Avoiding the Machine of Ministry

If you are in ministry, you might at times feel tired.  I like to think of it as the machine of ministry.

The machine of ministry looks like this:
– You are exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually most of the time.
– You go through the motions of ministry work.
– Your only concern is the attendance, and you’re not that excited about stories of life-change.
– Worship is hard to get into because you “already know these songs.”
– You compare yourself with other churches and leaders.
– Your appearance gets more attention than your spiritual heart.

I’ve experienced these feeling at times in my own life.  How do we avoid falling into a robot of ministry where we lose sight of the sensitivity of God’s Spirit?

 – Remember the cross.  Preach the gospel to yourself everyday to remember the grace of Jesus and how we do not deserve it.
– Remain teachable.  Admit you have not arrived or know all the answers.  Just because you have a lot of knowledge or experience doesn’t mean that we stop hungering for more of God.
– Pray for people who need Jesus.  One of the sure ways to keep a humble, sensitive heart is to love and pray for people who are far from God.
– Invest in your family.  Get your ministry work done at the office and focus on giving your best effort at home.  Listen to your spouse and help your children know they are loved.  Pray with and for them.  Our families help us stay grounded and focus on what really matters.
– Stay dependent.  Tell Jesus that you need Him. A lot.

The truth is, Jesus said He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).  Men can build buildings and programs, but Jesus is the One who ultimately builds the church.  Our role is to be sensitive to how God wants us to serve Him and join what He is doing in ministry.  The long-term success of any man of God isn’t simply statistics, but it is being faithful to God’s calling to love Him and love people.

How are you able to stay close to your relationship with Jesus when ministry is so busy?
How do you avoid the machine and remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life? 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/joshrobinson.png[/author_image] [author_info]Josh is the student pastor at Church @ The Springs in Ocala, Florida (www.thesprings.net). Josh has served in student ministry for 9+ years and has a passion to lead students to imitate Christ and influence the world! He has a personal blog at http://joshrobinson.cc[/author_info] [/author]

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

A Tender Heart

Over the holiday break, I read through the book of Nehemiah for the first time in a while. I was struck by the great insights about Spiritual leadership from this great book. For the next few weeks of posts, I’ll be pulling some of these lessons out and seeing what they can teach us today.

The first lesson from learned from Nehemiah is that Spiritual leaders have a tender heart. 

As a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia, Nehemiah had gotten word that the people of Jerusalem were in trouble and that the walls of the city were in shambles. This meant that they were vulnerable to attack. More importantly Jerusalem, the a symbol of Israel’s spiritual condition, was in shambles and God’s glory was at stake.

Nehemiah’s reaction to the news reveals much of his heart.

1:4 “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.” (NLT). 

Let me remind you that Nehemiah was a politician. He didn’t even live in Jerusalem. Yet, his heart was stirred to compassion for the city and people he loved. I don’t normally think of politicians as having tender hearts toward the people in their constituency, but Nehemiah displays it immensely.

A tender heart is a necessity for Spiritual leadership. Unless we can sense the pain and brokenness of our people, we cannot speak the truth in love. Leadership without a tender heart leads to indifference. We see those in our care as objects to be used instead of people who need to grow. When we lack tender hearts we put programs and initiatives ahead of people. This doesn’t lead to life change and true Spiritual growth.

I know that I am lacking tenderness when I am short with people, when I blame people and when I stop listening to them. I start getting frustrated with their lack of progress or for taking up too much of my valuable time.

We want the opposite. Tenderness sees the pain and walks with the other person. Tenderness helps us value the other person and makes us want to understand their situation.

Every other lesson we learn from Nehemiah is worthless unless we get this one down. Nehemiah is leading others because he cares for their well being.

Is your heart tender toward those you are leading or is it calloused and indifferent? If it is the latter, then maybe you need to spend some time with Jesus asking for a new heart toward those you are leading. Ask God to create in you a new heart of compassion and tenderness for those you are serving.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]

Stop. Drop. Pray.

stopdropandroll

image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/19TiXwO

Do you remember the instructions you got in elementary school about catching on fire?

Stop.
Drop.
Roll.

As much as we talked about that I really thought I’d be busting into flames a lot more often in my life.

On a drastically different note, the other day we were having our MS Christmas party. I was running around trying to get things set up and ready. A few students showed up early (happens at every event ever).

So as I was running around, there were about five to six students who were goofing off and playing around. One of the students told me about a surgery that was upcoming. I knew about it and so just asked how they were feeling about it.

“I’m kinda nervous. I don’t like surgery.”

My reply was to just say, “You’ll be fine!”

“You’ll be fine!?”

Seriously?

Youth ministry fail.

That was my moment to stop, drop what I was doing, and pray with that student who was nervous about an upcoming surgery. Instead I kept rushing around trying to get everything ready for…ministry?

In doing that, I forgot one very important part of ministering to students: praying with them in their time of need.

Don’t miss opportunities. When a student shares something with you, stop, drop what you’re doing, and pray with them right there.

That other stuff can wait.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/RonaldLongpic.png[/author_image] [author_info]Ronald is a follower of Jesus who’s married to Bekah, father to two beautiful girls and a chronic writer. He blogs at ronaldlong.org and tweets from @ronald_long. When’s he has free time, he plays with his kids, goes for a run, or plays video games. If you’re interested in some of his bible study material, check out 128ministries.org. [/author_info] [/author]

Leadership & The Trickle Down Effect

Leadership is a popular word swirling around the globe. Especially in churches. Leadership books are being printed now more than ever. With all the ideas floating around in leadership books, I wanted to write a quick post that highlights one of the most important parts of leadership and how it can help or deteriorate our longevity as strong, effective leaders.

Simply, leadership is being ahead of those you are leading in such a way that you realize that every decision is not isolated but connected. Strategy is thinking possible outcomes with a prayerful heart and asking the question, “What will be the wisest decision that will have the longest impact?”

Leaders are to always think about how decisions will affect those they lead. Will this decision trickle down as a clear process that followers can easily follow? Do the decisions we make as leaders help the ministry/organization?

Every person who likes change is the one bringing the change. Thinking through leadership isn’t executing decisions but learning how to answer the questions before they enter the picture.

What decisions have been made in the name of “leadership” that ultimately hurt the church and damage relationships? Leadership is servanthood. A servant thinks of others before themselves and this is what I hope to emulate in my life. I hope to pour out an attitude of leadership that empowers others to be excited, passionate and ready to fulfill God’s mission.

How to stop the trickle and pour leadership into those around us:
– Communicate, communicate and you guessed it… communicate.
 Help people see how they fit into the ministry they are a part of.


– Ask for input from trusted advisors. It helps create a culture of feedback and support for the ministry.

– Communicate some more because vision leaks. As leaders, we might have spent weeks thinking about a decision but those we tell have heard it in seconds.

– Never assume everyone knows what is expected of them. Give people practical ways to help in ministry.

And the most important part of stopping the trickle down effect is…

– Do what you say you will do and if you forget, apologize. People remember what we say, so be sure to use words wisely on decisions. It might not mean much at the time, but every decision affects everyone.

What trickle down effect are your decisions making?

Trust me, knee-jerk decisions are decisions that do not last long and will leave our followers disconnected. People want to follow leaders who trickle down clear communication WITH strategic, wise decisions that help the organization move forward.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/joshrobinson.png[/author_image] [author_info]Josh is the student pastor at Church @ The Springs in Ocala, Florida (www.thesprings.net). Josh has served in student ministry for 9+ years and has a passion to lead students to imitate Christ and influence the world! He has a personal blog at http://joshrobinson.cc[/author_info] [/author]

Nailed It!

Youth workers are great at managing our image. We are great at painting a public picture that everything is going great. Peruse the youth ministry blogs out there and many of them will offer lists and tips that promise to revitalize and revolutionize your ministry. I love how the youth ministry community shares thoughts and resources. I am thankful for the many women and men who are willing to bless others with their work, usually for free. But there is a dark side to this culture of tips and tricks. It comes when there is a deep divide between image and reality.

Do a google search of “Pinterest vs. Reality” and you’ll see tons of people who have attempted to do creative ideas from Pinterest and failed miserably (usually with the caption “Nailed It!”). The Pinterest community thrives on the idea that we can follow easy steps and create cool DIY crafts, art and meals. The reality doesn’t always work that way.

The youth ministry world works in a similar way. We read blogs where someone offers their tips and tricks. They sound promising, so you try them in your own context only to fail miserably.

Inadvertently, the youth ministry world has sent the message that there are some ministries out there that are “model” ministries and leaders that we should imitate. This has always been around. When I started in youth ministry every conference and book promised to offer the best model. The problem is that now it’s so not just in books or conferences. It’s podcasts, blogs, tweets, pins, and ‘grams. Because of our adoption of social media, the amount of tips and tricks overwhelm us by the hundred and thousands each day.

It’s like we’re taking ministries selfies where we suck in our stomach and photoshop the flab. We’ve become the supermodel that can’t even recognize herself by all the digital work that’s been done.

The reality is there is NO perfect ministry. For every tip that we have that works are dozens that fail. Every ministry has it’s weaknesses and that’s ok. Hiding our problems isn’t helping anyone.

I realize that I am part of the problem. I’m coming to realize that in my desire to bless others I may fudge the results to help me sound more authoritative or convincing. For that I’m sorry. We’ve had wins in our ministry this past year, we’ve also had flops (like our mega event where 6 kids showed up). I am sorry for being part of the culture that doesn’t give you the whole picture.

Can we resolve for 2014 to paint a more realistic picture of our ministries? Can we stop putting up the impression that we’ve got it all figured out. We can learn from each other and share resources, but let’s just be honest. None of us have it all figured out. As soon as we start being realistic we can actually help one another be healthy (instead of perfect).

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]

Take Your Youth Pastor to Work Day

Take Your Youth Pastor To Work DayYesterday I went to work. I’m a youth pastor, so I don’t have a real job, but my friend Russ does work. As I found out, he works real hard. He owns an A/V installation business and he’s also a ministry parent/volunteer.

For the past couple of years I’ve been asking him to take me to work with him so I could see what he does for a living. Spending the day with him I came away with an even greater appreciation for the men and women who serve in our ministry in addition to having families and careers. These people give selflessly to the cause of Christ without getting paid to do it.

As a kid I used to think that people didn’t really exist outside my presence. People just came in and out of my life like actors in a scene. When they were off stage they were waiting around for their next scene. I think we can view our volunteer leaders the same way. We forget that they have lives outside of your ministry and the church. Yesterday I got to see Russ have a really stressful day. I’m sure I didn’t help when I broke one of his brand new ladders. Seeing Russ in his world helped me appreciate his investment in the church all the more.

Your leaders are more than bit players in your ministry story. They are not here to fulfill your ministry desires. I appreciate and lead leaders better when I remember these two things:

Their presence is a valuable commodity. Even by being involved in your ministry they are sacrificing greatly. It’s no small thing for a mom to spend all day with a toddler and then lead a small group. Just showing up is a sacrifice. Honor that sacrifice by making their involvement worth their time. Give them meaningful responsibility and relationships instead of busy work.

They don’t have as much time to prep as you do. Chris, one of our leaders, is a dad, husband, has a career, and coaches his sons archery team. All this while trying to pour into his neighbors and our middle schoolers. He loves to teach the word of God to middle schoolers. He does his best, but he doesn’t have 20 hours each week to put together a super amazing Bible study. Bless them by giving them the resources they need to succeed instead of making them struggle to find it on their own.

You will be amazed what they can do. I saw Russ in his element making tough decisions and solving difficult problems. It made me wonder if maybe I had underestimated his gifts and abilities. When a leader is a bit player in my story I don’t get to see them as stars in their own right. How can you best equip your leaders if all you know about them is what you see for an hour on a Wednesday night?

You ask leaders to come to your job and help you out. Is there a leader or parent that could take you to work with them? Ask them if you can. Tell them it’s an assignment from your senior pastor. It will help you appreciate your leaders in a new way.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]

Invest Time in what Matters Most

Invest Time in What Matters MostOnce time has ticked away, it is gone forever. Every second, minute, hour, day… you get the idea.

Time is always moving. We all have the same amount of time. The difference is how we spend it. What you and I do with our time shows what we value. I want to share a few tips I’ve learned about how to manage time.

1. If you don’t plan your time, someone else will plan it for you. Seek to think through what your priorities are in life. Try to block out certain time to complete the most important things. If you do not have a plan, the next person who wants to waste your time will be happy to.

2. Know what you value so you can decide if you should spend time upon it. If you value people and show love to them, you will value the time spent in conversation planned or unplanned. If the time helps move people closer to Jesus, it was meaningful time spent.

3. Block out time for what matters most during your week. I have times of my week that are blocked out to study for teaching and other time blocked out for quality time with my family. I try to make sure the most important relationships in my life get the best of my time.

Time is limited. We should continually spend it on what matters most.

What would you add to the conversation? 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/joshrobinson.png[/author_image] [author_info]Josh is the student pastor at Church @ The Springs in Ocala, Florida (www.thesprings.net). Josh has served in student ministry for 9+ years and has a passion to lead students to imitate Christ and influence the world! He has a personal blog at http://joshrobinson.cc[/author_info] [/author]

Owed Some Favors

Instead of going to lunch the other day, I sat in my office.

I usually get out for a while, eat some food and breath the fresh air. I love to walk for a minute and clear my head so I can get back to the grind refreshed and strong.

It didn’t happen the other day though. Instead of getting out, I say at my desk. I ate my leftovers and read a book while doing a whole lot of nothing that I normally do during my lunch break.

Why?

I was covering for someone.

Our church assigns days for ministers to be “on call” so that if someone with a need comes in we can talk with them and pray with them and direct them to how we can best meet their needs.

Another pastor was on duty that day, but an issue came up and he needed to leave campus (which, when you’re on call, is something you can’t do). He asked if I could cover for him. The time frame ended up being the only available time I would have that day to take a lunch.

So I slammed my fists on my desk and told him it wasn’t fair and that NO, I cannot cover for you! Find someone else!

Yeah I didn’t do that.

I told him it wasn’t a big deal. I did him a favor.

In your church culture, do you do favors for those around you who need someone to help, or are you so bogged down with your own calendar and so tightly scheduled that you can’t offer a helping hand when its needed? Obviously there are those who may ask too much too often, but does anyone in your church owe you favors simply because you helped them out?

I hope you’ll get into the habit of being owed favors, so that when the time comes, you can call in a favor or two yourself!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/RonaldLongpic.png[/author_image] [author_info]Ronald is a follower of Jesus who’s married to Bekah, father to two beautiful girls and a chronic writer. He blogs at ronaldlong.org and tweets from @ronald_long. When’s he has free time, he plays with his kids, goes for a run, or plays video games. If you’re interested in some of his bible study material, check out 128ministries.org. [/author_info] [/author]

Middle School Emotions

Middle School EmotionsAs I was laying in bed one morning, next to my daughter who had stolen her mothers iPhone, I heard a familiar voice. (My daughter is only 2 but knows how to find the PBS app where she can watch a variety of kid shows…scary!). I quickly realized that it was the voice of Dave Matthews. Now, you must know that I am a HUGE Dave Matthews Band fan! You can’t beat his long jam sessions…c’mon!

But this was not just Dave Matthews, this was Dave Matthews on Sesame Street with Grover. That morning, Dave and Grover pointed out something that many Middle Schoolers deal with: expressing emotion. Both Grover and Dave could not express WHAT they were feeling. They knew that they were angry but felt inadequate in expressing it, that is, until they sang. Watch this and try not to sing it the rest of the day:

Junior High students have a very difficult time expressing what they feel. Sometimes they need help finding “words to say how their feeling today.” As their brains develop, they move from concrete expression to more abstract expression. In the book Middle School Ministry by Mark Oestreicher & Scott Rubin, MarkO states it like this:

“Children and preteens, with their limited cognitive options (meaning, their more literal, concrete thinking), are like painters holding  color palettes containing the primary colors and one ore two others. Sure, they can mix colors on the canvas, but those brush strokes are often unintentional at best.

Emotions are abstract. More accurately: Thinking about emotions, or being self-aware of one’s emotions, is even more abstract.

Imagine that preteen painter with her little limited color palette. Then, without her actually realizing it, someone takes that color palette away and replaces it with a significantly larger palette, one that’s preloaded with a huge assortment of colors.” -MarkO

This seems to be what Grover, and Dave Matthews, are wrestling with. This is what your Middle Schoolers are dealing with. They have a flood of emotions yet have very little understanding on how to express those emotions. This is where you come in. As a Youth Worker, you can help students verbalize what they are feeling. When they experience anger, you can help them process it. When they experience life transformation through Jesus Christ, you can help them express it. MarkO calls us “emotional language tutors.”

Your junior high students aren’t just quiet because they are bored, they are literally without words! Become a good listener. Become a good question asker. Become an emotional interpreter. Let students know it’s okay to feel confusion and normal to not know what to say.

So here are my questions for you. How are you:

1. Helping Middles Schoolers understand and verbalize their feelings?
2. Helping your volunteers understand this stage of development so they can ask the right questions?

Kevin Libick recently posted on this also: Middle School Guys Have Feelings Too

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Photo-on-2-20-13-at-4.14-PM.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask, Email David.[/author_info] [/author]