Transition in Youth Ministry: Part 3

Entering a Youth Ministry

There is nothing more exciting or mentally exhausting than starting at a new church. I literally blinked and a month has passed by. Where leaving a ministry position feels like a long slow break-up, beginning a ministry position feels like drinking from a fire hydrant.

Transition in Youth Ministry Part 3

You can quickly become overwhelmed with memorizing student names, connecting with parents, learning staff personnel/culture, jumping into the teaching schedule, executing events already planned, planning for the future, and assessing ministry strengths & weaknesses. This list doesn’t even include the burden of selling a house, moving, and settling into a new home/city.

One month?! I’m not sure how I’ve been in my new position a month, but that’s what my iCal says… I wish I could tell you that I executed the following plan perfectly, but I didn’t even come close. Has my transition been smooth? Absolutely! But even the best made plans can get thrown off (like when the buyers of your old house drop out and the new buyers want a new roof…really?!). But having a plan gets you back on target after you have addressed the distraction. With no plan, you can easily lose track of what needs to be accomplished and make a terrible first impression with parents, staff, and students.

Entering a Youth Ministry

Start with Relationships

As you step into a new church, you will want to identify and introduce yourself to:

  • Staff
  • Youth Ministry Leaders
  • Influential Parents
  • Elders/Deacons
  • Student Leaders
  • Local Youth Pastors

It will take you a bit to get through this list, but it’s reasonable to accomplish this within a month. While I might not know the name of their dog, I have at least introduced myself and memorized their face (and if I’m lucky…name). Staff will be the easiest to meet. Go office to office and get to know the folks on your team. Set up a leader meeting where you can get all the youth ministry volunteers in one space. Have them introduce themselves and how long they have been serving with the student ministry. Many of the volunteers will be parents, but also connect with key parents who have been at the church a long time (you want them for you, not against you!). Ask the pastor or key leader about attending an elder/deacon meeting so you can shake hands and meet the folks who pour their time and energy into the church. Begin meeting with upper classmen or a student leadership team who can help you meet/greet/lead games/accomplish tasks. Finally, reach out to local youth pastors. Ask them about successes and struggles they’ve had reaching the community.

Figure out the System

As you step into this new role, your job is not to start barking orders and making changes. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Your role within the first two weeks should be to observe and assesses. You’re looking to fully grasp the programming.

Seek to understand why and how things are done. Be curious about everything. You’re new; you’re allowed to ask questions. Don’t pass judgment without first questioning intent and motives. Discover what the church and youth ministry consider foundational (non-negotiable), tradition (always been done), common (generally expected), and peripheral (it exists). Assess as you go, take notes, and make plans. But don’t change anything…yet. The time will come to make adjustments to the programming, but it’s not in the first month. Remember, start with relationships. The first month is about building trust with parents, students, volunteers, and staff. Don’t make changes before you have enough relational capital to do so.

How was the start to your youth ministry gig? Did you make changes to fast? Did you burn any bridges before they were built? Comment below!

COMING SOON: In Part 4 of Transition in Youth Ministry we will cover a Communication Strategy that will help you navigate your first month on the job…stay tuned!

Did you miss Parts 1 & 2?

Need a full transition strategy? Here ya go…
Part 1: Question Everything
Part 2: Leaving Faithfully
Part 4: Communication Strategy

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

Transition in Youth Ministry: Part 2

Leave Faithfully

Years of serving faithfully can be tarnished by a poorly executed exit. In the first post of this series we discussed how we are all temporary youth pastors. At some point you will leave the ministry you lead. And when you do leave, you want to be sure it’s for the right reasons. Once you know God is moving you, how you exit will be how many remember you. We must be faithful in our exit.

Transition in Youth Ministry Part 2

Three weeks ago I said goodbye to students I had spent four years pouring my life into. It was a bittersweet Sunday that ended a month long transition process. When I knew God was moving me, I wanted to leave in a way that honored the church staff, youth ministry volunteers, and students. Even if you are leaving under tumultuous circumstances, how you leave a ministry says a lot about your character.

While leaving my former church was emotionally difficult (as I will miss the amazing students, families, and staff) the transition went as smooth as it possibly could! Below you will find the transition plan I put in place to ensure that God was honored in my transition.

Transition in Youth Ministry

Step Two: Leave Faithfully

Here’s the truth. Transitioning faithfully will be a LONG process. You will have the same “why are you leaving?” conversation a million times over. You will feel like a broken record, you will feel a little guilt, you will want to expedite the process…but don’t. How you exit a ministry will be how many people remember you. Leave faithfully. Follow these steps:

  1. Notify Senior Leaders ASAP – One-Month Prior

As soon as you know God is moving you, notify your senior and executive leadership. If you care about the students in your ministry, you will want the leadership of the church to have a head start in finding your replacement. In addition, discuss the transition process with your senior leaders and ask them what would honor them most as you transition out. As I spoke with my executive pastor, we agreed that a month would be sufficient time to transition the ministry in a healthy God/Parent/Leader/Student honoring way. In my opinion, a month long transition process is generous. Obviously you will have to discuss this with the church you are transition into, but they should also want you to transition faithfully.

As you speak with your departing leadership, come up with a communication strategy. When, where, and how will you notify the appropriate parties?

  1. Notify Key Staff – 3 Weeks Prior

After talking with senior leaders, you will want to equip key staff members with desired language pertaining to your departure. Most ministry heads will be asked about your departure. You want to make sure they feel comfortable explaining your transition process.

  1. Host a Volunteer Leader Meeting – 3 Weeks Prior

Along with key staff, you will want to prepare and honor the leaders in your ministry by letting them in on what’s happening in your life and their ministry. I balled like a baby when I told my leaders! The love and dedication of my leaders made this an emotional announcement.

Your goal for this meeting is to honor their dedication, equip the leaders to answer questions, and ask them to share the workload you are leaving.

  1. Tell your Disciples – 2.5-3 Weeks Prior

If you are personally discipling students (you should be, that’s your job!), then you will want to give them a heads up. These students will be greatly impacted by your transition and you don’t want them to find out when everyone else does. Telling them early will allow you to be extra intentional and savor your last few meetings together. Discuss with them what it looks like to find a new mentor and be straightforward with them. If they need a heavy-handed challenge, step up, if they need praise and encouragement, lavish on them how proud you are of their spiritual growth and maturity.

  1. Tell your Students & the Church – 2 Weeks Prior

This is when the texts, phone calls, and conversations will begin pouring in! Students and parents will experience a variation of emotions (sadness, confusion, shock, anger, etc.) so get ready to wear your pastoral hat. When you discuss your transition, take everything back to God’s will and calling on your life. Emphasize how you want to be faithful in the same way you would want them to be faithful when God calls. Explain how God has spoken to you through Scripture, prayer, wise counsel, the Holy Spirit, and opportunity.

When you tell the students and the church you will want to emphasize the following:

  • The Student Ministry belongs to students…be the ministry, be the church
  • The Small Group Leaders are the true youth pastors
  • Explain who will be in charge and lead in the interim
  • Exhort your student leaders/seniors to step up and lead
  • Be specific about your timeline and destination

I’m not going to lie. This is a spiritually and emotionally draining process. But it should be! If you have been leading faithfully, it should be difficult to leave a ministry. If you have been giving your life to the expansion of the gospel among your students leaving will be hard.

However, being strategic in your transition will help ease this process. Have you transitioned out of a ministry? What made it smooth or difficult? Comment below!

Need a full transition strategy? Here ya go…

Part One: Question Everything
Part Three: Entering a Youth Ministry
Part Four: Communication Strategy

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

Transition in Youth Ministry: Part 1

Question Everything

You will leave the youth ministry you currently lead. It might be next year or in 10 years, but you will leave. The ministry will be cast into transition. But the question is: Will your transition in youth ministry be healthy?

Transition in Youth Ministry 1

Since January, my wife and I have been praying through God’s will for our life and ministry. Long story short, God is moving our family and ministry to Round Rock, Tx where I will serve as the lead Student Pastor at The Fellowship Church.

This decision to move did not come easy. We spent many nights praying, laughing, and weeping desiring to know what God wanted from us. We didn’t see this offer coming, so we wanted to make sure we heard from Him and didn’t just pursue the new shiny offer.

In your ministry, odds are you will be here also. At some point you will leave the youth ministry you are currently leading.

So let’s examine how we can transition youth ministry faithfully.

Transition in Youth Ministry

Step One: Question Everything

One of the hardest things is to discern and understand is the will of God. Maybe you are more holy than I, and God speaks to you in an audible voice or via email, but not me. I have to petition Him when it comes to the big things. When it comes time for me to get that “one, most important, course-of-your-life-altering choices, right,” I have to seek Him earnestly.

This is how I questions everything:

  1. Bible – What is God speaking to me through scripture? This is God’s primary means of communication to us, and His will will never contradict Scripture. Psalm 119:105 offers, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
  2. Prayer – What is God speaking to me through prayer? Am I telling Him what I want or am I listening for His will? Pray that He would bend your will to His. In Luke 11:9-10 Jesus states, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
  3. Wise Counsel – What are the people you trust most saying about this opportunity or decision? Proverbs 19:20-21 offers, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
  4. Holy Spirit – Where is the Holy Spirit stirring you? What keeps you awake? Where do you feel He is moving through? Proverbs 3:5-6 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
  5. Opportunity – What doors has God opened and closed? Why should you even consider this option? Kevin DeYoung in Just Do Something states,

    “Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God.”

 You will leave your youth ministry. Will it be by His doing or yours? How do you go about hearing from God? Comment below!

Need a full transition strategy? Here ya go…

Part Two: Leave Faithfully
Part Three: Entering a Youth Ministry
Part Four: Communication Strategy

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

New Seasons in Youth Ministry

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1 (or if you sing the words “turn, turn, turn” – The Byrds). These words ring true in my life as I sit at the end of one season and the beginning of another.

New Seasons in Youth Ministry

Announcement

This coming Sunday, April 5th, will be my last Sunday as the Student Pastor at LifePoint Church. The past month has been filled with plans for transition, goodbye’s, and dreaming about what my new season will look like. God has called my wife and I to Round Rock, Texas, just north of Austin, to The Fellowship Church where I will serve as the Student Pastor.

Transitions like this bring mixed emotions.

On the one hand, I will dearly miss LifePoint Church and the students I have seen develop into men and women of God. While on the other hand, I am so excited to see what God has in store at The Fellowship and ecstatic to begin doing life with the students and families in Round Rock.

What I’ve Learned

Transitions bring perspective.

This transition has allowed me to critically evaluate what I (w/ the help of Jesus, obvi) have been able to accomplish over the past four years. It has helped me gain perspective on what I need to do differently as I begin a new chapter. It has helped me grasp what is foundational and what is peripheral to the health and development of a student ministry.

Time flies, relationships matter.

I can’t believe I have been at LifePoint four years. It has felt like a decade. Not because it has felt long and drawn out, but because of how much I have seen this ministry mature, and because of how deep my relationships run. I am proud of what God has allowed me to accomplish, which makes this transition even harder. As I prepare to leave, it’s the relationships that I will miss.

There is never a “good” time to leave.

If I’m being honest, deep down I wrestled with guilt over leaving even though I was here four years. I don’t want to be the Youth Pastor that church hops looking for the best opportunity. I  want to be the Youth Pastor that invests deeply and commits to the long run. However, there will never be a “good” time to leave. If you leave because of frustration with your context, that’s certainly not a “good time.” But alternatively, if you have been invested deeply over a long period of time, it makes transition all the more difficult! There is never a good time to leave, but rather we must trust God’s timing and will. But don’t be the 18 month’er!

Transition faithfully, finish strong.

The last thing you want to do is hit cruise control your last month on the job. How you set the next regime up for success matters. The message you leave your students with matters. The way you honor your leaders for their faithful service matters. The way you talk about the leaders of the church your leaving matters. Finish strong, transition faithfully, then set your eyes to the road God has before you.

I’m excited to share with you in the coming months what God does through my transition out of one student ministry and into another.

How have you transitioned in youth ministry? What have you done well? What have you done poorly? What advice do you have? Comment below!

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

Leave Students in Tension

Yesterday I gave a Palm Sunday message a little different than I’ve given before. Rather than focusing on the royal imagery we are given in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, I focused on the fair-weathered crowd.

Leave Students in Tension

Matthew 21:8-9 tells us:

Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Most of the crowd. As Jesus entered the last week of His life, most the crowd praised Him, and used Psalm 118:25-26 verbiage to identify Him as the expected Messiah.

This sight quickly evolved into a rioting mob that would chant “Crucify, crucify Him!” (Luke 23:18-25)

We Are The Crowd

What I wanted to convey to students on Sunday was that we are the crowd. Every week we proclaim “Hosanna (salvation) in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” as we enter our churches and direct our attention toward God, only to live a week that that screams “crucify, crucify Him” as we live by our own standards and seek to establish our own kingdoms.

What I wanted to accomplish Sunday was a tension. A tension that students would have to wrestle with this week as they contemplated the coming of Easter Sunday. I wanted students to feel like the wavering crowd. I wanted students to live in the tension between full surrender to Christ and living for their own wants and desires. The crowds were looking for a political king and what they got was a suffering savior. Many of our students are looking for a kind safety net and need to experience a sovereign Lord.

May we not shove answers down our students throats but rather invite them into the tension of faith where their wants and convictions wrestle in order to discover what they truly believe.

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

Youth Ministry TV: Coming Soon

I am excited to announce that The Youth Ministry Blog is about to get a whole lot sweeter! In the coming weeks we will launch Youth Ministry TV. The goal of Youth Ministry TV is no different than the blog. We desire to train, equip, and encourage youth workers…while having fun…and conversation.

Take a look at the teaser:

If you want to know what we end up talking about, just click the button below and stay tuned:

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

Ben Headshot

Ben Fawcett is a six year student ministry veteran, who is currently serving as the Associate Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Texas. He is currently enjoying typing this bio out in third person, and aspires to one day speak in only third person.

Students Make Mistakes

Youth Ministry can be one of the most frustrating jobs. Just when you think your students are perfect angels and living sold out for the glory of God, someone pulls back the curtain to reveal the ugly truth. I had a curtain moment recently and I had conflicting feelings. Part of me was frustrated and wanting to drop some truth bombs on those students, but the other side of me just kept thinking “student make mistakes.”

The last thing I want is an attitude of “teens will be teens” where I ignore student development, but I also recognize that despite my best efforts, I cant change students. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. Teenagers are trying on identities, they are living life through the process of trial-and-error trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. This process comes with mistakes.

What’s important is not how we police our students, but how we model Jesus to our students. Our students, like Israel in the OT, will bounce back and forth between obedience and rebellion. May we model the loving grace of Jesus when our students mess up. May we be the people they call in the midst of their rebellion. May we wisely address their mishaps and point them toward a purpose and identity in Christ.

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

The Longer Haul Podcast: Theology in Youth Ministry

I was recently interviewed by Jody Livingston over at The Longer Haul. We sat down and discussed theology in youth ministry. It’s a great podcast and this is a great primer on how to infuse theology into your youth ministry. Take a listen and subscribe to The Longer Haul Podcast:

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

Leaky Ministry

This past weekend I attempted to replace a bathroom sink faucet. While this might not sound like a difficult thing for some of your super handy folks, let me share something about myself…I’m no handy man. If I was installing a new faucet in a new sink, I think I could make it work. However, I was installing a new faucet in an old sink which led to a whole slew of issues including a slow leak. Often times, ministry feels this same way.

Leaky Ministry

In ministry, we should always be looking to keep our processes and programs up to date. However, often times we can’t overhaul the entire bathroom…I mean ministry. Sometimes you have to deal with existing structures and make the new fit in with the old. This can be tricky, but it can be done (and sometimes has to be done).

I can’t afford to replace my pale yellow, seashell sink, countertop (I’m a youth pastor). However, I can replace the dated faucet. When I went to install the new drain, I quickly realized I would have to use the old drain and guts as the new stuff would NOT fit the dated countertop. I had to compromise, install the new faucet, then spray paint (sweet metallic spray paint at that) the old drain and stopper to give it the updated look. I had to make the old drain system and the new faucet play nice together and make them look like they belonged together.

In ministry, we should be excited about the introduction of new things. However, we must not be naive and think these new initiatives will seamlessly fit in with the ministry that has been happening for some time. Your new initiatives might not play well with programs that have been in place long before you got there. You might inadvertently slaughter a sacred cow and send the elderly in your congregation into a frenzy! Your new initiatives might not kill programs, but you might find that it’s the older people/staff at your church that do not want to play nice with your new ideas. This can be crazy frustrating.

What you need in these times is patience and skill.

You must be patient with the old systems and people understanding you can’t just gut the bathroom and start over. They were there before you and they will probably be there after you! However, this doesn’t mean we should accept mediocre or dying ideas. We must skillfully and tactfully figure out how to make our new initiatives play nice with the systems/people in place. This process of trial and error will require an insane amount of patience, but in the end will prevent leaky ministry.

Leaky ministry is what happens when the old and new refuse to work together. Leaky ministry happens when the new tries to forcefully replace the old or when the old refuses to accept the new. Leaky ministry happens when people try to change too much too fast or when people never change anything at all. Leaky ministry happens when programs that once drew the masses are kept despite being a shadow of their former self. Leaky ministry happens when people pretend that newer is always better.

May we prevent leaky ministry by being good stewards of the past while moving forward to where the Lord wants to take us next.

Maybe you have experienced this. How did you navigate it? Comment below!

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.

 

The Youth Ministry Minute 003: Spiritual Maturity

In this edition of The Youth Ministry Minute, David talks about spiritual maturity. Many students think spiritual maturity is about collecting knowledge and fail to see that it comes from the implementation of that knowledge. Take a listen…after all, it’s only one minute!

David Headshot

David Hanson: 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.