Category Archives: Leaders

Blogs dedicated to Volunteer Leader Issues

Core Leadership Values

In a vision statement you process what you want to be about as a youth program from a macro level.  Hopefully it will help guide your every move and make you a more effective ministry by giving you guidance on what you commit to and what you say no to.  A few years ago, I had a thorough evaluation done of our entire youth program by 3 experienced youth workers (volunteer and full-time) who took a hard look at our ministry.  As I debriefed with them the evaluation of our overall ministry, it was recommended to me that our Youth Leadership team (staff and volunteers combined) have a core set of values that we commit to.

The purpose of creating these was to identify values that we believe are vitally important in our ministry and commit to them.  It’s important to identify what your leadership team will be because it keeps you focused on what you view as important in your ministry.   As with all things, unless you make it clear what you are striving for as a team, no one will know for sure.  They will just be able to guess that what you are about.

At Cedar Run, we have 4 Core Leadership Values that we strive for.  They are:

  1. Prayer is our work; ministry is merely the fruit of that work.
  2. We can only take others as far as we have allowed ourselves to journey in Christ
  3. Kids remember how we made them feel, and what they saw in us – not anything we taught them up front. Therefore, it is our relationships, not our programs that truly bear fruit.
  4. Work together in unison with team members.  Be encouraging and uplifting at all time.

From my example, you can tell that we value Prayer, Personal Discipleship, Relationships and Encouragement.  What about your Youth Leadership team?  What are you about as a leadership team?  What are your goals and priorities?  Just like mission statements, there are no rhyme or reason as to what your core leadership values are.  It all depends on what you, as a leadership team, deem as important and worth striving for.


  1. Jot down some core leadership principles you want to be about as a Youth Leadership Team.
  2. When you are done, present them before your volunteer leaders and together come up with your Core Leadership Values.

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Motivating Leaders

I found this article in the Oct. 5th edition of Business Week.  It is obviously geared towards business leaders, but it is a great reminder of ways we can appreciate and motivate our volunteer leaders.  Check it out.  “The No-Cost Way to Motivate”.

If you have any thoughts or comments on it, post it hear and we can get a good dialogue going.

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3 Ways to build your Volunteer Leadership Team

Cedar Run's Leadership Team taken at our Leaders Overnight in August

Cedar Run's Leadership Team taken at our Leaders Overnight in August

When I came to Cedar Run just over 6 years ago, we had a total of 3 leaders including myself.  Now, as you can see from the picture above, we have a total of 13 leaders not counting myself (1 is actually missing from this picture).  This was taken at our annual Leaders Overnight (something I wrote about in my last post).  When I look at this picture, I am in awe how God has blessed us over the years.  After all, as great as our ministry is and how much God has been working in it, there are not people lining up waiting to be a leader here.  So, how did this happen?

I believe this happened for 3 simple reasons.

1. Prayer

I know, I know, that’s the standard answer – prayer.  But, I have to give credit where credit is due.  Without the Lord apart of this and me praying for God to provide the workers, I doubt I would ever have this many leaders.  Jesus says in Matthew 9:37-38, “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Christ himself calls us to ask the Lord for the workers and he will provide.  I’m not saying that he will do this overnight as it took 6 years to get where we are at today.  But, be faithful and keep turning to the Lord and he will provide.

2. Build from Within

As I said above, when I first came to Cedar Run, there were just 2 other leaders other than myself.  So, other than praying, how could I be strategic about recruiting more leaders?  Being new, I did not know any potential leaders within the Church who could help.  So, I began to recruit what my Senior Pastor called “mercenaries”.  These mercenaries were former leaders of mine who did not go to Cedar Run before.  So, I brought them into Cedar Run to help me build the program and to invest in the youth.  All total, for the first 2 years, I brought in 6 mercenaries to help.  It helped, for a time, but ultimately it did not work out.  In fact, of the 6 people I brought in from outside Cedar Run, only 1 is still with me today.

That is when I had to change my approach.  I had to start building our leadership team from within. As I became more and more familiar with the youth and adults at Cedar Run, I started to recruiting them to be youth leaders.  In fact, of the now 13 leaders I have, 11 of them went through Cedar Run’s youth program.  In many ways, it’s an honor them to be able to serve and a testimony to your program’s effect on others if you are able to have former youth serve as leaders.  It was great to see that as I started recruiting people from within Cedar Run, I  started retaining and building upon our leadership team.

The reason why the “mercenaries” did not work out is that Cedar Run was never their home.  They had been going to other churches and felt more apart of those churches still.  They were just at Cedar Run to help with the youth program and never got attached to the Church as a whole.  The leaders who already made Cedar Run their Church home stayed longer because they had more invested.  Not only did they love teens and want them to come to know Christ in a real and personal way, but they had a connection to Cedar Run and felt more apart of the overall Church.

3. Appreciate them

Just like prayer, this one seems like a no-brainer.  But, the more you appreciate your leaders for all the sacrifices and hard work they put into as a volunteer, the more likely they will stay longer and want to continue.  Let’s face it, it is hard to be a volunteer leader sometimes.  You have work and/or school to go to, a social life to keep up with, other personal stuff you have to deal with on a daily basis.  Then, you have  middle and high school youth, who are craving for all your attention calling, facebooking or texting at all times of the day.  It can be very challenging to juggle all these things – rewarding, but challenging.

Therefore, take time to appreciate what they do.  You could:

  • send them an encouraging handwritten note
  • treat them to gift cards from gas stations for all the extra gas they are using shuttling students around
  • buy them lunch to catch up and talk about life – not necessarily ministry life, but personal life as well.
  • gather them together for a leaders meeting. But instead of doing your leaders meeting, take them to laser tag and have fun together

These are just some of ways you can show them that you care about them and appreciate all they do. It is when you take these extra steps with leaders that they realize that they mean more to you than just what they can do in the mission field.

Overall, building a leadership team takes time and patience.  It will not happen overnight and you will likely have some hits and misses.  The key is to be persistent as you pray for leaders, look from within your own church or ministry and  appreciate them.


  1. Start looking for and identifying adults or former youth from within your own church or ministry to help serve as leaders.  Make a list and begin to contact them to see about their possible involvement.
  2. Write down a few ways you can appreciate the leaders you have.  Then go out and appreciate them!

Like it, hate it, post a comment to share other ways you can build a leadership team.

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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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Being Strategic: Vision Statements

Every company, sports organization and magazine in the world has a vision/mission statement. But, what is it really? Why is it good for you to have a vision/mission statement? Developing a vision statement is important to have for at least 2 reasons.

For starters, it is important to have this statement because it will end up being your guiding light. It is what all your decisions will be based on. It gives you freedom to say yes and the ability no – which might be one of the hardest things for a youth leader to do. When a decision needs to be made, you can always check it against your vision statement to see if the 2 line up. If they do, it makes your decision easier. But, if they do not, it is an easy “no” answer.

The vision statement we have at Cedar Run is “Cedar Run’s Student Ministry seeks to develop relationships with students so that Christ can make an eternal impact in their lives.” In this statement, I put a main emphasis on leaders building relationships with students. The leaders are not just building relationships but spurring the students on towards Christ. Therefore, everything that the leaders and I do is based on building relationships and leading students into deeper relationships with Christ.

In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins helped me process my vision statement. He introduced the Hedgehog Concept. I cannot begin to do justice to Jim’s concept so I encourage you to read his book as it is a great read. But, the Hedgehog Concept is basically “simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or a concept that unifies and guides everything” (p. 91 – “Good to Great”). This concept is more than a vision statement, but your vision statement needs to coincide with this concept. It includes your passions and what you, as a Church, can strive to be the best at.

For example, at Cedar Run, we developed our Hedgehog Concept when we created our vision statement. We decided we were not going to strive to have the best “youth room” with all the coolest gadgets and games. Nor were we going to have the best camping ministry where we draw tons of students to camp each year. What I honestly felt we, at Cedar Run, could be the best at would be developing relationships with students and taking them deeper in Christ. That is what I was passionate about and what I wanted us to be known for, what I wanted us to be best at. So, if you ever come to visit our program (anyone is welcome to come), you will see that we don’t’ have the best games or the best room. We don’t have the best youth band (but a very good one) or best powerpoint presentations. But, what we are great at is building and developing relationship with students so that Christ will make an eternal impact on their lives.

Secondly, having a vision statement is good to have because it shows others that you have a plan. A few years ago, as I was searching for a part time Middle School Intern, I revealed to our search committee what our vision statement was. In that committee was a woman who had children in our program and was very involved. When she heard the vision statement, she said, “I didn’t know you had that.” I was surprised but it became clear to me that we have not made our statement known to others. The leaders knew it and I knew it, but no one else did. She went home told her husband. The next Sunday she came up to me and said that she always thought the youth program was all about fun and craziness. She didn’t know we actually had a plan! The same will be true of your program unless you make it known! Because we work with “Youth” and most Youth Pastors are young, we are stereotyped into the young crowd. People assume you are naïve and do not know the anything. So, unless you make it known, you leave people the opportunity to make assumptions about you and our program. Therefore, MAKE IT KNOWN! Put it on your website, your newsletters and anything else you send out to parents.

What is it that you want your program to be about? What are you passionate about? What can your church be known for and be the best at? Also, how are you going to accomplish your vision statement? How will our program and curriculum look based on our vision for this group? That is where the fun begins. We’ll continue to talk about other strategic moves you can make in other posts to come.

But, before we get into other strategic moves, TAKE A MINUTE and either…

  1. Examine your vision statement, if you have one. Is it your guiding light? Is it made known to others or are they free to assume you do not have a plan?
  2. Create a vision statement if you do not have one. Remember the Hedgehog Concept – what are you passionate about and what can you be the best at. Let that drive your thinking. Spend time praying and listen for God to guide you.
  3. Pick up Jim Collin’s “Good to Great” book. It had a huge impact on my ministry and can help you as well.

If you want thoughts or want help on your vision statement, feel free to email me at


  • Jim Collin’s “Good to Great”

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Being on Guard

In my last post, “Staying Connected”, I highlighted the benefits of being connected in the digital, mobile world.  I still believe it is very importance for us to be connected.  HOWEVER, in Sunday’s Washington Post, I was reminded that for every good thing to help us minister better, there are pitfalls and opportunities for Satan to mess with us and prevent us from being as effective as we need to be.

Please take a minute to read this article.  It actually involves an Assistant Principle at the local High School in my town.  Even thought it involves an Assistant Principle (not a person in ministry), I couldn’t help but think that this could be any of us!

I hope you can take time to read this article as it cause me to make sure I am on Guard.

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Assessing where YOU are at

I love football. Whether it is college or the pros, I can’t wait for it to get started and to see how my favorite teams do during the course of the year.

At the end of each season, one of the first items of business football teams do is to spend time evaluating how the season went. Sure, they do evaluating over the course of the year and make adjustments as needed. But, at the end of the year, they sit back with all the coaches, players, owners or Athletic Directors and go through the year and evaluate what needs to be changed and what needs to stay the same for the upcoming year.

In the same way, Youth Pastors and Ministers need to be evaluating constantly. Whether you have been at your church a long time or are just now starting, it is vitally important to take an assessment of where your program is at and what needs to be changed. In order to move forward, you have to be able to look critically at yourself and your ministry. That is what I did at each of the ministries I was at. Whether I was just starting at a new ministry or had been there a while, I wanted to either take an initial assessment as to what I was getting into or seek to make changes in what we were currently doing.

This assessment process is divided into two parts – You and Your Ministry (this will be next week’s post).

You, Personally:

In order to take a good assessment of your ministry, you have to first start by looking at the head honcho – YOU! This seems obvious and I hope that this is something you do regularly, but I have found often in my life that I do not do this nearly enough. As a Youth Minister doing this for over a decade, I realize that I can be set in my ways and feel that the way I have been leading myself and others is the right way. Do not get trapped into this thinking as this kind of mindset can do more harm than help.

Take this time of evaluation as an opportunity to examine your heart and open yourself back up to God and his ways. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord”. God’s plan and path are often different than ours. So, how do you align yourself with God’s plan and make sure you are walking down the same path with him? These are some self-examination questions you can be asking yourself (in no particular order):

  • How are you doing with Christ? Are you spending time with Christ daily?
  • Are you being taught weekly (at Church or through a small group)?
  • Are you surrounded by people who will challenge you and hold you accountable in Christ?
  • How is your heart? Are you in ministry for the right reasons? Do you have the passion to take students to that next level?
  • How is the balance in your life? Are you balancing your personal, family and ministry lives well? In order to be truly effective, we have to have balance in these areas.

These are not the only questions you can be asking yourself in your personal, self-evaluation, but it is a start. In fact, these all may seem like no-brainers, but when was the last time you asked yourself these types of questions? When was the last time someone else asked you these questions? Again, as I have found out about myself that when I fail to ask myself these questions, I suffer. When I suffer, my ministry suffers and most of all, the students suffer.

As great as personal evaluation is for us, this can also be challenging. The main challenge I have found is that we are in ministry! After all, we are put into a position of authority and are being paid to do a job – lead others in Christ. Shouldn’t we have our act together? No, we will never have our act all together. But, because you are in this position, you need to be in evaluating yourself and being held accountable just as much as any other. I know this can be hard as I have heard too many times of people in ministry being vulnerable with others and getting burned because of it. But, in order to be effective for Christ, you have to find others you can trust and share openly with.

To encourage me in my life and my relationship with Christ, I began to develop 3 different sets of relationships. They have helped me examine my heart, be accountable and have given me that extra kick in the pants that I desperately needed.

1. The first relationship I developed was with my Associate Pastor. For some, a relationship with your Associate Pastor may not work, but this is a natural person for me to connect with as we have a lot in common. We are able to talk about life, ministry and our relationship with Christ. I would not say that we have the deepest of relationships yet, but by meeting with him in an informal setting, we are able to digest life and ministry issues that push me in my relationship with Christ. The more we meet, the more I trust him and know that he is for me as a person.

2. The second set of relationships is with two other men who DO NOT go to my Church who I am being held accountable to. For the longest time, I did not have anyone to hold me accountable regularly. This was primarily because of the reason I mentioned above – I’ve heard of too many people being burned by sharing with others in their own Church. But, by being working alone in ministry for so long, I have realized that I needed people to challenge me in Christ and hold me accountable. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to form this new group with these two others. It has really helped a lot and I know that they do not just care about me as someone who is a Minister. They care about me as a follower of Christ, a husband and a father and I know that they are going to ask me the hard questions and challenge me so that I can be all that I Christ desires of me.

3. The last set is with some other Youth Pastors in the area. Let’s face it, ministry stinks when you do it alone. I have 3 part-time Interns that work with me right now, but I need to stress Part-Time. That is why developing relationships with these other Youth Pastors in the area has been so encouraging for me. We get together and chat about ministry, but also personal stuff. It is great to realize that you are not the only person who is dealing with or struggling through a certain situation. As we talk about life together, it challenges me to step up my game in areas I may struggle with. The more I meet with other Youth Ministers, the more I benefit.

The phrase I hear all the time is “You can only take students as far as you are allowing God to work in you”. Have you heard that one before? I bet you have. But, it is very true. If we fail to self-evaluate ourselves by looking at our heart and relationship with Christ, we will not be as effective as we need to be. We NEED that encouragement and extra challenge we get when we are being pushed and encouraged in Christ. Are you asking yourself these hard questions and making sure that you, personally, are being objective in your evaluation of yourself? Are you surrounding yourself with others so that you are fit to do the work God has called you to?


1. Continue to seek Christ! Each day we fail to intentionally seek him and follow him, we fail to strengthen ourselves, thus fail to strengthen others.

2. If you do not have people to hold you accountable regularly, identify people in your life who can push and encourage you in your relationship with Christ. Then, call them up and see if they can get together and talk about life. Do not wait for people to call you, seek them out.

3. Identify youth ministers in your area who you can meet with. Then, set up a meeting. Just because you meet once does not mean you have to be soul buddies with them forever. It may take you a few attempts to build a relationship or for you to find the right youth minister to connect with. But, call some up and meet with them. You will benefit.

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