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Message Writing Format for Leaders

It’s imperative that we step aside and let leaders speak, but it’s imperative that we also give our leaders the tools to do so. I have found that coming up with a basic message writing format really helps me, as well as my leaders. Here’s a format that I have developed from guys like Andy Stanley and Doug Fields: 

Giving a message is like taking a flight and going on a journey somewhere…brit-plane2

TAKE OFF: Intro/Grab Attention/Get students on board. 

Just like a plane on take off, most of the thrust and power goes into the getting the plane off the ground. Without a good thrust, you will run out of runway. In the same way, no matter how great our message content is, if we are unable to grab attention and get kids ‘on board’ and ‘take off’ with an idea, we will run out of ‘runway’ quickly. What media, drama, or special element will help us take off?

TOPIC: What issue do students face? What problem are you presenting? 

TRUST: How have you struggled in this area. How do you relate to this problem? (It’s important that students can sense that we are on the journey with them, and that you have or have had struggles in this area). 

TRANSITION: One sentence that takes us ‘above the clouds’ of the problem and transitions us into clarity of God’s answer. Example: How can you and I deal with this issue in our lives? It’s a good job God didn’t leave us in the dark. Let’s take a look at God’s Word and figure this out…

WORD: This is where we draw out God’s truths for students. Usually I try to break down this part into the following: i. Context – What was happening at the time.  ii. Characters – Who are the people being addressed or written about. iii. Our context – How does this apply to us today. iv. Why is this important for us to understand? Remember to ensure that we pick a passage that addresses the issue that was raised at the beginning. It’s easy to take students on unnecessary diversions by focusing on every detail of the passage. Try to stay with the big idea. 

WHAT IF: As we begin to descend to ‘land the plane’ it’s important to ask the question, What if you and I were to live this truth out in our lives… what would our lives look like? What would our decisions be like? What would our relationships look like? It’s important that we begin to give them a runway to land on with us. So that they can visualize the vision God has for them. Just like a pilot can see the certainty and safety of the landing lights of a runway, students need to see the certainty of how living out these truths will impact their lives… Without the “What if “questions, we are asking students to land in the fog…

WHAT NOW: What steps can students take to live out these truths? 

As they ‘disembark’ do they know where they are going this week? Just like passengers need directions once they get to the airport terminal, so students need further steps they can can as they navigate through their week. What specific steps can we give them to take that will help them start living out the truth they have just heard? 

This is the basic way I have shared with my leaders to help them take students on a journey. It helps to give them a natural and normal format to follow and gives them a starting point in their message journey and gives them an easy ‘landing’. Try and tweak it for yourself?

Step aside and let leaders Speak

If you knew that you could make changes in your ministry to present God’s truth to students more effectively, would you make them?  Seems like a no brainer right? One of the best ways to present God’s truth more effectively is to step aside and let other leaders speak…

Why is that so difficult for some of us?  Let’s be honest, if you are like me,  it’s very easy to come up with reasons for not making use of volunteers in this way…

First, it’s easy to conclude that their volunteer status equals poor messages… Not true. 

Second, it could mean that we have to plan far in advance… Not easy for some of us!

Third, after we have met with the leader and walked them through the message,  we could have written it ourselves in less time… This is true, but would it be more effective? 

All seem like compelling reasons?  However, here’s why it is imperative to to invest, equip, and empower our volunteers to give messages: 

1) They are Different: As hard as this is to admit, students in our ministries will tune us out week after week. No matter how dynamic we are,  kids will naturally tune us out.  I have a British accent and my youth ministry friends say I could talk about anything and it would be interesting… I wish!  I tell them, yes, the new kids love it… (if they can understand me at first), but give them a few months and it’s old!  Our leaders are a different face, have a different style, and different ways of thinking through things… Your students have different learning styles and different ways to think through things too… We cannot cover the whole ‘bandwidth’ of students personalities and learning styles on our own. 

2) Planning Pays Off Volunteers will present poorly if we give them short notice… When we plan ahead in a series, we can give leaders 4-6 weeks to think and work on a message.  Leaders perform better when they have time to pray and think through their message. If we are not planning this far ahead, we are not helping our leaders succeed. 

3) Investment  Pays Off. Recently two leaders gave messages for me and I have invested hours of time into both of them. They both have good communication skills and a strong faith and these most recent messages were the best I have seen them give. We would all agree that their first messages were shaky and not as concise as they could be, (do you remember your first message?) Investment pays off as we take time to encourage, tweak and improve their skills. 

4) Get the Night off and Lead: When a leader gives the message for me and I am able to take the night off from speaking, I am able to lead better. I can step back and assess the program from a different vantage point and see tweaks we need to make that I would not normally see.  Finally, I can invest more relational time with leaders and students. It’s great for students and leaders to see us laughing and being a part of the group in a different way…

Is it time to step aside and let leaders speak? 

Phil <><

It takes TIME

big-benIn the last few weeks I have been looking back and assessing our last year in youth ministry and looking forward and setting goals. It’s great to see how  many new students we have reached and how many students have taken deeper steps in faith and service… Sound good? Can I be honest just for a minute? 

I wonder if you are like me when it comes to these times of year? It’s easy to catch myself looking at what we have done, but still wishing we were further ahead… It’s easy to take side glances at other ministries and feel insufficiant because we are not able to do all they are doing… In quick moments, (only quick moments I am glad to say), it is easy to forget all the great things that God has given us, and focus on the areas of our ministry that could be doing better. 

It’s in these moments you and I need to understand and embrace this fact: 

It takes TIME…

To Build Trust: With the students you work with, the parents you partner with, and the leaders who lead with you. Even if you have come into a healthy sitution, people still need time to know who you are and what you stand for. If you are coming into a challenging environment it takes longer to build trust and our steps must be lighter. 

It takes TIME

To Bring Clarity to the Vision: The reality is this: Even if we had a great plan and purpose in our last church, it might not work in the new place. Even if we feel like our plan is solid and easy to understand, we can’t assume that students, parents, and leaders are on board even after a couple of years. I believe that clarity comes easier when people have heard and seen a plan in action for at least a couple of years… Therefore, if you are building a ministry and adding components as you go, people might not yet have clarity since you are still building…

It takes TIME

To develop Leaders: It’s only after a few years that you can see the fruit of  the investment of meeting with leaders and training them for ministry. It takes time to see which leaders are in for the long haul and who you can depend on to be your key players. In my ministry, I ask for a high level of committment and I have some incredible leaders. But, the truth is, it had takes time to get leaders to be self sufficient and have good chemistry with my vision and direction. This takes lots of coffee meetings, lunches, hang out times and training days.  

It takes TIME

To build Relationships: We live in a shallow world where students ‘don’t care what you know, until they know that you care’. (I am sure you have heard that before). But let’s face it, students have adults coming in and out of their lives all the time and even if you are the most likeable guy or gal in the world, it’s going to take time for students to really let you into their world. A key to showing that you care is a commitment to consistency and longevity. It takes time…

Finally, if any of us take a look at other successful ministries around us, our first response must be, “Praise God for what He is doing there”. And second, “It must have taken TIME”. 

Have a great weekend!

Phil <><

How to have Great Leaders

austin-powers11Whether you are full-time and paid, or whether you a volunteer overseeing youth ministry, we all need good leaders to partner with us. We all need adult and students leaders to make ministry happen and to see that lives are impacted for the kingdom. If we think we can be the lone ranger, we are mistaken. Great ministry happens when we are surrounded by great leaders who share the vision and care deeply about students. 

The Big Question: How can I recruit and develop great leaders? 

Of course,it should be a given that it’s about God’s power and providence. There are also many answers to this one question, but I believe and have seen that there is one crucial element and answer that will make the difference between great leaders and average or bad leaders…. Are you ready for it? 

It begins with who you are!

It stands to reason that it’s not a good idea to buy hair products from someone with no hair. It stands to reason that you should not go to a dentist whose has teeth like Austin Powers. It should stand to reason that your leaders and partners in ministry will not partner with you if you are not the real deal. Or, if they do work with, they are likely never to live up to their full potential if you are not living up to it yourself… Here’s how it works: 

If I want my leaders to do the little but hugely important things like phone the kids, or send a postcard in the mail, or take a student out for coffee… it’s important that I take time to call or write… If  I want my leaders to be growing in their faith and always have something to encourage and share with kids, it will depend on how I am doing  in my faithwalk. If I want my leaders to stay cool in high pressure situations, over time it will depend on how I do the same. If I want my leaders to become good listeners for the students, it will depend on how I do the same for them. Bottom line: I can’t expect my leaders to do what I am not doing… My words and training mean little if I am leading by example.  

I meet a lot of frustrated leaders who need volunteers or have volunteers and are frustrated with them. We have to remember that we are all works in progress, and no one changes over night, but over time, our leaders will lead in the way it is modeled for them. It’s painful to admit, but if we can take an honest look at ourselves and allow God to change us, we will have a greater impact when we do the very things that we would like our leaders to do. More people will volunteer and their effectiveness will be greater… so will yours, (and mine). 

You see it’s the idea that leaders will learn leadership better when it is modelled for them. It’s the whole idea that Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1: 

You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.

It’s the whole idea that our leaders, our partners in ministry and our student leaders will become (over time and not instantly), what is modelled for them. 

So, what kind of imitators are your leaders becoming? Today, take a look at some areas of your leadership and consider what small and important things you can do to model great leadership. What are some of the things you can care well for your leaders so that they care well for the kids you see every week. What phone calls do you need to make? Who needs a note in the mail? What truth does God want to impress on your heart that you can inspire your leaders with?

What is God saying to you today about who He wants you to become? How will that impact your leaders? How will impact God’s Kingdom?

Phil <><

I’d be dead without Volunteers.

roadkillThis morning I am meeting Sara and Nancy for coffee, and later I am meeting Jeremy for lunch. All three of them are great volunteers in our youth program, but they have also become great friends in the last couple of years. In ministry, these are the kind of people I would be dead without! They not only produce amazing things at our events and programs, but they are the kind of people who every youthworker needs to hang in for the long haul. 

For me, the key to getting and keeping volunteers like this has been very intentional in how I meet with them and how we do life together. Here’s 5 things I do with all my volunteers: 


1) Large Leaders Meeting – Every two months: This is to celebrate victories, cast vision about why we do what we do, take a look at what is coming up in the big picture and pray for our kids. (I sometimes bring a load of postcards so leaders can write their kids as they pray for them. (When I say ‘their’ kids, I mean the ones that they have in a small group)… We always try to meet at the house of one of my leaders (it’s big house), and have snacks and drinks to make it laid back. (We could meet at the church, but I want it to me more like a party than a meeting)!

2) Individual Meetings: On an ongoing basis, I try to meet with all my main leaders at least once every two months for a coffee and catch up. I split an hour meeting into three ‘C’s. First, I ‘Check Up’. How are you doing personally? How is your walk with God etc. The second ‘C’ is: ‘Cast Vision’ – What do I need to say that will restate or refocus why we do what we do? Finally, the last ‘C’ is to ‘Communicate Details’: What events, details or changes do they need to know about?  

3) Key Leader Meetings: ’Key Leaders’ are leaders who oversee a certain area in our programs. These are the people I often meet with at least monthly. This time includes, planning and implementing what is coming up. 

4) Emails – once a week:  This is how I communicate the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what we are doing. Schedule, events, details of program are emailed to leaders and are we have a calendar and events page online with specifics. 

5) Quarterly Fun Events: Events at my house, BBQ’s, Christmas party, Wii nights etc… All designed to build community and relax

Phil <><

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