Hey youth ministry friends in the Pittsburgh area, our friends over at Pine Springs Camp, in Jennerstown, PA are hosting an open house for youth and church leaders. This summer they opened their new dining facilities and multi-purpose space. It is an amazingly beautiful building that will lend itself wonderfully for your next retreat! I want to invite you to come and join us for this Open House on Thursday, September 7th, 2017.
So much has happen at Pine Springs this past year. This summer, I was privileged to be among the first to celebrate the first dinner in the new Refuge. The Refuge is a spectacular facility, large and open, wired for sound, and ready to host your group for your next retreat.
The Open House is an opportunity for you to come and tour Pine Springs, see The Refuge, meet the staff, and discover how Pine Springs might best serve you and your group. Along with seeing the camp, there will be opportunity to participate in two roundtable discussions, including one led by myself. There will also be a selection of resources available to purchase and give-aways for a few lucky youth workers! There will also be a free lunch provided for all participants. And here's, the best part, IT'S FREE!
To register, simply contact Pine Springs Camp, or leave a comment below, and I will get in touch with you. You can reach Pine Springs through their website, www.PineSprings.org.
A while back, I posted an article listing the 10 ways I have attempted to communicate with students and parents about what we were doing in our student ministry. As we talk about parent involvement and how we keep them in the loop, I thought I'd share a few of those ideas here with you. Let me know what you think?
In the past I have used the following ideas.
1. Bulletin Inserts
On the last Sunday of each month, I provided a printed calendar insert as part of the worship bulletin. This calendar included dates, times, and locations for upcoming gatherings, activities, or events for both the Middle School and High School ministries. In addition to the monthly calendar, event inserts will appear at least 2 weeks prior to the event date. These inserts provide the basic information of time, locations, and cost, along with a short summary of the event.
2. Big Screen Announcements
If your church uses a projector and screen for announcements and worship, be sure to get you ministry information on the big worship screens! I tried each week to have at least one slide with information on upcoming youth ministry opportunities. Aside from promoting your upcoming events, this is a great way to keep your ministry in front of the entire congregation.
3. Facebook and Other Social Media
Social Media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, are still popular avenues for communication. However, the trends are beginning to fluxuate as more and more adult are signing on to Facebook while more and more students are leaving Facebook for Twitter and Instagram. If you have plans to use social media as a way of connecting and communicating, take a couple of weeks to do a little research to find out who uses what. Once you know who is where, you can tailor your content appropriately. The only other caution I would give is to be sure you investigate the media outlet before you commit to using it. Like anything else on cyberspace, there is always the potential for danger. Understand how the applications work, how to properly safeguard them, and have a plan for how you will manage the content and feedback.
4. The Youth Ministry Website
I started my first website for a youth group back in 2000. It was all html coded. it was rough on the edges, but it worked. Today, websites are still a valuable tool for dispersing infomation to your group. The possibilties of what you can do with a website still amazing me. But I have seen a shift in how youth ministry sites or pages are being used. Early on, they were the hub of current materials and information and included things like calendars, pictures, videos, leader materials, parental forms, and mission statements. Today, I see more and more youth ministry page become static pages with an introduction of the group and an invite to come and visit. Nothing wrong with that. But if you intend on having a website, create a plan and purpose for what your site will be and how you will use it. With todays availibility of social media apps, I don't think too many students are check out websites anymore. So think about whther or not you want to invest the time and resources into a site. You might just want to have a simple page added to your church sites which directs students to a different venue that your group uses.
5. The Weekly Podcast or Vlog
When I originally released this article, weekly podcasts and/vlogs were the latest thing. Youth workers were posting all sorts of creative videos and pocasts with everything from devotional thoughts to weekly announcements and reminds. I think these too and becoming part of internet history. Today, you might have better luck with current media options that allow you to post quick videos such Instagram or Vine. On both of these apps, you are given about 15 seconds to say what you need to say.
6. Fliers, Posters, Brochures
Not everyone runs to the internet for the latest youth ministry news. There are those who still find the simplicity of the pen and paper to be the best way of communicating. Thus, fliers, posters, and brochures will never fall out of style. Just about every thing I do, or have done in student ministry, comes with a flier, poster, or brochure. Like the bulletin insert, these printed promotional
materials provide the date, time, location, cost, and summary of the event. Leave a stack on the churches welcome table, hang them around the building, decorate your youth room with them!
7. The Evolution of Texting
Texting has evolved to an artform of communication. It remains as one of the primary ways students communicate to each other. In the last couple of years organizations such as Simply Youth Ministry (Group) and Youth Specialtites, have launch services where you can create text directories and blitz both your student and your parent population with text messages, up dates, news, and reminders. Knowing how much my own kids and my students text, if you have the resources for such service, you might want to take advantage of them. If not, there are still ways of creating a texting chain that won't cost you or your budget a thing. But that's another blog.
8. Smail Mail
When an activity or event is announced, I have always created a flier that can be mailed to the home of each student on our mailing list. Usually addressed to the student, I try to encourage parents to be sure that you read the contents of the mailing before the mail is lost in a bedroom closet. When communication is intended for the parents, address the labels as, “To The Parents Of...” This indicates that there is important information within the mailing and hopefully they read the paperwork.
9. The Weekly Email
Not as popular as it was a couple of years ago, the email newsletter can still be a helpful way of communicating with parents. it takes a little bit of time to put together, but if it is helpful to parents, it might be worth your time.
10 . The Phone Call
With all the other forms of communication, I believe the best is still the phone call. When all else fails, you know you can communicate well by placing a quick phone call. But that goes both ways. Create a policy where parents know how and when to get a hold of you. Be available to answer questions. And be sure to return messages.
However you choose to communicate, take the time to get to your the parents you serve and find out what works best for your particular ministry. What might work for the guy at the church down the street might not work at your church, so get to know your parents. Once you have determined how you will communicate, be as consistant as possible. And with that in mind, don't bite off more than you can chew. Start simply and let the needs of the ministry drive you in how you develop additional outlets for info!
A couple of years ago, our church sent a group of adults and students on a week-long mission trip. It was the first time that a trip took place under my leadership that I didn't lead. Over the years I have become very comfortable in the leader position. I have led many, many trips; camping, summer camp, bike rides, hikes, mission trips, etc. So when I take a step back to let someone else lead, I have to remind myself, I am NOT the only leader!
I think it's hard for any leader to turn the reigns over to someone else without having certain expectations. But what we have to remember is, not everyone will lead like we do. And despite whatever amount of experience and know-how you might have, when someone else leads, it's okay that they do it a way that is a little different than you!
Here are three things I remind myself when others step up to lead.
1. My Way is Not the ONLY Way.
When you are the leader, responsible for all that ministry does, you develop a way of doing things that works for you and the ministry. For instance, one of my ministries participated in a Christian summer music festival. The trip involved significant planning, preparation, and coordination. There was the sleeping in tents, cooking of meals, management of resources, and oversight of the group while at the festival. It was one of our largest events. After a couple of years, we developed a pretty solid process for getting ready for the trip. It was what worked for me as leader. After leaving that ministry, the trip continued for a few years. At one point, I met up with my old group at the same festival, only I was with a different group. To save costs, we shared the site, food, and experience. While there, I noticed that a lot of what I had established was still being used. However, I also noticed a number of things that were different.
My way of doing things is not the only way of doing things. When we allow others to lead, we must let go of the thought that says, we know better. Those placed into the leadership role must be allowed to lead according to who they are and how they are wired for leadership. Sure, their not going to do things just like you, and that's okay! If God has equipped them to lead, he will let them lead, and so should you! Expect them to do things differently. And as long as the goals and outcomes are the same, encourage your leaders to lead is ways that best suit them. We're not making a bunch of mini-me's to work with our students. We are to be eguipping our leaders to lead accounting to their personality and strengths.
2. Decisions Have to be Made.
What kind of a leader do we create when we require them to check in with us whenever a decision needs to be made? A weak and indecisive one.
When we call others to lead in our place, we must give them not just the place of leadership, but the authority to make decisions. Decision making is a big part of the leadership role. At any given minute, the leader will be called on to make some pretty important decisions. Some of those decisions might be small and seem insignificant, while others could be life changing. By not allowing the leader to make decisions, you crimple their authority and and weaken their effectiveness as the leader. You might also hurt their desire to lead again. No one wants to be asked to lead, but not trusted with the responsibility of leadership.
Decisions have to be made. Throughout the years, I have tried to make it a point to delegate the decision making authority to me leaders when they accept the call to lead a group or event. There's no big ceremony or touching of shoulders with a sword, just me giving them my authority and trust. I've often heard it said that we, as youth workers, are leaders of leaders. That means that part of our job as youth leaders is to train, equip, and commission other leaders. As part of this training, equipping and commissioning, we must give them the authority to make decisions for the group.
3. Be Ready and Willing to Teach AND Learn.
So how do we allow others to lead? That comes as we do our best to teach and lead other leaders. As my ministries have grown, so have the needs for additional leaders. For these leaders to be effective, they must be taught how to lead. We must be ready and willing to teach others to lead.
Teaching isn't a one way street. For just as much teaching we do, we must also be ready and willing to learn! I have found that not only will God bring leaders who are wiling to learn, but He also brings leaders who are able to teach. Consider the first two points that have already be made, letting others lead their way and giving authority to make decisions. One of the things I have learned in leading others is that too often, I am learning by what others are doing. So that trip to the music festival where things were different; some of those differences were great ideas that I never considered.
A good leader is always a leader who is ready and wiling to do more than teach. A good leader is a leader who is ready and willing to learn!
Back to the mission trip I mentioned earlier. How did it go? It went great! God made an impact in the lives of those who were served and those who served! And the leader who took the responsibility of leadership? He did a great job as well. Sure, it wasn't all done the way I would have done it, but that's the point! God called him to lead. God equipped him to lead. And God used him as the leader. And that is what it's all about!
It's not that often that I have the time to sit and just read, much less finish a book in a week. However, this week I have been able to do both, read AND finish a book in a week!
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, by Jim Cymbala (with Dean Merrill) is a re-read for me. I first read Cymbala's books back in the early 2000's. At the time, Cymbala had also published Fresh Faith and Fresh Power, both of which I read. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire came as the third book to me in what I considered as Cymbala's Fresh Series (my naming).
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, has given me a fresh start. Or maybe I should say, a fresh RE-START. The last couple of months have been absolutely insane for me and my family. I've picked up a number of responsibilities at the church to are well beyond my job description. At the beginning of the year, we were without a lead pastor, and having been a lead pastor for a couple of years, I was more than happy to help out with the preaching, some leadership, and a number of other responsibilities. However, it stretched me further than I anticipated leaving me to place some of my youth pastor responsibilities to the side for a short time. I also found myself questioning what God was doing with me during this season. So leaving for vacation, I knew I needed a book that would encourage me to reconnect with God, and my calling.
Today, I finished the book. In fact, I finished the book in 3 days, which is crazy. I finished it because I knew that God has been challenging me this summer to to seek Him. In July, it was announced that the church was bringing in a transitional pastor, someone who would service the church in areas of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care, while helping our leadership get ready for a new full time pastor. The timing was perfect. I had started to feel a bit overwhelmed by the fact that I have had to lay down some of our student ministry tasks in order to preach and teach. Student and family ministry our my passions, my joy! And thus far, I haven't been able to give it my best. This led my to ask God what he wanted from me? How was I to proceed? Then came the announcement, and my answer.
A fresh start. That is what September is going to bring, a fresh start and a fresh perspective. Since the announcement I have begun feeling a re-newal of passion. I have been able to focus on the very thing I was hired to do. I went away on our student ministry trip and was able to be completely present with my students. I went to camp and was able to be at camp. And, now as I finish out the last couple of days of our family vacation, I am thinking everything is going to be just the way God wants it to be.
Why? Because this fresh start is just what God has in store for me. Cymbala's book reminded me of the importance of prayer and waiting on God. It reminded me, like it did years ago, that I need to live by faith, trust God, expect him to move, and plant myself on my knees. September will begin with a hope, not in what I can do, but what God is going to do. Me? I'm going to pray and I'm going to do.
God proved himself over and over again as He led Cymbala and the folks at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. God proved himself in those early days of student ministry. The same fresh faith I found in the early 2000's, is the same fresh faith I feel now. I am excited and looking forward to this coming season.
Do I still have questions? Yes, but those questions no longer lead to the anxiety I was feeling earlier. I have been called to serve students and their families. That's what I love to do. And this fall, that is what I will be doing. Well, that and the other exciting ministry opportunities that have begun to show themselves. (I'll share some more on that later.)
It's going to be an exciting year and I can't wait to see all that God has in store.
If you're in a place where you're beginning to feel a little run down or disconnected from what you thought your calling was. Maybe you're feeling a little overworked and under appreciated. Perhaps you just need to be reminded that God is still active and moving. Or maybe, you need a little nudge to get your prayer life back on track. Let me recommend to you, Jim Cymbala's book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. It will recharge your faith, call you back to prayer, and give you a fresh hope in the power of God!