time away with just the leaders is the perfect way to build and develop a bond with each other.  In all the years we have been doing them, it has provided us with a great start to the year with each.

Secondly, it is a great opportunity to focus the leaders for the year ahead.  We do this both in a ministry and personal context.  After a summer of vacations and trips away, it is always good to get your leaders focused on what is ahead ministry wise.  What will we be doing during the fall?  How will we be doing it?  What is needed and what are some of the goals we are striving for?  These are some of the questions leaders need to know answers to.  By doing a leaders retreat with them, you can provide all this information and more all at once.

In addition to focusing the leaders on their ministry lives, we use our retreat as an opportunity to build into them personally.  As you know, summers throw even the most organized schedules out the window.  Any schedules or disciplines you may have get at least a little bit shaken.  Therefore, we try to build into our leaders personal lives during this time as well.   We spend time looking over scripture, worshiping together and going over different life skills that they can develop.  As I have written before, by investing in leaders personal lives, we show them that we do not just care about what they can do for us or this ministry.  We show them that we care just as much, if not more, about who they are as a person and a follower of Christ.

These are just 2 of the main reasons why we have been doing Leader Retreats with others.  But, there are many smaller benefits that we experience by just us being together like great memories share together or you discover a new talent from a leader.

Now, working at a non-mega church, you may not have the resources to pull off a weekend retreat or even an overnight.  So, I have a few suggestions:

  • Plan a day trip away.  There are some great places you could go for a whole day and do a lot of team building and focusing them on the fall.  Most of the time it is very cost effective.
  • See if anyone in your church has a 2nd home or even a connection to a place where you could go.  The place we have stayed at is a second home about an hour and a half away.  The great thing about this is if you can find a place like this, you will save a lot of money rather than going to a retreat center.

If you haven’t planned a Leaders Retreat this year, don’t worry it is not too late!  TAKE A MINUTE and…

  1. Mark on your calendar a good day, overnight or weekend time where you could take your leaders away.  It doesn’t have to be during the summer of fall months to plan a time away.
  2. After you mark a Leaders Retreat down on your calendar, write down your objectives for your time away.  What is the purpose for your time away and what do you hope to accomplish?

As I said in the beginning, I have been doing these Leaders Retreats for the past 5 years and they end up being very rewarding times together.  If you have not scheduled a time to get away with your leaders, do it today!

If you have taken your leaders away on a Leaders Retreat before, share about your experiences and why you do them.

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Balancing Ministry and Parenthood and being Effective at both (Part 2 of 2)

This is a continuation from an earlier post.  To look up part 1, look under Recent Posts or click here.

How #2: It affects what you Model

Pete Hill was an unassuming figure.  He didn’t “look” like your stereotypical youth leader.  He was tall and heavyset with thinning hair.  He also had this very loud, yet contagious laugh that sounded more like Santa Claus’ laugh than any Shopping mall impersonator I have ever heard.  Although he did drive this cool, navy colored Jeep Wrangler, he probably would not have been someone you would pick out of a lineup to be an effective youth leader.  However, over a 10 year period, Pete was one of the most successful and effective youth leaders I have ever seen who modeled to so many youth what it means to put Christ first in your life and what it means to choose your family first.

To be effective in ministry, a leader has to model Christ to everyone he/she ministers to.  Pete did that as he took many students deeper in their relationship with the Lord. But, it was also Pete’s passion and heart for his family that made him a great example to everyone he came into contact with.  As teenagers, young people are trying to find themselves.  It is a natural transition for them to begin to separate themselves from their own family in an effort to become more individualistic and find their way in life.  It was during this transitional time in my life that Pete modeled that family is very important.  Whether it was him bringing his younger brother out to hang out with my friends and I or him changing plans on us so that he could spend time with his family, Pete was a great example of what it means to have a family and to minister to them just as much as he ministered to others.  Looking back at times, Pete spurred me on in my relationship with Christ a lot, but it was what he modeled to me about family that really sticks with me today as I minister to teens.

Unfortunately, people in ministry have not always emulated the example of Pete’s family first model.  I have seen more times than naught a Youth Minister continually sacrifice quality time with his/her family just so they can be out ministering to students more.  This is not to say that youth leaders shouldn’t spend times ministering to youth at times that may not be convenient for your family.  But, if youth leaders continue to spend a lot time with their students and neglect their own family, what do you think you are teaching them when they get older and have a family of their own?

Choosing family over ministry is not always easy.  There is no doubt about it, teenagers, especially boys, WILL make fun of you for being whipped and COMPLAIN that you are not around as much as you used to be.  But in the long run, both you and they will be blessed because of it.  You will be blessed because you will be connected to your family more and get to experience those life experiences to share and enjoy for a lifetime.  Sure, it may seem like just “bath time” or “dinner” to others, but missing out on that time with your family could cause you to miss the first time your child does something great, or says a word or does a funny, memorable thing.  These are important things for you to be apart of.   The youth you minister to will be blessed because they will see a healthy example of what it means to be a good parent and a member of a family.  They may not realize it at first, but they will, especially when they begin a family of their own.

In addition, choosing family first means that you have the opportunity to model something completely different to adults as well.  You can’t imagine how many looks I get from other parents or teachers when I pick up my children from school sometimes who must be wondering, “Why is he picking up his child?  Doesn’t he work?”  I have actually been asked numerous times, “I’ve seen you outside your house with the girls or up at the school helping in classrooms.  What do you do for a living?”  People can’t believe that I have the flexibility in my schedule to spend time with my children.  Furthermore, they cannot believe that I am not using that flexibility to get out on the golf course more often and have some “guy” time (although, sometimes I wish I was).  What I am modeling to other people and parents is that my family matters to me and I care about what my children are doing.  Now, I am not trying to pump myself up as I see other people and ministers model this much more successfully than I do.  But, in this age of workaholism, it is a refreshing and helpful for parents and others to see that you actually care about your family.

How #3: It affects your Planning

If you have a spouse and children, you have probably experienced this before.  You have this great youth group night planned with an awesome mixer and you have a great talk prepared.  It is one of those nights you are truly pumped for as it seems like everything is lining up just right.  Then, the day comes and your spouse or one of your children get sick – not just cold sick, something like the flu or strep throat.  What do you do?  You need to attend to them and help out, especially if your spouse is sick, but you also your have a youth function to attend to.  Don’t these situations always tend to pop up at some of the worst times?  It is almost like there is someone/thing out there who is trying to destroy families and ministries.  Who could that be?  Regardless, every sickness or unexpected event that comes up are not the same.  There are varying degrees.  But, what do you do when your family and ministry lives intersect and both need you?

In ministry, it is always good to plan out weeks, months and even semesters ahead of time.  But, just as important as planning ahead, it is always a great idea to have a back-up plan. Even without a family, you should have a back-up plan for your events in case something happens to you or someone else serving in an upfront role.  A back-up plan involves delegation and preparation.

  1. Delegation: As Head Youth Leaders, you never want the program to rest solely on your shoulders.  You always want to include other leaders and the students as well.  It gives them ownership and helps them feel that they are apart of things, rather than just spectators to your show.  So make sure, that every youth function is not just contingent on your running the game, mixer, announcements and talk.  Delegate to others so that they will feel like they are contributing.
  2. Preparation: An older, much wiser Youth Minister once challenged me to be prepared for last minute changes by having all my leaders prepare a talk that they would know by heart and ready to give at any moment.  By having your leaders ready with a talk, if any unexpected thing happens to you or whoever is giving the message that day, you have any number of people who can step up and share a great message to the youth.  In addition, be prepared by having your leaders know exactly what is happening week to week.  The more they know exactly what is happening week to week, the better they will be able to contribute if something unexpected comes up.

Secondly, you need to have leaders you trust.  In addition to having an effective back-up plan, you need to have leaders you can trust and rely on in case a last minute change or Plan B needs to go into effect.  Now, I hope you can trust all your leaders.  But, what I mean here is that these are the leaders you know that can come up with an impromptu game, mixer, skit or whatever may be necessary.  There have been many times in which we have had to go to Plan B at Cedar Run.  When Plan B was needed, I knew that I had at least 3 leaders I could turn to that could pull off something to kill time.  Do you have leaders you can turn to when something unexpected comes up or when you need to go to Plan B?  It takes a lot of pressure off of you and, just like with having a back-up plan, gives other leaders or student leaders an opportunity to shine and share their gifts to others.

Big Picture

In the above paragraphs, I outlined some ways that choosing your family first affects your ministry.  Sometimes you may think that when you choose your family first, you ministry will suffer.  Rather, when you choose family first, it also benefits your ministry in a variety of ways:

  • It provides a positive role model for your youth and others to look to
  • Your ministry becomes less about you and gives your leaders opportunities to step up and confidence to perform.
  • It affects future ministry possibilities because you are a positive role model to your family.  They realize that church isn’t more important than they are.  Christ should always be first and foremost, but Church work is not Christ and although there is a difference young children or even non-believing extended family members may not realize that and end up with a hard heart to Christ because they associate the 2 together.

The big picture point is this, whether you are part of one or have a family of your own, your family needs to be a bigger priority than your ministry.  That doesn’t mean that your ministry ends or makes you less effective.  As I just pointed out, I believe that it can have some very positive affects on your ministry.  So don’t worry, your program is not going to deteriorate and the youth in your program are not going to abandon ship just because you have a fewer hours a week to spend with them.  Sure, they may complain or poke fun at you, but in the long run, what you model to them by choosing your family first is so much more important.  As my friend Pete Hill demonstrated countless times, you can be a great example to your family, the youth you minister to and many others all at the same time and impact them for eternity.

TAKE A MINUTE and…

  1. Plan some Plan B scenarios.  Who are leaders you can trust and how can you build up other leaders so that you can rely on them in Plan B situations?
  2. Set up a time where you can challenge your leaders to have a message ready for any given time.  This may need to be a “Training Time” that you have with your leaders.  So, either set up a Training Time or encourage them today to start preparing a talk to give at any give time.

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Balancing Ministry and Parenthood and being Effective at both (Part 1 of 2)

Ministry and Parenthood are two extremely challenging jobs to do successfully by themselves.  How, then, can you possibly even think about doing both of them at the same time, yet alone, be successful at both of them?  This topic is a personal passion of mine as I have been married for almost 10 years and I have 4 adorable daughters who resemble my beautiful wife in so many ways.  In the 12 years I have been in full-time ministry, I have been a minister and a father to an ever-growing family (one that is hopefully no longer growing for good) for the past 8 years.

One of the hardest adjustments for me in ministry was when we had our first daughter. Before she was born, I felt that I could do a lot as I had all day open to do meetings and contact work with students.  Then, I would go home and my wife and I would have a quiet evening to ourselves to do whatever we wanted.  When we had our first daughter, everything changed. In particular, having a baby in the house directly impacted how I did ministry (I’ll explain more a little bit further down).  In some ways, I was bummed by the adjustments I choose to make and I was envious of those youth ministers who could still do those things.  It was as if I felt that they were being more effective than I was because they were freer to do those things.

I discovered that was and is not the case.  Just because you have a family (and an ever growing one at that), does not mean you cannot and should not be effective.  It just means that it may look different than it did when you were single and without a family.  The question is how do you balance a new and/or growing family with a growing ministry at the same time?

Family First.

When my wife and I were pregnant with our first daughter, I polled a lot of ministers and youth leaders who have been in ministry a long time and I asked them how I could balance family life and ministry and still be effective at both.  The overwhelming answer I got was to choose my family first.  That is not to say that sometimes the decision and choices you make between ministry and family are not going to be hard ones, but when you answer family first, it needs to be more than just mere words you say.  It is easy to say, “My family, not my ministry, comes first”.  But, the proof in the pudding.  Do your actions verify what you say?  Will your spouse be able to say that you care more about your ministry or your family?  Because of this, when you choose your family first, it will affect how you do ministry in a variety of ways.

How #1:  It affects your Schedule

The first way a family first mentality affects your ministry is that it affects your schedule. A perfect example is night time contact work.  As a single adult or even young married person, it is easy to spend multiple nights out a week hanging with students or going to games or plays.  If you are accustom to that, once you have a child, you probably need to cut back.  You don’t have to cut back completely because those are great contact work and relational times you need with the students. But, that does mean that you should pick and choose your events you go to as night time, especially with young children, need to be family time together.

Night times are huge productions for a families.  Not only are you and your spouse getting ready to unwind for the day, but when you have children, night time means teeth brushing, baths and settling them down for bedtime.  It means reading them books or doing a devotional and praying together. Doing this with one child challenging enough, imagine trying to do this with 2-4 children.  Even with newborns, the evening time is a great family time together that you don’t want to miss out on too much.  Your nighttime work strategy needs to be adjusted so that you can be at home more at nights and minister to them.  Why continue to do ministry with other children from other families not your own and sacrifice a more long lasting ministry with your own family?

Another way it affects your schedule is that you will rarely have those 9-5 days anymore. Now, stop laughing.  I know that there are no 9-5 day youth ministry jobs out there.  But, what I mean is that your schedule becomes more in flux than ever before.  For instance, sometimes I sacrifice some early morning or later afternoon meetings to either take my children to school or pick them up.  Sometimes I feel guilty going home from work at 3 pm to pick them up and spend time with the family.  But, in the big picture, as long as I do my work and get it done, my conscience is clear.  See, I make up for this everyday as I get up at 5 am to begin working on messages, vision, working on emails and doing other administrative things.  I know it is kind of psycho, but I get a lot accomplished then.  For me, those are work hours I am logging in so that I can take off early to spend time with the family.  It is not 9-5, but in all reality, as I mentioned earlier, are there any 9-5 ministry jobs out there?

Because choosing family over ministry affects your schedule, you have to be creative with your time.  Some examples of being creative with your schedule are:

  • Get up earlier in the morning and do some admin work or send some emails.  Or, if you are not a morning person, stay up a little bit later, after the children are in bed, and do a little bit of late night work.
  • Invite students to come to your house to hang.  You don’t need to go grab food somewhere or chill at someone else’s house.  Invite them over to do that and they get to see a good example of Christ in your family life.

Now, this is just one way choosing family first affects your ministry.  My next post will conclude this topic with some other areas that are affected when you begin a family.  But, as you can see, choosing family first just means that you alter how you do ministry.  Youth in your program are not going to die because you have a fewer hours a week to spend with them.  Sure, they my complain or poke fun at you, but in the long run, what you model to them by choosing your family first is so much more important.  You can still get your job done and be effective in your work and ministry life at the same time.

TAKE A MINUTE and…

  1. If you have children, how can you adjust your schedule this week to make sure you are being effective in both ministry and family time?
  2. How can you go that extra step with your family today?  What can you do today that will show them that you care about them?

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Brainstorm Time: VACATION & DAYS OFF

A few months ago, a Youth Pastor friend of mine wrote on his Facebook status line something to the extent of, “Spending time hanging with the family”.  Now, that is great that he was taking time with his family.  But, I replied to him, “Then why are you on the computer?”.  I love this guy and we laughed about it, but I think it brings up a good issue.

How do we, as Youth Pastors and Ministers, take quality vacation time and days off?  It can be so hard considering so much rests on your shoulders.  However, in Exodus 20:8-11, God commands us to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

So, because I started off my blog with this quick story, I have a true confession – I’m on vacation.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t be blogging or doing any work while on vacation.  But, my mind still works and I wanted to write down a few thoughts early in the morning before the family got up.

Therefore, I would love for you all to brainstorm how do YOU effectively take days off without worrying about work?  For example, do you turn off your cell phone?

I promise, I will try my hardest not to respond to any great comments about this until after I get home from vacation.  But, unless you all are on your day off or on vacation, post a comment or 2 so that we all can be encouraging each other.

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