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

Darren’s List: 5 Things I Pray At Every Youth Program

In Phil’s previous post, he outlined his 5 things he prays at every youth program. Well, here’s Darren’s quick list…

Maybe you can identify with some or all of them? What would you add to this list? What do you regularly pray for at your youth programs?

1. Please don’t let anyone spill their soda on the sanctuary carpet.
2. Please don’t let anyone’s cell phone go off during my message – and if it does, help me not to lose my train of thought.
3. Please let everyone bring their deposits on time.
4. Please don’t let the senior pastor come in here.
5. Please let me survive this night to fight another day.

Go ahead and comment. What would you add to your prayer list?

P.S – This isn’t Darren’s “serious prayer” list, it’s more for fun… well, mostly.

 

Going to SYMC 2012? Don’t Miss These Video Links!

If you are going to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March, you have got to check out these videos made by my good friend Matty McCage. Matty has scoped out all the good and essential places to go, see, and experience while you are in Louisville, KY.
Take a look:
  • Matty Files #1:
  • Matty Files #2:
  • Matty Files #3:  
  • Matty Files #4:
  • Matty Files #5:
  • Matty Files #6:
  • Matty Files #7:
  • Matty Files #8:

5 Things I Pray At Every Youth Program

There are five things I try to make sure I pray almost every time at our youth programs. Not only I am genuinely wanting to pray these things every week, it helps to give our students a prayer focus, I find it also helps to continue to cast the vision of why we meet each week. Prayer is powerful, life changing, and focuses us on the things of God.

Here’s what I pray regularly at our weekly programs: 

“Thanks so much for the new faces here tonight, and thanks for the students who call this place home” – It’s imperative to communicate care to the new students as we pray for them and thank God for them. It’s also imperative that I thank God new people while also reminding our regular students that there are new faces here to look out for.

“Thanks to these incredible youth leaders who show up week after week to love students” – I have some of the most fantastic youth leaders a youth pastor could ask for! I realize this, but students don’t always consider the sacrifice their small group leaders make to show up week after week. In addition, it’s my job to help the small group leaders become ‘ministry heroes’ to the students. Praying for adult leaders every week truly helps students to see how much they are loved by these brilliant people! Continue Reading…

“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

 

Transitions In Youth Ministry: Part 2 – The Comparison Game

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of building healthy foundations when transitioning into a new ministry. Today I would like to talk about a potential danger that new and transitioning youth workers can easily struggle with:

PLAYING THE COMPARISON GAME: So often students, parents, and leaders are hurting from the loss of the previous youth worker that they will naturally compare us with the previous person. The LAST thing we should be doing is joining in to play the comparison game too! It can become a dangerous and unhealthy foundation to build in our first year. Here’s what the comparison game can cause us to do:

  • We change who we are to keep others happy while we are not fulfilled ourselves…
  • We become defensive when we are compared to the last person and end up “bashing” the guy or gal before us…
  • We change our vision and priorities to keep others happy and continue what others thought was successful…
  • We can become frustrated when we change who we become frustrated in working toward a vision that is not ours…

THE REALITY OF THE COMPARISON GAME: Let’s be honest, every good youth worker should be creating a strong connection with their students, leaders, and parents. Therefore, we need to expect that people will have a natural tendency to miss the previous person and talk about them a great deal. Often a comparison statement is communicating “I miss the previous person, and you are not him or her.” This is natural and normal, but it’s important that we fight the urge to change who we are or take it too personally when we are compared…

HOW TO WIN THE COMPARISON GAME:  Continue Reading…

Transitions In Youth Ministry Part 1: Healthy Foundations

Transitioning into a new youth ministry, or your first ministry can be very challenging! A good start (or a poor start), makes all the difference. But what are some of the keys to making a good transition into a new youth ministry? There are many, but here are the ones I have found to be paramount in making a good transition:

LISTEN FIRST: A commitment I have made in my last two positions was to move slowly and take time to understand the people and programs first. In my opinion, we should be committed to not making any major changes in the first year, (only tweaking what has been done in the past). This is easier said than done, but it’s important to glean important insights, learn good lessons, and most importantly build trust with leaders, students, and parents.

RELATIONSHIPS: No matter what happens in our first year, we cannot forget that relationships are at the core of everything we should be doing. In a new position it’s so easy to get task focused, but we cannot get too busy to build relationships…  After the first year it will be solid relationships that will make you and your students want to achieve greater things together…  Continue Reading…

FREE Valentines Lesson

Our friends at youthministry360 are giving away a FREE Valentines lesson. It’s a solid lesson that uses the story of Ruth and Boaz to talk about the God-centered love we see in the Bible versus the broken image of love the world bombards students with. The lesson also makes the connection that the aspects of love seen in Ruth’s story are perfected in the love we see in Christ. The lesson features a really cool, really interactive PowerPoint slideshow as well as a Leader’s Guide. If you want to teach the lesson, all you have to do is go to  to check it out.

Advice For A Veteran Youth Worker: Part 2

Our good friends at YM360 posted an article called  In this post and the previous one, we’ve provided advice for the veteran who has been asking that question, and provide them with practical steps to continue strong in ministry…

Advice for Veteran Youth Workers!

No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been in it, you are NOT obsolete or too old for youth ministry.  Never forget that.

  1. You are a ‘real’ pastor.  Don’t lose sight of that when people ask you ‘when you’re moving up the ladder’ or ‘becoming a real pastor.’
  2. Don’t get out of youth ministry because your body ‘can’t keep up with the kids anymore.’  Adapt.  Find new ways to connect with students – and find adult leaders who are ‘a little more spry’ to play basketball and run the lock-in.
  3. If you haven’t already, start your ‘why I do this’ folder.  I’ve been keeping one since my first student ministry – pictures, thank you notes, letters, graduation announcements – I keep it all….like a memory hoarder.  On days when it doesn’t seem worth it, I pull out those albums and spend some time letting the Holy Spirit remind me why I continue to do this.
  4. Find some hobbies outside of the youth ministry.  If you’ve been in youth ministry long enough to be considered ‘a veteran’, then you LOVE youth ministry.  Not in a newly infatuated date kind of way – but in a deep, abiding, agape kind of way.  Because of that, it can be easy to eat, drink, and sleep the student ministry that’s at your core…never turning off the youth ministry wheel whirring in your brain.  Find some things you like that help you unplug from student ministry – even if it’s just for a few hours.  It’ll keep your batteries recharged.

Embrace your call.  Don’t apologize for being a veteran – lean into your exceptional service.  Not many of us make it this far.  Enjoy it!

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