Rules: it’s the ‘how’ that matters to teens

rules

Contrary to what you may think, teens don’t have a problem with rules. But they may have an issue with how you bring them. How you communicate rules as a youth leader or a parent is a huge factor in teen’s decisions whether or not to stick to these rules.

The University of Gent (Belgium) has come to these conclusions after multiple researches amongst young people. Their conclusion is that you shouldn’t avoid rules with teens, but how you introduce them is important.

If you introduce rules in an authoritative and forceful way, teens will feel threatened in their freedom and will likely act out the opposite of the rules. This phenomenon is known as psychological reactance and it’s been well documented in several researches.

 

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The 7 regrets of youth pastors (1)

regrets graffiti

I’ve been in youth ministry for about fourteen years in one capacity or another. Looking back, I sure wish I would have done some things differently. I’m fairly sure many of us feel that way.

Now I personally think regrets are a waste of time but ‘7 things many youth pastors wish they’d done differently in hindsight’ didn’t sound quite as catchy for a title…

So here, we go with 7 things many youth pastors wished they had done differently aka the 7 regrets of youth pastors:

1. Avoiding conflicts

As Christians, we’re supposed to be loving, kind and forgiving. The problem is that this often results in an avoidance of conflict at all costs. I’ve let certain situations continue for too long because I wanted to avoid a conflict. Well, the conflict happened anyway and it was much nastier than it would have been if I had faced it head on.

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Tips for being a good Christian youth leader

What tips would you give to someone who's striving to be a good Christian youth leader?

I love seeing search terms like this pop up in my stats: tips for being a good Christian youth leader. It means that someplace, somewhere, someone is doing their very best to grow in their role as a youth leader and that makes me so happy. So I’m going to try and help you take your leadership to the next level with these tips for being a good youth leader.

1. Read

One of the things you should invest time in each week to grow as a youth leader is reading. The old adagio ‘leaders are readers’ is really true! Here are a few things you should ‘feed’ yourself with:

  • Books on (Christian) leadership: there’s hundreds of them coming out each year. You don’t need to read them all, but find some authors you like and that feed you.
  • Books and up to date info on youth culture: youth culture is changing so fast that it’s important to stay on top of this. Two of my favorite sites for this are the Youth Culture Report and Jonathan McKee’s blog.
  • Books on youth psychology and development: one of the hot issues at the moment is extended adolescence for instance – it will really pay off to stay current on topics like this.
  • Blogs from youth leaders and youth ministry organizations: I follow about 50 youth ministry related blogs and I’m learning tons like this every day.

What tips would you give to someone who’s striving to be a good Christian youth leader?

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How to create support for your ideas and plans

How do you get people to support your ideas and plans? It's all about the three R's: research, reputation and relations.

You can have the best ideas ever and create strategic plans for your youth ministry ‘till you’re blue in the face, but unless others will support you, you’ll never get anywhere. It’s very important to have vision, but it’s equally important to have people support your vision. So how do you do that? How do you create support for your ideas and plans? It’s all about the three R’s:

Research

Reputation

Relations

Research your plans

The first thing that’s important is that your plans for your youth ministry are well researched and well developed. You need to know what you’re talking about and be able to back it up with numbers, statistics and facts. Many plans are grand in scope, but very sketchy on the details and no one will support those. People need to see your vision is  grounded in reality.

If you have a plan for instance to reach unchurched youth by opening a youth café, support it with a realistic budget, solid prognoses for attendees, requirements for the room/building needed, etc. The more detailed your plan, the easier people will support you.

How do you get people to support your ideas and plans and basically cheer you on? It's all about the three R's: research, reputation and relations.

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Do you know your ‘red buttons’?

Red buttons are certain words or behaviors that trigger a disproportionate response in you. Do you know your own red buttons?

A couple of years ago, I was doing a management training provided by the hospital I worked for back then. One of the topics was team work and the trainer asked us to think about a specific coworker or employee we had trouble working with because they irritated us for some reason.

Someone came to my mind immediately: an experienced nurse whom I respected very much, but who frustrated me to no end. The trainer then explained the concept of ‘red buttons’: certain behavior or even certain words that trigger an excessive, overly emotional response in you.

I immediately knew the trainer was onto something and after some analyzing, I could figure out what went wrong with that nurse. She was patronizing me. She had over 30 years experience as a nurse and she made me feel it. I liked her as a person and I valued her as a nurse, but every time we interacted she pushed that red button with her attitude (though I’m sure she didn’t even mean it like that).

I understood something that I had not seen before. My reaction to her was disproportionate. Yes, she was patronizing, but I could handle other negative behavior (like gossiping about me or challenging my authority) far more easily than what she was doing. Obviously, being patronized was a red button.

Red buttons are certain words or behaviors that trigger a disproportionate response in you. Do you know your own red buttons?

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Making an operational year plan for your youth ministry

Your operational year plan for your youth ministry is your action plan, the plan of what you actually want to do in the upcoming year or season.

So, you’ve created a mission and a vision statement and you’ve translated this into a strategic plan. Now what? Now you make an operational plan, also known as a year plan. It’s the concrete plan of what you want to do in the upcoming year or season.

An example of an operational plan

Let’s say your mission is this:

“Making students into devoted disciples of Jesus”

You’ve made a vision statement in which you describe your dream of making at least 50% of your young people into devoted followers of Jesus, meaning that they attend church, read their Bible by themselves, pray daily and show in their daily life that they are becoming more and more like Jesus by bearing fruit both in character and in evangelism.

You’ve translated this into several strategic goals, one of which is to promote daily prayer amongst your students. You want to change the percentage of students who daily talk to God from 10 to 25% in the next three years. For that to happen, you need to make them enthusiastic about prayer. You think that introducing different ways of creative prayer is a good tool, because students have said they find praying out loud boring.

How do you translate this into an operational goal? Your task is to find actions that will lead to your goal of making students enthusiastic about prayer by introducing creative ways to pray. Here are some things you could put into your operational plan:

  • Each small group session has to have the element of prayer, so you need about 20 different examples or practices of creative prayer
  • Your small group leaders may not know much about creative prayer themselves so you need to incorporate this in your youth ministry training plan
  • The retreat should be about creative prayer, you could do workshops here to teach new ways to pray
  • You organize a 24-hours prayer marathon
  • You teach in at least one youth service on prayer, not just the how but also the why
  • You change a small room in the building that no one uses anyway into a permanent prayer room
  • Because you want to know how you’re doing, you list a few questions on the youth’s personal prayer habits in your yearly youth ministry evaluation

These are just examples of translating a goal into specific activities for your operational plan.

Your operational year plan for your youth ministry is your action plan, the plan of what you actually want to do in the upcoming year or season.

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Vision casting for your youth ministry

Does your youth ministry have a vision, an idea of where you are going in the future?

Your youth ministry needs a mission and a vision. Most of you will nod right now, but a lot of people have trouble to see the difference between a vision and a mission or fail to see how these two relate to each other. It’s no use developing a mission or a vision for your youth ministry if you don’t understand what it’s for. Let’s see if we can shed some light in this darkness.

Overview

Here’s a quick overview of the different elements of vision casting and planning your youth ministry:

Mission: defines purpose, 10 years

Vision: defines future, 5 years

Strategy: defines plans, 2-3 years

Operational plan: defines actions, 1 year

Now let’s discuss each of these elements separately.

Does your youth ministry have a vision, an idea of where you are going in the future?

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The loneliness of leadership: 9 healthy ways to deal with it

With leadership comes loneliness. The key is to deal with this loneliness in a healthy way.

Leadership means loneliness in some ways. With every step in leadership we make, comes the inevitable increase in loneliness. The higher we climb in leadership, the more responsibilities we get, the lonelier we become.

We can’t share everything we experience in our youth ministry with our team because some of it isn’t beneficial to them. We can’t be completely open about what we encounter or wrestle with towards parents or church member because there’s a confidentiality issue. We can’t ask just anyone for advice about our struggle with the senior pastor, because we don’t want to talk behind his back.

And yet at the end of the day, we’re the ones who have to make the decisions. The buck stops with us.

No one said it better than William Shakespeare in ‘King Henry IV, Part II’:

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”

With leadership comes loneliness. The key is to deal with this loneliness in a healthy way.

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Is it okay to mentor someone from the opposite sex?

If you decide to mentor someone from the opposite sex, always meet in a public place

A while back we had an interesting question going on with a group of youth workers on Twitter. One youth worker asked if we thought it was okay for her to mentor a male youth from her youth group. There was no one else available, yet her church had a problem with it. It was interesting to see everyone wrestle with this issue, because we all understood the risks, yet we also understood the urgency of him needing a mentor.

Is it okay to mentor someone from the opposite sex? It’s a hard question to answer, but here’s my answer: yes, it’s okay to mentor or coach someone from the opposite sex, but…And here come the ‘buts’ in the form of questions:

Is anyone else available?

I think we can all agree that same-sex mentoring or coaching is preferable. So if anyone else is available from the same sex and there are no pressing arguments why that person shouldn’t become mentor, that person should do it.

If you decide to mentor someone from the opposite sex, always meet in a public place

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Creating a mission statement for your youth ministry

A mission statement for your youth ministry defines why you exist and where you want to go

In an earlier post we already discussed why your youth ministry needs a mission statement. In this post we’ll have a look at how you can create a mission statement for your youth ministry.

Communicate the ‘why’ of a mission statement

Before you dive into the practical aspects of a mission statement, it’s important that you and your leaders are convinced why you need one. If you can’t see the benefits of a mission statement or if your team doesn’t see the need for one, chances are it’ll end up in a drawer somewhere (or whatever a digital version is of a drawer…an unused folder?) That means you have to convince yourself and other of the necessity of having a mission statement for your youth ministry. When your team is on board, it’s time to get to work.

mission statement
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