Wednesday, August 27, 2014

18 Lessons Learned in 18 Years of Student Ministry

This week marks 18 years that I've been a part of the Student Ministries Staff at NMC.  I have now been involved in Student Ministry for as many years as I have not been involved in Student Ministry!

 In the Fall of 1996, I came on as a very part-time (5-10 hrs a week) Junior High Intern.  At that time, I was excited to get my feet wet in Youth Ministry at a healthy and growing church while getting my degree at Bethel College.  I would have never guessed that internship would turn into a full time position after college.  I'm blown away at the fact that God has allowed me to stay at this same place for these past 18 years.  Just think about that... the students who will be graduating High School this year were born the year I started in.

A lot has changed personally and professionally over those years and a lot has stayed the same.  As I was driving in to the church and walking into my office (which is the seventh office space I've had since starting here), I found myself reflecting on some of the more significant things I've learned over these past 18 years.  With it being year 18, here's 18 lessons I've learned:
  1. Students have blown me away.  They are naive and willing enough to take the Bible at it's word and step out in faith.
  2. Students have broken my heart.  I've watched destructive decisions as well as just downright hurtful things said or done to me.  If anyone goes in this hoping to see everything go perfectly and everyone like you, be prepared for disappointment.  There are a lot of painful pit stops along this 18 year road.  
  3. I can't fix people.  If I were to be honest, I think I initially stepped into ministry with this being the motivation.  I was going to fix the world's problems due to the calling God had placed on my life.  I can't fix people.  That's God's job, and sometimes, he doesn't even want to fix the things I think He should fix. 
  4. Fruit can't be judged on my feelings. I've had moments I've walked off a stage and whispered "Nailed It!" under my breath only to realize students weren't tracking at all.  I've had other moments I felt like everything was a mess and even wondered if I committed heresy only to have a student (or even multiple students) share how much they were challenged or how God used my words.
  5. Ministry is full of seasons... I have to embrace the season I'm in. 
    I started  as an older friend then moved to big brother.  Now I play a bit of a Dad role. 
    I was hands on with students, then hands on with volunteers. Now I'm hands on with Staff. 
    I was Junior High, then High School.  Now I'm a little College and a little Middle and still a decent amount of High School.   
    I could go on and on.  Each season had it's major bonuses as well as it's shortfalls and trials.  The biggest shortfalls were when I found myself longing for a different season instead of leaning in to the season I was in.
  6. Teenagers can lead the charge for the entire church. I've personally seen student movments in worship, evangelism and justice set a tone that the entire church body has joined in on.
  7. There is always more I can do. There's always one more call, one more project and one more student slipping through the cracks.  Sabbath is key.  You have to say no.
  8. Youth Ministers will be misunderstood... Deal with it. You will get labeled disorganized, lazy and/or immature. Student Ministry does not fully fit inside a nice tidy box.  You can only plan ahead so much with teenagers.  Organization has to be thrown out the door at times.  It takes a little bit of crazy to stick with Middle and High School students.  Some people won't "get it" when it comes to what you're doing.  Keep moving forward.
  9. The role of the pastor's spouse is under-appreciated, overlooked and invaluable.  I'm dead meat without her.  She always has my back.  She has more to do with what's going on than anyone realizes.
  10. There is no such thing as balance in the immediate.  Ministry is no doubt a marathon, but it is not one that is run at one even pace.  It's sprint, rest, sprint, jog, walk, sprint, rest big time, sprint, sprint some more, walk, sprint again, rest...
  11. The Senior Leadership/Youth Pastor relationship is the key to longevity.  I am very blessed to be under the leadership structure I am under.  I'm loved, encouraged, resourced and empowered by a Senior Pastoral team (namely Dave, Joe and Terry) and an amazing Church Board.  I've seen far too many youth ministry casualties in my SM friends along the way due to unhealthy relationships between the Senior Pastor, Church Elder, Direct Supervisor, etc. and the Youth Pastor.
  12. Overnighters are from hell. Enough said.
  13. Occupational Ministry is one of the loneliest professions out there. I am so blessed to be a part of a church where there is multiple staff.  Still, the fences have to be high at times on who you "let in."  Satan also loves to beat the crud out of you and convince you that you are alone in the journey.
  14. The longer I do this, the more I realize how little I know. 
  15. There is no profession tougher than parenting.  I used to get so ticked at how I saw parents handling situations with their kids... then I became the parent of 3. 
  16. I am broken.  I have so little to offer left to myself.  He (the one who is in me) has more to offer than anyone could ask or imagine.  This is the reason my ministry cry is the same as John the Baptist, "Less of me, God.  More of You."
  17. Methodology is way overrated.  I'm all about excellence in programming and relevance. The message must be packaged in a way that it can truly take root (read the parable of the Sower).  However, we spend far to much time in the church world debating large v small, attractional v missional, progressive v traditional.  Kind of makes me want to puke writing it.  Jesus.  Simply Jesus.
  18. The Holy Spirit is way underrated.That moment when the Spirit of God breaks through.  When light overtakes darkness.  When chains are broken.  When life overtakes death.  When hope is restored.  When a Middle School student "gets it" for the first time.  When a High School girl leads her best friend to Christ.  When a student returns 10 years later and shares what God is unfolding in his life.  When you see what's happening and you all you can say is, "No way... only God could do that!"  That's what I long for.  That's what keeps me going.
I'm praising God for the privilege and responsibility he's allowed me over these past 18 years.  I'm looking forward to my August 2054 post, "58 Lessons Learned in 58 Years of Student Ministry."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Download Youth Ministry

This last fall I got the chance to connect with Josh Griffin, the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in California.  He and his friends have created Download Youth Ministry, a website that provides all kinds of downloadable resources for Youth Workers at a very affordable price.  Josh challenged me to consider taking some of the resources I've created (TAWG Journals, Experiences, Teaching Series, and Games) and make them available to the youth Youth Ministry world.  Right now, I have a few games up on the site with several other resources coming out in the weeks and months to come.  I'm really excited about this opportunity as I sensed back in my SOAR internship days that God wanted to use my creative/writing abilities to impact the Kingdom in a broader sense.  This seems to be an oppportunity to do so.

Check out the entire library of resources here.  They are all tested and true resources by youth workers for youth workers.
Check out my page of resources here.
If you're in Youth Ministry, be sure to check out the DYM Membership.  It's a fantastic deal.

*Full Disclosure: I do benefit financially from every resource I have placed on the site.  I do not, however, receive any income from other resources or the membership.  I don't care if you buy my stuff or not.  I highly recommend going there to check out resources for your sake, not mine!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Leadership Summit: Final Session - Louie Giglio

"All the glory goes to God, all the honor goes to people."
  • Louie takes a moment to honor Bill Hybels.
  • What is your "mountain?"  Something you see that nobody else sees? What are you seeking to tackle.
  • Sometimes we're trying to lead, but we just don't know what to do.
  • 3 things a leader needs to breathe in:
  1. Life is Short.
    • Most people don't feel much urgency about the things of life.
    • The stakes are too high to die with a small vision.
    • Matterhorn.  Start at 4 a.m., climb the equivalent of 3 Empire State Buildings in 4 hours.
    • What is it that God wants us to conquer?
    • We have to say not to complacency and the status quo.
  2. God is big.
    • Whatever that step is, you can do it, but you can't do it. He can do it.
    • God's power is very sufficient to take the very next step He has for you right now.
    • There are lot of exceptional leaders at this Summit, but there are no saviors. 
  3.  Take a Step.
    • God's grace is enough.
    • The goal is not to get up mountains.  The goal is to fall into the arms of Jesus.

Leadership Summit: Session 5b - Erica Ariel Fox

Closing your performance gap:
  • Look at yourself in a new way... "I am plural."  
    • Brain scans show us as more like an orchestra than a soloist.
    • Look at them as inner negotiators.
      • The Dreamer (Your inner CEO)... Creates Possibilities, Sets strategic vision, senses a path forward and gives direction.
      • The Thinker (Your Inner CFO)... Clarifies Perspectives, Analyzes data, Manages risk and considers consequences
      • The Lover (Your Inner VP of HR)... Cares about people, Feels emotions, manages relationships and colaborates with others.
      • The Warrior (Your Inner COO)... Catalyzes Performance, Takes action, reaches goals and speaks hard truth.
  • For the developing the Dreamer, do I continue to push toward the dream or do I stop and ask, What is the "dream beneath the dream?"
  • For developing the Thinker,  Learn how to create a compelling evidence argument for your case.
  • For developing the Lover, consider how to care about people as the end to itself rather than the means to an end.  Call the name and face of someone you love into your heart before having to step into a tough situation.
  • For developing the Warrior,  Find a place where you are saying yes today, but tomorrow need to say, "Thanks, but no."

Leadership Summit: Session 5 - Joseph Grenny

Navigating crucial conversations:
  • Are there moments of disproportionate influence in our leadership?
  • When conversations move from casual to crucial, this is a moment of disproportionate influence.  The reality is we tend to respond our worst in those situations.
  • Two choices:  Talk it out or Act it out.
  • At a remarkably young age (3 or 4) we start believing a myth:  That you often have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend.
  • Measure the trust and health in an organization by the number of un-discussables.
  • Three crucial 
    1. Performance problems with staff/volunteers.
    2. Members who are struggling in sun or disconnection fro the church.
    3. Concerns with pastors.
  • Crucial conversations are either a "pit" or a "path."
  • Working through crucial conversations rather than around builds organizational trust.
  • 73% of the top quartile of churches in growth did profoundly better in navigating crucial conversations.
  • 65% better staff strength.
  • 100% better in financial growth.
  • Behavior that enables most any positive organizational outcome is CANDOR at moments of acute emotional and political risk.
  • Strongest qualities in navigating crucial converstaions:
    • Personal Influence
    • Marriage Success
    • Diversity
    • Missed several others
  • Seven skills
    1. Start with Heart
    2. Learn to Look
    3. Make it Safe
    4. Master My Stories
    5. STATE my path
    6. Excuse the...
    7. Aaand missed the last
  • In that moment, what do you say first?  
  • The harzordous 1/2 minute. You have 30 seconcds to convey 2 things:
    1. Mutual Purpose... You know that I care about your goals.
    2. Mutual Respect... You know that I care about you.
  • The myth that we can't tell the truth and keep a friend is a major reason to the amount of dysfunction present in organizations today.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Leadership Summit: Session 3b - Brian Lorritts

Matthew 25:31-46 (Parable of The Sheep and the Goats)
  • Some of Jesus last words before making his way to the cross.
  • Jesus does not want his organization to be monopolized by the affluent.
  • "The Lord has raised you up for the good of the nation." - John Newton to William Wilberforce
  • Book recommendation:  The Clapham Sect by Stephen Tomkins
  • Wilberforce believed the faith would not and should not be relegated to the affluent.
  • This text is not about works-based salvation.
  • This text is not about the root of salvation but the fruit of salvation.
  • 2,350 verses speak of God's heart for the orphan, the alien, the widow, and the poor.
  • Leave margins in your world to give spontaneously and generously to the least of these.

Leadership Summit: Session 3a - Susan Cain

Quiet: Challenging the Extrovert Ideal - Her book
  • 1/2 to 1/3 of the population are introverted.
  • The goal is to harness the power of introverts or extroverts.
  • How do you feel after two hours at a fun party?
  • Introverts and extroverts have different physiological wiring.
  • There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all environment.
  • The most creative are a mix of introvert and extrovert.
  • The power of conformity is high. 
  • How to harness the power of introverts:
    • Cut down the amount of group working.
    • Forget networking.  Focus on service.
    • Restore quiet to your culture.
  • Level 5 leaders (High level) as introverts.
    • President of Campbell s wrote 30,000 letters to people during his tenure.
    • Army leader who sequesters himself for big decisions, which is not the norm of military culture.
  • Next steps.
    • Groom an unlikely leader.
    • Find your complement. 
    • Find a role model. (one who you aspire to be like in the way you are wired).
Personal Note:  This was some of the most fascinating content I've heard at Leadership Summit in a looong time.  Personally, I find myself to be an inxtrovert (like I feel like both).  I am very interested in this book. Just went high on my "reading list."

Leadership Summit: Session 2 - Carly Fiorina

What you are is God's gift to you.  What you make of yourself is your gift to God.
  • Human potential is the only limitless resource we have.
  • Bureaucracy (rules based, process driven, hierarchical organization) crushes potential.
  • Bureaucracy will forget who they are intended to serve.
  • Management and Leadership are not the same.
    • A good manager produces good results within in conditions.
    • A good leaders says "I'm going to change these conditions.
  • The highest call of leadership is unlocking the potential in others. Ex. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, 
  • Leadership Square:
    • Top side:  What is our structure?  Vision, strategy, and goals
    • Right side:  Who is in that structure? Process, organization and team (Structure should always follow strategy.
    • Bottom side:  How are we measuring progress?  Metrics, success (What get's measured is what gets done).
    • Left side:  What is it like to work around here?  Culture behavior. (Actions speak louder than words).
  • 20/20 Rule:
    • 20% of the people in an organization are change warriors. Harness and empower
    • 20% "Hell No, I won't go."   Something has to be done.
    • 60% Skeptics.  Waiting to see.  Change never happens unless the 60% are moved.
  • Faith is required to reach its full potential.

Leadership Summit: Opening Session - Bill Hybels

My stream of conscious highlights from 2014 Willow Creek Leadership Summit

Key value of Summit - Humility.
  • "Armed with enough humility, pastors can learn from business leaders and business leaders can learn from pastors... at Summit, it's all about the learning."
  • Hybels respectful evangelistic heart in the midst of this experience always strikes me.
  • "Hard Leadership Lessons."
  • T or F:  All leadership is intensely spiritual. (T)
  • By definition... leaders are visionary, but team morale can slip when 
  • Leaders with the highest level of vision and passion have the lowest level of awareness of the team's passion. Begins to think of his/her team "They just don't care."  Not necessarily true.
  • A tough moment for Bill... reading a staff review and one staff member said, "I love this church, but I feel like a grunt."
  • Dang it Bill, why you gotta get so in my grill and challenge me right away.
  • 5 key steps taken to build a better organization
    1. Hired outside firm.
    2. Staff fully engaged the culture.
    3. Get real serious about training people on staff who manage people. 
      • People join organizations.  They leave managers.
    4. Raise the level of candor in performance reviews.
      •  Three words:  START, STOP, CONTINUE. 
      •  With Stop...In leading people MOVE people ahead. MODIFY what isn't working. MOTIVATE people before leaving.
      • Key word in performance review, specificity
    5.  Ruthless commitment to resolve conflict regardless of how scary it feels.
      • Resource Recommendation Reconcile:  John Lederach
      • Bill, "Every time I drive onto this campus, my heartrate increases a beat or two.  I LOVE WHAT I DO."
  • T OR F:  Relentless leadership development o is a crucial part of a leader.
  • Of course true, but the rub is in "How."
    1. Give them a tough job.
    2. Assign poeple short term task force roles.
    3. Provide coaching and mentoring
    4. Classes
    5. Some other that I didn't catch.
  • Bill's dad's parenting technique.  FIGURE IT OUT.  DON'T CALL ME.
  • Big idea 3.  Develop leaders with a leadership legacy mindset.
  • Organizations cannot be healthily built on hirelings with short-term mindset.
  • Be a legacy leader.  Working for the grander vision.
  • Legacy Leader example:  Nelson Mandela.
  • We only get 1 shot at this thing called life.  Maybe the most profound thing said.a
  • "What are you going to do with your 'dash'?"  -In reference to the "-" between the year of your birth and your death.
  • Big deal 4:  Endurance.
  • General rule:  The grander the vision, the greater the price tag.
  • It's hard to hear God at Mach 2.
  • Are you exhausted, discourage, and on the brink of lost hope?  Call for help!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Middle School Camp Day 1: Some Thoughs

As I wind down from day 1 of NMC Student Ministries Middle School Camp 2014, here are some of the random thoughts running through my head...
  • As I stood on the stage and looked out at 170+ Middle School students and our 50 leaders and staff, a thought crossed my mind... if they really wanted to, these students could take us.  The problem wasn't so much the thought as the fact that I actually shared it with the campers.  I'm praying they aren't secretly strategizing in their cabins as their leaders sleep.
  • I'm consistently blown away by the adult volunteers willing to give of their time (many use their work vacation time) to come and dive in as Cottage Group leaders.
  • The power of "group think" among Middle Schoolers is amazing.  When harnessed for good it can be fun.  When harnessed toward God it can be potent.
  • Speaking of potent, today is the best smelling day of Middle School Camp.
  • Chris Lehane and Colin Urbanick are two amazing Middle School Pastors.  Most churches would love to have just one of them investing in their students.  I get to work alongside both of them.
  • One of my favorite things to observe are former NMC students who have benefited from Summer Camps return as leaders to invest in Summer Camps.  There are a TON of such leaders at this camp.  That's 2 Timothy 2:2 in action!
  • My wife is simply amazing.  She is the unsung hero on so many levels of things tied to Summer Camp.
  • This is my 16th consecutive year with a Summer visit to Beulah Beach with and NMC group.  Every year God has met with us in special and unique ways.
  • As I stood on stage and looked out at 170+ Middle School students and our 50 leaders and staff, another thought crossed my mind... Wow, God. There is a ton of potential here.