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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Investing in Students

For the first time in my ministry career, I have a full-time Youth Staff Associate!  I have had quite a few (5 to be exact) part time help throughout my 6 years at Cedar Run, but nothing quite like this.  Not only is my Associate a female which brings great balance to our youth program, but she is very well organized and creative – everything I am not.  So, I’m really pumped for her and what she is offering our program and young ladies.

Although I have been very grateful for all she has done so far, I know that she has been overwhelmed at different times since her arrival.  A big part of this is because ever since she came on board in July, she has been swamped with what people are expecting her to do.  They will stop her on Sunday morning or send her emails about what they feel her job is.  Have you ever had people try to tell you all the things they think you should be doing?  I’m sure you have because as non-mega Church Youth Pastors, we are expected to be the “All-in-One”.  We are the face, heart and soul of the ministry (thanks for the phrase Barry Hill).  Because of this, it can be very easy for us to forget what our purpose in ministry is.

During times like these we need to step back and remember the primary reason we got involved in youth ministry.  That is to invest in students and win them to Christ.  The fact is for us to do effective youth ministry, we need to be out with students regularly getting to know who they are, what they like and building trust so that you can take them deeper in Christ one step at a time.  It is NOT to be locked up in offices from 9 to 5.  It is NOT to create cool programs or events.  It is NOT to send letters out.  And it is NOT to come up with the hippest run-on characters.  Although all these aspects are important and necessary, our primary responsibility is to be with students.

So, how are you doing with that?


  1. Examine where are you spending your time.  Are you spending enough time with students or are you getting trapped doing other responsibilities too much?
  2. What could you do today and the rest of this week to invest in the youth in your program?

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Bridge Events that Work: 5th Quarter

5Q33If you look at the title and say to yourself, what is a “Bridge event”, let me clarify before I get into how 5th Quarter is a great bridge event.  A Bridge event is designed to give every student an opportunity to come and experience some of what we do as a youth program in hopes that if they do not go to Church or have a Church home, they would make Cedar Run that place.  We are bridging them from not involved into being involved in our program.

What is 5th Quarter?
5th Quarter is a weekly event we do every Friday night from 9:30 – 11:30 pm during the local high school football season.  We open our church up to any and all middle and high school students, although we see very few middle schoolers as it involves parents driving.

It is not an original event in any way, but what we do to it adds a little “Cedar Run” to the mix.  The purpose of 5th Quarter is two-fold:

  1. Offer a safe alternative for middle and high school youth to come after the high school football games.  It is our hope that instead of them having nothing to do, hence getting in trouble or going to parties, that they would choose to come to Cedar Run and hang out in a great place where they can be themselves and have a great time doing it.
  2. Be a bridge into our program.  We want others to start coming to Cedar Run after they experience 5th Quarter.

How does it work?

For us, 5th Quarter is simple.  We open the whole Church up (which isn’t huge) and allow the kids to pick and choose to do whatever they want.  If they want to go outside and play football or death hack, they can (if you don’t know what death hack is, it is a cross between hackie sack and dodgeball – lots of fun).  If they want to go upstairs and play video games or watch a movie, they can.  If they just want to sit at tables and socialize with their friends, they can!  Again, it is simple.

We have added different things to 5th Quarter throughout the 2 years we have been doing it.  At different times, we have added s’mores (usually when it gets colder), a coffeehouse format where we have leaders or kids perform in a corner for others, and we have even experimented with a dance party room.

Ultimately, our goal is not to to structure it too much, but allow the youth to come and just be themselves.  It seems like that is a great option for them as we draw around 60 students each Friday night.

How does it Bridge students into the Program?

This is just our 2nd year doing 5th Quarter, but already we have seen new students who come to 5th Quarter start showing up at other Cedar Run events, in particular Sunday morning.  What 5th Quarter shows students is that Cedar Run is a safe and cool place to come.  Therefore, it is our hope that they want to check us out on a Sunday morning or one of the Special events that we do.

When new students come to 5th Quarter, they are often blown away by the food, the hospitality, the fun and the simple fact that they can be themselves.  We don’t have a program and there is no outreach talk given (although we probably could do one).  We just give them a safe place to come and a positive alternative to other Friday night options.

5th Quarter is a great bridge event that works for us because of 3 key groups of people:

  1. Leaders – Each week we have 5th Quarter, we get a lot of our leaders to come out and participate.  When they do come, they quickly see that this is a perfect opportunity for them to do contact work with new students.  It is a blessing that our leaders are very relational with students so this event is a great opportunity for them to come out and build new friendships. As new students get comfortable with the leaders, it increases the likelihood that they will come to Cedar Run.
  2. Students – Our leaders are able to meet so many new people each week because our students bring their friends out.  A lot of our students (especially the core student leaders) are very outreach oriented.  They want their friends to come meet Christ and so they have no issue with bringing them to Cedar Run.  Without them bringing their friends when we first started last year, this could have easily turned into a Cedar Run only event – which is not the intent.
  3. Parents – This is a great way to involve parents.  We have parents bring food, help serve the food and even mingle with the students.  Last week, we found out that one of the parents can is a get card magician.  He had half the group hanging on his every trick!  What a great opportunity for students to see parents involved and that they care about their children. Without parents there to help and take care of the food, it would mean that our leaders would not be able to hang out and do contact work with the students as much.  Plus, it gives parents a sense of what we do and who we are ministering to.

5th Quarter is a great bridge event that works very well for us and I believe it can work for you all as well.  So, while it is still fresh in your mind, TAKE A MINUTE and…

  1. Think through whether or not you can do a 5th Quarter.  It is not too late to do at least 1 or 2 of them this year.  We plan 5th Quarter every Friday night after the football games. So, when the football season ends, our season ends.  So, you still have time to organize and put one on.
  2. If you feel that 5th Quarter doesn’t work for your area, what could you do that is similar enough to 5th Quarter, but be called something different?  The key for us is that your church is a safe place for people to go to instead of going out and getting into trouble.  So, is there something you could do instead but have the same effect?

Like this post or have a different idea, post a comment so we can be encouraging each other reach students for Christ!


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Adventure Discipleship

This is a post from my friend Robbie Pruitt who is the Youth Ministry Director at the Church of the Epiphany in Herndon, VA.  He is also the founder of Adventure Discipleship.

Robbie (far right) and some guys from an Adventure Discipleship Trip

Robbie (far right) and some students from an Adventure Discipleship Trip

Following Jesus is an adventure.  No, following Jesus is the greatest adventure that anyone will ever undertake in their entire lives.  When Jesus called his disciples, He called them in simplicity and in power.  This ragamuffin group of individuals was a motley crew and Jesus’ challenge to them was unmistakably clear, “He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”  The early disciples could not have known what Jesus had in store for them as they went out to be with Him. In Matthew 8:19-20, a certain scribe came, and said to Jesus that he would follow Him wherever He went, and Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

The disciples were called to give up everything they knew to be safe and secure and to follow their Rabbi, to learn from Him, and to help accomplish His mission.  They were called into community and mission that radically changed them and the world as we know it.  As Jesus led His followers, He equipped them to lead to do the work that He had for them to do.  The church was born out of Jesus’ work and His work in His first disciples.

We are also called by Jesus to make disciples as Jesus commands us, “Go therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen (Matt. 28:18-20).”  We are called to radical obedience in discipleship and in disciple making just as these early disciples were called out of what they knew to be comfortable into what God meant to be an adventure of a lifetime which wasn’t always comfortable.

At the onset of the early church, we see the beginning of this community as one who, as Acts 4:32-35 puts it, “Were of one heart and one soul;  neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.  Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,  and laid them at the apostles’ feet;  and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” This following of Jesus is an adventure like no other.   It is wild and demands our full attention and affections if we are to “Take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24).”

I have put together a program and outreach called Adventure Discipleship that attempts to get back to this wild side of discipleship in our tame and cultivated culture of safety.  Adventure Discipleship focuses on a series of interactive and experiential activities and lessons in the wilderness, and other untamed environments, to teach discipleship and leadership.  These activities include service projects and short term missions, backpacking and hiking, canoeing and kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing and rappelling, low ropes, leadership, and initiative activities, and hands on carpentry, construction, and repair classes.  Using these activities as a jumping off point, teaching about following Jesus naturally occurs through teachable moments and active learning, through doing and experience, and “ah hah moments.”

Backpacking is one of my personal favorite adventure discipleship opportunities because you get to live in Christian community together, like in the Acts 4 scripture above.  You also get the opportunity to break bread together, and lean on one another as you “’Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ and ‘Love others as well as you love yourself (Matt. 22:36-40).’”  Backpacking provides time and space for intensive periods of worship, learning, Sabbath, recreation, fellowship, service, and encountering God out in His creation as Romans 1:19-20 puts it, “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.”

When Jesus started His ministry He was led into the wilderness to encounter testing and He was ministered to by Angels.  While Adam failed to obey God in a garden paradise, Jesus obeyed God in a deserted wilderness (Matt. 4).  Just as God led Jesus into the wilderness, God calls his followers to wild, uncommon, uncomfortable, and unsafe places in life to learn of His desire for us to have fellowship with Him, know of His goodness, and follow His mission.  God has a history of growing intimacy between Himself and His followers, and shaping and growing His disciples, in the wilderness.   Discipleship is wild and adventurous because our God is wild and adventurous, which is why following Him is the greatest adventure of a lifetime!

Adventure Discipleship seeks to put discipleship back into adventure and adventure back into discipleship.  We so often tame the gospel in how we present it.  God has so much more in store for us than the ordinary when we seek to follow Him and seek Him out in all we do.  This could include sleeping out under the stars and considering what it would be like to “have no place to lay your head.”  It could include making personal sacrifices to “give a cup of cold water to the least of these.”  It could be finding out that faith is not blind but that it is in something.  As you rock climb and trust your equipment and are belayed, “faith being sure of the things that are hoped for (Heb. 11)” takes on a whole new meaning.   It could be learning how to lead and make disciples as you lead your group on a hike.  It could mean a deeper understanding of suffering and “picking up your cross and following Him” as you carry your mountain bike up a mountain and think of a wounded and beaten Jesus carrying His cross up a mountainside for us.  It could be contemplating Jesus walking on water or preaching from a boat as you canoe a lake or a river.

Discipleship is an adventure and so is living for and following Jesus, so shouldn’t the way we learn about the gospel and following Jesus be an adventure as well?

To learn more about Adventure Discipleship or to read my blogs on discipleship, check out: and .

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The Day After Insanity

Monday always seems like my best Admin day.  It is the day I get to process all that went on during the Sunday service and afterwards.

So, as I process (and get overwhelmed), I wonder if anyone can identify with my craziness and post how they deal with it all.  Here is what is running through my mind:

  • What leaders and I meeting with this week to go over their personal and ministry goals for the year?
  • How can I deal with a fellow staffer accusing my newly hired Youth Associate of dressing inappropriately (when she was not dressed inappropriately)?
  • I need to start working on my weekend retreat talks and finishing planning the weekend retreat.  When am I going to do that?
  • I need to find more parents to help at our Friday night 5th Quarter event.  Who are they?
  • I need to get a letter out to our parents ASAP explaining our upcoming Sex and Dating series.  How can I do that when I don’t even know how to mail merge??
  • I need to get a leaders email out to get them focused on the week ahead and how to follow up with students.
  • When am I going to take a day(s) off this week since I’m gone on Saturday and back for Church on Sunday morning?

CAN ANYONE RELATE?????  It’s kinda funny?


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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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