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Youth Ministry Productivity: Part Two – 3 Keys to Getting Things Done

People often ask me, “John, I am trying to be more productive, but I don’t know what tools will help me.  What do you use?”.  Actually, people rarely ask me that, but if they did, here is what I would share. The first step, before you begin choosing a tool that will help you, is to develop a system to organize everything you have going on, every task, thought, responsibility, engagement, and idea.

Youth Ministry Productivity Part Two

Here is a simple 3 step process process to do get things done:

Continue Reading…

Volunteers – How to Know When it’s Time for Them to Go

There are going to be many opinions and approaches to this topic.  Welcome to mine!  The purpose of this post is to give you permission, nay, the freedom to let go of a volunteer who is just not a good fit for your ministry.  Of course I recognize that they aren’t getting paid.  They are there because they choose to be.  I also have had my fair share of experiences with volunteers who are there to fulfill their own needs and agenda, and not to walk alongside you with the vision that God has given for your youth ministry.  Some may just not be gifted in the role you have placed them.  I also recognize that each situation has its own factors and nuances.  Hopefully this just gives you a helpful perspective to draw from for your own situation.

The purpose of this post is to give you two tools.  First, criteria to judge your volunteers by that will tell you if there is a problem or poor fit.  Second, some simple steps on how to let a volunteer go in the best way possible.  So without further ado…

If you are wondering whether a volunteer is helping or hurting your mission, just consider them in light of the following two lists: Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Leadership: Team Building Made Easy

Yeah, that title would be considered false advertising.  Team building is not easy, but it is critically important.  The foundation for any successful ministry or organization is a strong team.

A group of people who trust each other completely, share ideas openly, engage in healthy conflict, and feed off the group’s collective passion and energy.

If you have experienced a healthy ministry team you know what I am talking about.  There is nothing that they won’t try to accomplish, and nothing they won’t do to accomplish it.

On the other hand, if you have been part of a dysfunctional team you know how it can hinder any momentum or success in program.  Personal opinions are staunchly held , consensus is never reached, and discord always exists behind the scenes.  You spend more time doing damage control then you do ministering to teens. Continue Reading…

Striving Towards Irrelevancy In Youth Ministry…

One of my favorite books of all time is .  In it, Nouwen gives his perspective on what being a Christ-like leader truly means.  He says, “I truly believe that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her vulnerable self.”

I can’t think of many vocations where the urge to be relevant is greater than in the area of youth ministry.  You know what I am talking about.  If you have ever spent time catching up on the current music trends, scoured YouTube for cool videos to play on Wednesday night, or bought a pair of skinny jeans that no one over 20 should have any business adding to their wardrobe then you know of that which I speak.

With your permission I would like to free you from the shackles of relevancy.  Christ created us to be a specific person.  Don’t you think that it is the same person he called to minister to his precious children? So just be who you are.  If you hate rap, don’t pretend you like it.  If games and skits aren’t your thing, there are others on your team for that.  Stick with bible study and relationship building.  If you still love wearing grunge-era flannel…..well, actually that is one you need to give up on.  In the end, kids can tell when you are being genuine, so it is better to just be yourself.  It’s who God wants you to be anyway.

Are there any ways that you struggle with wanting to be relevant?

John

What Does Successful Look Like?

Ok, so I am a zealot.  I admit it.  I need every activity I do with kids to have a purpose or a point. No one has ever accused me of being the fun youth guy, especially not the youth.  Oh, I have drunk the raw eggs and thrown everyone’s shoes in the middle of the room, but not without a well communicated message about God’s unique plan or the dangers of food poisoning.  It is a character flaw really.

However, there is a method to my madness.  I always want my lessons/programs/activities to be a piece of a bigger puzzle.  And what is that puzzle?  It is the picture of what I want my youth to look like after having been in my program.  To steal a cliché, “I begin with the end in mind”.

When is the last time you have asked yourself what type of youth you are trying to produce,  and then purposely come up with a plan or a program to grow them in that direction?  If it has been a while I think it is well worth your effort to think about the following questions:

  • What do I hope a child looks like after being in my program for 4-7 years?
  • What qualities do they exhibit?
  • What kind of Christian will they be?
  • Will they be leaders?
  • Do they have a heart for discipleship or are they evangelists?

These are just a few ideas.  What other questions would help you picture your kids in the future?

John

“Why I Suck at Valentine’s Day” – The Perspective of a Man in Ministry

Sorry Guys.  It’s Valentine’s Day.  No, I have no clue what happened to the last five weeks either.  We had sooooo much time to figure it out how to make the day special, but the sand has run out of the hourglass.  All we have left now is candy from the local Walgreens, a teddy bear from Exxon,  and a myriad of excuses.  If we only put as much effort into planning for V day as we did scrambling for valid excuses, our legend would be epic.  You know what I mean by epic.  That idiot friend who makes you look bad because he somehow got a string quartet to play his wedding song at the base of a waterfall last February 14th.  I hate that guy….

Of course we have no one to blame but ourselves.  We were once that idiot friend, weren’t we.  Think about it.  There was a time when you pursued your soul mate full on, sparing no expense or detail (whether you lost your man card or not).  Then it happened….life.  There are a myriad of things to blame it on, but I find that ministry has become a handy scapegoat.  It sucks all of your time, money, and energy.  Scratch that, it sucks all of your time, doesn’t give you any money, and uses your energy for such quality activities as chubby bunnies.  It is a challenge to keep your wife at the top of your priority list, but I know we all agree it needs to happen.

I don’t know about your spouse or girlfriend, but my wife’s top two love languages are Gifts and Quality Time (I blame this on you too Gary Chapman – but that is a topic for another post).  As any ministry veteran well knows, the two things that are most scarce are free time and cash – the very elements that are necessary for a successful Valentine’s Day extravaganza.   Oh how many times I have failed to meet my wife’s needs in the name of ministry.  How many fights we have had because I put more effort into my work and excuses than into listening to her deepest desires (that’s rhetorical dear, don’t answer that in the comments section).  You see, and this is where I hope to help all my brothers in arms, I was missing the point…

IT’S THE SMALL (BUT BIG) THINGS: For a woman who loves gifts, an unsolicited presentation of her favorite candy bar means that you care enough about her to remember to get if for her.  Words of encouragement are simple – a text message reminding her that she is just as beautiful today as the summer you met her is almost (I said almost) as good as a poem or sonnet.  Acts of service – where to start on this one?  Make her dinner or wash her car.  If you are married, for lord’s sake pick up your underwear and vacuum once in a while.

THE KEY: The key to all of this is simply making sure you do the little things every day that show her she is cherished and most important in your life.  Am I good at this?….not at all.  It is a constant effort to make sure I am doing the little things.  But I tell you what, if I would just focus on the simple things that make her feel special everyday than the pressure of Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be so great – and I wouldn’t be fighting with you for the last Hoops and Yoyo card at CVS.    Here’s praying that you have a blessed Valentine’s Day.

P.S. This post has been proofread and approved by my wife.

John Fix

Married In Youth Ministry

So many times we sit with others “in ministry” and we hear the stories of their journey. We heard it said once in every marriage one of you is the plow horse and one of you is the race horse. In other words, one of you is the passionate visionary and the other is the slow and steady planner. Another way of looking at this would be to say that one of you is the pioneer and the other “follows and supports” the lead. Nine times out of ten when we “talk” about the road to ministry as a couple, the “dreamer” is the husband and the “practical” one is the wife.

Not in our marriage. We have had a unique expedition into serving the Lord. Leneita is the crazed overly passionate, “We can do anything” voice, while John is the calm, reasonable, “Sounds good, but how will we accomplish it,”  voice. It used to make us roll our eyes as the husband would look at Leneita and say we are just alike. It made John feel emasculated that he was more like the ministry “wives.”

Ministry is challenging. Then you add marriage to the mix and it simply complicates everything. In our case neither of us even has a “real” job (or so we have heard them called.) to support the cause. Instead, we have walked hand in hand down this road of fully focused, all in, running youth min stuff 24/7 for almost 15 years now.

Here are 3 things that have helped our marriage:

1. We were BOTH called. In our life we have the interesting perspective that our whole family is “in ministry” together. We live in the inner city as missionaries and serve on staff with a ministry. Our lives are immersed into the vision. Yet, we recognize it wasn’t one or the other of us following the other. The Lord made us “one flesh” this means that this call was for both of us. In your life it might look different. One of you may hold down a non “church” job. One of you might stay at home with the kids. However, the Lord wants you unified in his vision for your life. Serving in youth ministry is part of that.

 2. We are called to be who God called US to be. Expectations from others was what brought rifts into our marriage. In the early years we kept trying to make it look like what we defined as the “norm.” This brought a constant sense of uneasiness to our relationship. I’ll never forget the day I heard a young, stay at home, homeschool mom, say to me, “I could never do what you do, I just support my husband as a youth guy.” I told her, “You aren’t supposed to do it our way. You are supposed to do it the way the Lord made YOU as a family.” If you are not sinning in any way and you are happy with the way your marriage is working, stop trying to fix it. It isn’t broken.

 3. “Doing” ministry can never be as important as your relationship. We all say, God first, family second, everything else third. I have also heard it said, “God only.” Our identity can’t be in what you do, it has to be in who you are in the Lord. HOWEVER, when the Lord gives you a spouse that relationship needs care. There is never a “good day,” to take off. There is never a day that the phone calls, text and demands of those you serve will end. If you keep telling your spouse, “they just need to understand this is important,” there will come a day when they won’t anymore. The most important relationships need nurturing. You were called together. Even if your stint in “ministry” ended tomorrow, you will still be together, don’t forget that.

Honestly, when we were both single and “doing ministry” it was relatively easy. The only people we had to care about were Jesus and everyone else. The reality was that the Lord gave us a traveling companion on this life with him. The day we said, “I do” it meant that we would walk it all together, whatever life brings. For today, that means we get to tell kids how to live for Christ… as a couple.

What has helped your marriage in youth ministry? What is essential to continue growing together as one or both or you minister to students? 

John & Leneita

 

Sharing the Journey…

“Sometimes, even though you may be the most skilled person at completing a task, it does not mean you should be the one to do it”.

Nine years after a mentor shared theses words with me, they still serve as the most powerful ministry lesson I have ever received.  When he spoke them I was working for a grassroots urban youth ministry that was understaffed and overworked (aren’t we all?).  We all had way too much on our plates, and the concept of delegation seemed as real to us all as winning the lottery…it just could not happen.  As I whined and moaned about our lack of staff and volunteers he called me out on what the issue truly was.  There were other people I could delegate to.  I just did not believe that anyone could do the job as well as I could.  As we continued to talk, he brought me to the realization that in order for me to be more effective in my primary responsibilities, I had to be willing to let someone else do work that I was more qualified to complete.  Sometimes, in order to accomplish our goals, I had to subdue my control freak and share the work. No, the task may take the other person more time to get it right, but it would get done.

I recognize that lack of help is one of the three problems we all face in youth ministry (behind lack of money and finding really good games that involve duct tape and Ovaltine). However, I think if you truly think about it, you have people who are willing to jump in and help.  Maybe instead of crowd control and consuming inedible foods they could help carry more of the load.

Now I get it. This youth group is your baby.  God has given you a calling and vision for these kids and this program. It has to be done right. However,  hasn’t He also called your volunteers to the same things? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t you give them something significant to do?

But where do you start? How can you be sure that they are ready to take over the things that you “are most qualified to do”?  It really is simple.  I have found it comes down to three steps: Continue Reading…