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How To Effectively Change Up Your Summer Youth Ministry Schedule

One of the age-old debates in youth ministry is,  “Do we take the summer off?” I have always landed on the side of NO!  As a matter of fact just last week I asked some of my students if they would like to have an intentional “leadership” group over the summer.  Crickets.   Then came the excuses of impending vacations, family reunions, sports camps and of course summer jobs.  Ironically, when I asked which of them might like to help out  with some of the elementary aged day camps we run,  they all clamored to be included.   This triggered a realization for me that it isn’t about IF we do something during the summer, it’s WHAT we do for the summer.

Youth Ministry Summer

Here are the key elements I take into account: Continue Reading…

Promotion Promotion Promotion: Maximizing Your Youth Ministry Exposure

We live in a world that is surrounded by marketing of all sorts… TV shows, sports figures, movies, and plenty more advertisements flood our day-to-day lives. And as somebody who works with students and tries to promote events and retreats, this can be quite challenging!

Youth Ministry Promotion

And so, I’ve “stolen” a few ideas from media around us, as well as created a few ways of my own to spread the word about any upcoming events in our ministry. I usually try to reserve using some of these tactics only when I really need to spread the word. Not all of these tactics are necessary to use for EVERY event you have, but maybe one or two of them are necessary. Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Productivity: Part Three – Horizontal Spaces

I’m not a naturally organized person.  I had to train myself to be administrative – some would say I haven’t done a great job of that!

My office easily overwhelms me – and when it looks like a bomb went off in there, I just try to avoid the fallout.  Seriously – I found myself working in the student center or Starbucks just to avoid looking in my office door!

So I developed a routine so I could live with myself!  It’s my mastery of the horizontal spaces.

Youth Ministry Productivity Part Three

Continue Reading…

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…

Youth Ministry Productivity: Part One – The Productivity Vacuum

I work in what one would call an “open office.”

Places like “Google,” claim this space filled with no dividers, just desks and those passionate about the same mission is conducive to work. Not so much for me…  Instead it deflects my ability to be productive.  There are a myriad of reasons why.  One is that those of us sharing the space have different perspectives on what “office time” is for.  When I come to said “office,” I am there to get the administrative “stuff” out of the way. My relational time is for when I do not have “tasks” to accomplish. Except I work with others who see “office time” as “connection time.”  That’s right they want to “chat” while I want to figure out my “to do” list.

Youth Ministry Productivity Part One

Fortunately, I figured out how to remedy this atmosphere that is a “productivity vacuum,” for me.   Continue Reading…

GUEST POST: Does Your To-Do List Match Your Youth Ministry Priorities?

We all have plenty of projects that are due sooner than we can manage. Your submission for the newsletter was due yesterday, you still need volunteers for the fundraiser dinner, and yes, you’ve still got 67 unread emails.

Youth Ministry To Do List

That’s why it’s so easy to spend eight hours blowing through a to-do list that doesn’t do too much to further the Kingdom.

You already know that the time you spend directly with students and volunteers represents the most significant impact you can make. But how much of those things wind up in your day planner?

How many get put off until a day that’s less busy, even though we both know that less busy days almost never happen?

If your to-do list is filled with items that don’t line up with your ministry’s priorities, it’s time to make some changes. Continue Reading…

A Good Reason To Cancel Sunday School? A Response From Leneita Fix

Recently Phil Bell wrote an article that considered the implications of canceling traditional Sunday school in order to see students involved and connected with the larger church. Here’s a response I wrote for to the ‘Worship Together’ plan that Saddleback has created. It might help you consider another side to the idea…

I am more than a youth pastor. I am the crazed parent of two current, and one almost, middle schoolers. Not only that, I’ve “parented” my niece who just recently moved out of our home for college. My husband and I were purposed and focused in raising our kids in Christ. We thought we succeeded when all of our children “asked Jesus into their heart” by the time they were hitting kindergarten.


Recruiting Volunteers: You Need A Job Description… So Do They!

You Need a Job Description….So Do They.

Job descriptions.  Ugh.  That’s how I really feel about them.  They just seem like a waste of good trees and ink.  And they’re tedious.  Have you ever tried to write your own?  I was helping develop my own job description (along with descriptions for a few other staff members) and it felt like all the books in all the world could not contain all the crap that had to go in those documents.

So why bother?

It boils down simply to this – expectations.  Clearly defined expectations are a win-win.  Those doing the expecting win, because they know what they’re asking of you.  You win because you know what you need to do.  Clearly defined parameters.  Easily evaluated performance.  Everyone goes home happy.  (Yes, I know it doesn’t always work that way for staff people – but that’s another blog post for another day.)

So if clearly defined expectation equals a win-win relationship, why don’t we do this for volunteers within our ministry?

It’s a lot of work.  #truth   But it’s work that yields long-term results.  It’s much more productive than, say, driving all over the city trying to find shaving cream that doesn’t contain menthol. Continue Reading…

The Second Most Important Part of Message Prep

When you are in ‘crazy busy  ministry mode’ and you have to put a good message together, what are the elements you spend most time on? That’s the question we’re looking at today…

Last weekend I preached in ‘big church’ on Philippians 2. It’s always a great privilege to preach in church and It’s always a great opportunity for me to advocate for our student ministry. It’s comforting for parents of teenagers to know that their kids are in safe hands… Well, that’s the plan at least!

As I prepared the message last week, I did not feel I had as much time to run through my presentation and transitions. I felt like I had good time to dig into and unpack the passage, (that’s the most important part of message prep), but by the end of the week I had many commitments to take care of and ‘presentation practice’ as I call it, did not get as much attention as I would liked. You see, every message that I give, I try to practice and make sure that I fully ‘own it’ by the time I present it. As Andy Stanley says something like, “if you don’t own your message, why should you expect the people to own it when they leave?”

So what do you do when you are short for time and have not been able run through your whole message sufficiently? My advice: Practice the ‘take off’ and the ‘landing.’

1) The Take Off – This is the introduction where you gain attention, present a problem and give your audience a compelling reason to hang with you throughout the message. Just like an actual take off in a plane, people want to be able get up safely above the clouds and see where they are going without being stuck in the ‘clouds of confusion’ for too long. In other words, it’s imperative that we present the issue and clearly help our audience see where we are going for the next 20 minutes or so. Having a clear ‘take off’ off is essential and will set up the rest of message well.  Continue Reading…

3 Essential Fall Plans You Should Be Making Now For Your Youth Ministry?

This week, here in Michigan, our high schools have their last days and most have already had their graduation ceremonies. The summer is about to begin! However, it is this time of year that I believe it is essential to start making plans for Fall and not wait any longer.

The problem for us is this: Before we know it, we are on a mission trip, we’ve taken that needed vacation, or we are already in August staring down the Fall. It’s true isn’t it? Summer fly’s by! Therefore, to make sure that Fall does not turn into a last-minute planning frenzy, there are three priorities I work on now, while I have the time:

1) Recruiting New Volunteer Leaders: If we wait for potential leaders to leave town on vacation or get into their summer mode, it’s harder to have needed conversations. It’s also good to ask potential volunteers now, so that they can pray and consider helping during the summer months. Sometimes the ‘volunteering seed’ needs to be planted now and will grow over the summer. Waiting to ask potential volunteers a few weeks before the Fall can often feel rushed and disorganized.

2) Plan Out A Basic Calendar: Sitting back here in June is a great time to look at the calendar in a more objective,  relaxed and prayerful way. It allows us to see the big picture of what is going on and allows us to take time to space events and programs out and give healthy margin once the Fall arrives. It also allows us time to tweak and change the calendar without making rushed decisions when a potential calendar conflict comes up.

3) Plan Your Message Series Now: By thinking through your first 2-3 message series now, it will allow your creativity and ideas to ferment over the summer. It also allows us to get others involved and incorporate elements that might not get added if we were running fast into the Fall. Consider the felt needs of your students as you plan your Fall kick off series.Appealing to their felt needs and creating an exciting and engaging Fall series will help you create good momentum right out the gate.

What are you working on now for the Fall? What would you add to this list?

Phil <><

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