Lessons from Nehemiah Part 3

Work the System

Nehemiah is a tutor of sorts for Spiritual leaders. In the past two posts we’ve seen that he was a man of great compassion and courage. He was sensitive to God and His people.

Nehemiah also worked the system. When Nehemiah saw the need of his people he used his position as a cupbearer to his advantage.

In Nehemiah 2 we see the interaction he had with his boss. “If it pleases the king, send me back home to rebuild the walls.” Well it pleased King Artaxerxes and Nehemiah was released to rebuild the wall. He even got the king to write a letter of endorsement to ensure that he would be able to travel safely back to Jerusalem.

Based on what we know of Nehemiah was able to work the system because he was a trustworthy worker. The cupbearer was a position of trust. They ensured that the king’s drink was safe from poison. More than that they gave counsel and wisdom to the king. My guess is that Nehemiah had worked faithfully for years and because of that was able to cash in his chips so that he could go attend to the wall in Jerusalem.

You may think that working the system is using people to your advantage. This feels slimy. I’ve seen people in ministry to use relationships to get free game tickets, meals and even trips. This is NOT what I am talking about. A Spiritual leader must NEVER leverage their influence and relationships for personal gain.

Working the system ISN’T using people, it’s maximizing relationships. Nehemiah didn’t demand or pressure the king, he asked humbly. He also was’t asking selfishly, he was thinking of the people of Jerusalem.

I’ve made the mistake of not asking before. I don’t want to appear as if I’m using others so I don’t ask. This is a big mistake. If I don’t ask, then others aren’t included in serving the kingdom like Artaxerses did. I need to be more like Nehemiah and work the system.

We can work the system in a God honoring way when we act like Nehemiah. Don’t pressure people to get what we want. Serve others without expecting to get something in return. Ask humbly and selflessly when we know they can meet a need. This is working the system.

What are needs in your ministry that could be met simply by asking? Who are the people who can meet those needs? Chances are they are probably more than willing to help as long as you humbly work the system.

Read Part 2 of Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah
Read Part 1 of Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

[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]

Leadership Lessons From Nehemiah # 2

God Inspired Courage

The book of Nehemiah is full of great nuggets on Spiritual leadership. Last week I unpacked how Nehemiah had a tenderness that moved him to action. 
 
Another interesting thing I’ve noticed in the book of Nehemiah is how much prayer is in the book. 
 
2:4 “With a prayer to God in Heaven.”
4:4 “Then I prayed”
4:9 “But we prayed”
9:5 “Then they prayed.”
 
When you read Nehemiah, you see that these short little prayers come when Nehemiah needs courage. It’s when he’s talking to King Artaxerxes and when there is opposition to the building of the city wall. 
 
To me it reveals not Nehemiah’s super-spirituality. Think about this. Nehemiah must have been the one who retold the story so it could be written down. That means Nehemiah (a governor and reformer) intentionally revealed that he prayed for courage. I respect Nehemiah all the more now that I know that he led the Israelites even when he didn’t have the courage in himself.
 
Nehemiah knew that his strength to achieve great things came not from his own abilities and vision, but through the power and strength of his God. More than that, Nehemiah demonstrated humility by letting others see his lack of courage. 
 
By turning to God for courage Nehemiah becomes the leader the Israelites need. He rallied the people around God instead of himself and through that the wall was built and the glory of the city was restored.
 
Many times in ministry we are called to face a challenge that we aren’t up to. I know that I lack courage when I have conflict with someone and I need to address the issue. In those times, Nehemiah begs us turn to God and ask Him for courage.
 
So what about you? What are you lacking courage to do? Is it a hard conversation or a ministry change? Take time right now to ask God for courage.
[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]

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]

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]

What You Really Need

Finish the following sentence: “What my ministry really needs is…”

Did you answer with a new sound system, another paid staff person, more supportive church leadership, or a  ministry lake house (that was mine)? In ministry, we like to focus a lot on what we DON’T have. We dream of  the day when we will have what we really need in order to accomplish the ministry God has called us to.

As someone who works at a large church, let me burst your bubble. It will never be enough. There will always  be something else that you will want that will make your ministry complete.

My prayer for you this week is that you would be empowered in the sufficiency of Christ in your ministry. The ministry you’ve been called do will not be accomplished through more ingenuity, resources, creativity and personality.

Check out what Peter says: “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

He doesn’t say that God has given us “some” of the things we need. No, EVERYTHING we need for the God-life is already supplied by Jesus. This is easier said than believed. We must admit that there are times when God’s promise of provision and sufficiency isn’t enough to move forward in faith.

Think of the Israelites leaving Egypt. Right after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, they are complaining to God for not providing for them. How quickly they forgot. How quickly we forget! When we forget that in Christ we have all we need, we are really forgetting that the God we serve has not left us high and dry.

Jesus did ministry without a budget but God still provided a temple tax from a fish’s mouth. Jesus did ministry without a building and slept with rocks as pillows. Jesus certainly didn’t have support from leadership yet he reached thousands.

What did Jesus have? Jesus walked each day knowing His place as a Son of the Father and in the power of the Spirit. That’s what he needed to accomplish his ministry.

These same resources are given to you. In Christ we are made sufficient because the God who calls you is sufficient. Jesus has given you all you need for your life.

You may need to get creative. You will most likely have to get on your knees. But you will never be ill equipped for the ministry to God has called you to.

So let’s go back and review. Finish the following sentence: “What my ministry really needs is…” I hope you have a new answer.

[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]

Seasonal Youth Ministry

I grew up in Southern California where, for all practical purposes, there are no seasons. The weather doesn’t change much. Sunny and 75 most of the time. When I moved to Texas I anticipated that I would get to experience seasons like fall and winter. The difference is that the weather changes wildly here. It’s unpredictable. Today it’s 75 and sunny. By Friday the high is supposed to be 33. When the seasons are unpredictable, it’s hard to get your bearings. Just as you’re about to get out your winter gear, it’s shorts weather again.

It’s the same way in ministry. We need to understand that we have seasons in youth ministry. The more we understand our seasons, the better we can see the big picture.

God sets this precedent. He rested on the seventh day. He created a world where there are times of planting and times of harvest. He commanded his people to celebrate in certain seasons. He even commanded the Israelites to rest the land for a full one year out of seven.

Our ministry slows down during three key times (Christmas, May and August). Our ministry ramps up during the summer, spring and fall. Different seasons fulfill different purposes in our ministry. If we went full speed all year long we would wear ourselves and our students out.

There is a method to our madness. You need to think about your ministry seasonally because of what it can bring to your ministry.

Seasonal youth ministry gives rest to leadership. Your leaders spend a good portion of the year pouring into students. They need times where they can take a break and recharge. If you go full speed all year long, you will wear them out. Eventually they won’t want to come back. Give them rest and they will have longevity.

Seasonal youth ministry gives room for planning. If you are busy all year long, you won’t have time to adequately plan for the future. I’m not just talking calendars. You need to create space for creativity, to pray for discernment, and to think intentionally about what you will be teaching.

Seasonal youth ministry blesses families. We slow down in December because of all the Christmas parties, travel and shopping. We slow down in May because many families are pushing hard through finals and graduations. We slow down after summer because families are getting ready for the school year. Gearing up in the summer helps our families that have middle schoolers with lots of time on their hands. Our ability to plan seasonally will help families during their seasons.

The key is this: slowing down actually makes our busy times more effective.

If you aren’t thinking seasonally in your ministry. You’ll probably see less fruit and will have a higher chance of burn out. Every ministry is different, your seasons may not look like mine, but you need to embrace the seasons of your ministry.

[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]

 

Middle School Guys Have Feelings Too

In the past week I’ve become aware of a few of our students who are really hurting. I spent time with one of them yesterday. I picked him up from school and I immediately knew something was wrong. When I asked him, he initially said that nothing was wrong. When I pushed further, the reality came out. Over the course of the next hour we got to unpack some of his struggles.

It’s not often that we can get a middle school guy to open up. Because of this, many youth pastors believe (wrongly) that middle school guys just don’t have that much going on inside. If you talk to parents of middle school guys they will share stories of their sons’ emotional outbursts and roller coasters. We would describe middle school guys as being unemotional or a-motional, but it’s simply not true.

I want all youth pastors who work with middle school guys to reject this stereotype and help middle school guys express their emotions in a healthy, God-honoring way.

Middle school guys’ emotions are real and intense. Youth workers are adults who survived middle school and face big life problems every day. As adults we tend to think that middle school problems aren’t that big of a deal compared to what we deal with. We easily diminish how intense and real the emotions of middle schoolers are. When middle school guys finally open up you realize the opposite is true. When a middle school guy breaks up with a girlfriend of just two weeks it’s still a traumatic experience that affects them emotionally. We need to acknowledge that our guys have more going on inside than they let on.

Middle school guys need permission to express emotions. It isn’t a new thought that our society pressures guys to hide their emotions. In middle school expressing emotions for guys is seen as a weakness that will be exploited or made fun of. As pastors, we need to remind them that emotions are God-given and expressing those emotions is a normal part of life. Are you giving them that message? Are you providing a safe place for guys to open up?

Middle school guys need help identifying their emotions. Brad, now a 25 year old, was a middle schooler playing in a soccer game. I remember him running off the field and immediately bursting into tears. I could tell this this was altogether confusing to him. Most middle school guys don’t know what they are feeling inside. They just know that they are feeling something intense.

Mark Oestreicher reminds us that in early adolescence our emotional color palette is growing in complexity. Middle school guys need help painting with all these new colors. We need to show them how to tell the difference between anger, frustration, bitterness, anxiety, fear and so on. They can learn how to express them in a healthy, God-honoring way only when they know what their emotions really are.

I hope I’ve challenged you to think differently about the middle school guys in your ministry. They are deeper and more emotional than most people give them credit for. They deserve to be taken seriously.

I am far from an expert on this subject. For a more in depth look check out the book “Middle School Ministry” by Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin.

[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]

The Best Is Yet To Come

My senior pastor Ted is an amazing leader. He’s been a faithful shepherd and preacher at our church for over 30 years. A year and a half ago he decided that he would up his game and start meeting with a few others to sharpen his preaching skills. This is a man who has preached over 1,300 sermons…1,300. As a man in his 60’s he said “I have yet to preach my best sermon.”

My pastor’s example lit a fire under me. I’ve been in middle school ministry for 15 years and I can be tempted to believe that I have it all figured out. I could rest on my experience and believe that there’s not much left to learn. I could believe those things, but I would be wrong. Ted’s humility inspires me to believe that I have not arrived. I am still a work in progress. The older I get the more I realize that I have so far to go. This thought doesn’t leave me defeated it fuels my fire to learn and hone my skills.

I get older and I get complacent
Ted has every right to sit back and say, “I’ve reached my peak.” No one would blame him for preaching sermons the same way that he’s been doing for years. He’s earned it, right? Wrong. Ted understands that ministry isn’t a destination that you arrive at. The moment you stop growing and learning is the moment your effectiveness diminishes. All of the great thinkers and practitioners in Christian leadership grew better as they got older because they never stopped learning and growing in their skills.

I get older and I get defeated
There are days when I don’t feel as relevant as I once did. There are days when I wish I knew all of the current bands and played all of the new video games. My ability to be on top of the culture must have been connected to my full head of hair because both are long gone. There are days where I feel out of touch and because of that I believe that I am no longer as effective in student ministry. What Ted has taught me is that I can be confident that my relevance is not connected with my effectiveness in ministry. Ted isn’t culturally savvy, but he is a great pastor. His longevity has produced wisdom, character and strength that isn’t present when you’re young.

In the same way, my age in student ministry isn’t a liability. It’s an asset. I don’t know the latest bands, but I can relate to parents a lot better. I may not be as cool as I used to be, but I’m more comfortable in my own skin. Because of these things I can see the horizon and know that my best days are yet to come.

Having a desire for continued growth keeps me from being complacent. Having an appreciation for my age allows me to see that my time is not done. My best days of ministry are not behind me.

In a seminar talking to veteran (read: old) middle school pastors, Scott Rubin and Kurt Johnson said that your best age of ministry is whatever season you are in right now. They meant that it is important to always look at the relative advantages of the season of ministry you are in. In other words there are no “glory days” of the past. The glory days are ahead of you if you keep growing and learning.

Fill in the blank “I have yet to do my best ____________!“ Is it a lesson, event, training or idea?  Fill in your blank and then pursue excellence in it for God’s glory and His kingdom.

Stay humble, stay hungry, stay hopeful. Your best years of ministry are ahead of you. I know mine are.

[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]

Teaming Up With Teachers

There is a segment of the population that youth pastors ignore and frankly we’re missing out. I’m talking about school teachers. Think about this. We get 1-3 hours a week with our students. Teachers get 10-15 hours a week (teachers who coach get significantly more time). Teachers also have access to many more unchurched kids and parents than we will ever hope to influence. That means if we really care about the teens in our cities, then we must find ways to partner with school teachers.

One of my former middle schoolers is now a history teacher in our city. He allows me to spend time in his classroom from time to time and each time I do so it’s an eye opening experience. I see the challenges he faces each day. Not only does he have to motivate kids to learn, he’s also teaching them life skills such as time management, appropriate social interaction, and responsibility. He is a hero in my book because he takes his calling seriously.

Youth pastors can be hesitant to reach out to schools because we’ve been told by the media that schools don’t want us there. While schools may have an official policy against youth pastors evangelizing on campus, most of them want as much community involvement as possible. Chances are there is a teacher in your church who can be a gatekeeper to get on campus. Work with them to help you find a way to get involved in the school.

I’ve found that most teachers genuinely do care for their students and want to make a difference. They are our allies in reaching teens for Christ. Partnership with teachers is something that every youth worker needs in their ministry.

Here’s what I believe effective partnership looks like:

Encourage Them – Most teachers carry the weight of educating kids who are unmotivated and unequipped to learn. They face pressures from parents and administrators. They get beaten down by the system and the day to day grind of teaching. How amazing would it be if you adopted a teacher and made it your ministry to make them feel valued by your church? Write them notes. Bake them some cookies. Give them a gift card. It doesn’t take much to make them feel loved and appreciated for pouring into teens.

Listen to Them – Teachers see and hear things from your students that you will never get to observe. They have valuable insights on what teens are really like. They also can help us become better communicators. I’ve learned a lot about the students in my ministry simply by asking teachers for their opinions. Start a practice of regularly meeting with a teacher and learn from them. You could even invite them to come talk to your leaders and have them share what it’s like to be in their shoes.

Serve Them – Teachers have a lot of busy work that can weigh them down. Volunteer to grade some tests or make copies. Many teachers must provide their own school supplies (papers, pencils…). Serve them by getting some of those needs met. Try asking how you can pray for them and their students.

When we serve teachers we are really serving our students. Each teacher we partner with means 25-30 more students we are impacting. It means another adult who is encouraged to shape the teens we love. Healthy communities require a healthy partnership between churches and schools. What is one thing you going to do to bridge that gap this week?

[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]