Tips for being a good Christian youth leader

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 his or her very best to grow in his/her role as a youth leader and that makes me 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 to 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 can ‘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 challenge 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 every day.

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Change the world or go home

globe

I came across this ad in a Dutch magazine. It’s for wine apparently, though I’ve never heard of this particular brand. What struck me was the slogan they were using:

“Be moved. Love. Encourage and excite. Be enthusiastic. Motivate. Change the world or go home.”

Not sure what this has to do with wine, but this would make a pretty awesome personal mission statement. Change the world or go home… [Read more…]

The lie about the makeability of youth ministry

carpenter

I’m a control freak, I admit it. I’m a structured and organized person who tends to plan (way) ahead and I’m big on analyzing processes using the theory of action and reaction and cause and consequences. The often-heard saying ‘stupidity is doing the same things but expecting different results’ is one I wholeheartedly agree with.

Yet I know there are limits to what I can control, especially in youth ministry. I know from experience that no matter how much I want it to be so, youth ministry isn’t makeable. It frustrates me at times, it makes me feel powerless and completely out of control, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The makeability of youth ministry is a lie.

Now, I’m not even sure if this is a correct English word. I’ve sort of translated this literally from the Dutch expression, but it conveys exactly what I want to say. Makeable, makeability, they refer to the thought that we have control over something, that we can shape it and make it exactly how we want it to be. But there’s no makeability in youth ministry, there are no guaranteed ‘results’. Youth ministry isn’t mass product, manufactured in large quantities. It’s a uniquely crafted work of art, individually shaped for each specific youth ministry. [Read more…]

7 tools to help you go paperless

Going paperless will save you tons of binders and space...and make your youth ministry office look a lot less messy!!

We’ve gone paperless a year or two ago and it was the best decision we ever made. We were able to throw away literally thousands of pieces of paper and about 20 binders, thus creating a lot of space in our study. But not only does our home office look a lot better and less stuffed, I can also find our documents way easier now that we’ve gone paperless. I don’t lose important documents, I always have them at my disposal (even when I’m not at home) and I’m always prepared for whatever meeting I have.

Needless to say, going paperless has huge benefits. Aside from the ones mentioned above, there’s another big one specifically for youth ministry: I’m using a lot more of the ideas and resources that I have collected from several magazines because I’ve made them searchable in Evernote. I used to have this bog box stuffed with clippings, but I hardly ever used anything because I forgot what I had in there.

Going paperless will save you tons of binders and space...and make your youth ministry office look a lot less messy!!

[Read more…]

The seasons of the soul and your role as youth leader

Can we and should we minister to students when we're going through a season of rain or pain?

There’s an old Christian song that tells us about the seasons of the soul:

The season in the rain will end at least

A season full of pain will surely pass

The reason will be plain someday when love reveals its core

Such are the seasons of the soul

(Jamie Owens Collins – Seasons of the soul)

In our spiritual journey with God, there are always ups and downs. There are beautiful mountain tops that we never want to leave, but there are also valleys of the shadow of death that make us struggle and stumble. Our walk with God has its good and its bad seasons. It’s a comfort to know that these bad seasons are just that: seasons that will pass.

But what if we are in that rain, in those storms or in a season full of pain? Does that disqualify us as a youth leader? Should we quit temporarily, or even permanently? Can we minister to students when our own soul is crying out for God?

Yes, we can. And we should.

Can we and should we minister to students when we're going through a season of rain or pain?

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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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5 ways to discredit yourself as a speaker

Speakers can inadvertently discredit themselves by making common mistakes.

When we are preaching to youth, the stakes are high. We don’t preach just any message, we preach a gospel that has the potential to change their eternal destiny, to change their lives from that day forward and to bring them into a relationship with their heavenly Father.

So when we’re speaking to youth, we’d better be as effective as we can be. But unfortunately speakers way too often make mistakes that discredit them, that make the audience question their credibility and thus question their message. Never forget that an audience has to like you and trust you before they’ll accept anything you say.

No matter how powerful and life-changing your message, if you can’t hold your audience’s attention it’s all in vain. Here are 5 common ways speakers can discredit themselves:

Speakers can inadvertently discredit themselves by making common mistakes.

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How to make your New Year’s Resolutions last longer than February

What habits do you have that impact your productivity, or keep you from reaching your goals?

I’ve made many New Year’s Resolutions over the years: read more books, spend more time with God, lose weight, exercise more, the usual stuff. But a few years back I realized that very few actually lasted longer than say February. Most of the time, my New Year’s Resolutions only made me feel disappointed in myself because I couldn’t seem to make them work.

The reason? Discipline alone isn’t enough.

I’m a fairly disciplined person. I can motivate myself to do a lot of things I don’t particularly like, like ironing, doing admin, or doing the dishes. But when it comes to the bigger things in life, to actually changing my life, discipline alone isn’t enough.

You see, New Year’s Resolutions often look like this:

  • Exercise three times a week for at least an hour
  • Loose 20 pounds before the summer
  • Have quiet time with God for at least 15 minutes every day
  • Read at least 20 fiction and 25 non-fiction books this year

You may think these are good goals, because they are SMART: they’re specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related. And they are good goals, great goals even. But you won’t realize them with just discipline. You need to change your habits to realize them.

Habits run our life, or maybe I should say ‘we run our lives on habits’. A lot of what we do each day, each week, is governed by our habits. And these habits fuel some bad behavior, like always eating a snack when we watch the late night news, automatically turning on the TV when we get home instead of grabbing a book, or habitually getting up too late to make it to the gym before work.

What habits do you have that impact your productivity, or keep you from reaching your goals?

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The power of vulnerability

Every now and then you hear a message that has a profound impact on you. The TED talk on the power of vulnerability I saw the other day is such a message. Brené Brown calls herself a researcher-storyteller and some years ago, she did research into human connections. That research quickly turned into research on shame and vulnerability. She made a discovery that changed the way she lived her life.

I urge you to take 20 minutes to watch this video of her talk about what she discovered on why some people seem to be able to live ‘wholehearted’ and why others can’t:

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Youth ministry management: 10 key principles (part 2)

An important principle of youth ministry management is to expect the unexpected and always be prepared for possible emergencies

Yesterday, we discussed the first 6 key principles of good youth ministry management. Today we’ll look at 4 more. Here we go:

7. Expect the unexpected

In a perfect world, everything would go exactly according to plan. Well, you’re a youth leader so you know all about functioning in an imperfect world.

Part of youth ministry management is to expect the unexpected:

  • Never plan your day or your week so full, that there’s no room for crises or urgent matters
  • Always have an ‘unexpected’ post on your budget
  • Whatever you organize, always prepare for what could happen for instance in edical emergencies, personal emergencies, fire, etc.
  • Always, always have your emergency plans up to date and make sure everyone knows them…lives are at stake!

An important principle of youth ministry management is to expect the unexpected and always be prepared for possible emergencies

[Read more…]