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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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…]

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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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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How to make a strategic plan for your youth ministry part 2

Formulating goals is an important step in making a strategic plan for youth ministry

In yesterday’s post we discussed the need for a strategic plan for your youth ministry and we got deeper into the first two steps ok making one: gathering info and analyzing this info. Today we’ll discuss the next steps.

Step 4: Choose priorities

Once you’ve gathered and analyzed all the info, you’ll need to choose priorities. Chances are, these will have become self-evident in the analytic phase. If not, look at your mission statement and your vision statement and determine what needs to be done next to come closer to achieving that main goal. Let’s say your goal is to reach students with the gospel. You know the most effective way is for their Christian friends and classmates to share the gospel. But the students in your youth ministry aren’t actively sharing their faith, even though most of them have made a decision for Christ. That means your priority should be to get your students to the point where they will share their faith. Now you have your priority.

Formulate these priorities into goals and make these goals your main focus for the next two or three years. That’s your ‘SHOULD BE’ situation.

Step 5: Formulate your goals

Let’s say you’ve discovered that your small groups are your weakness because they’re more about fun than about discipleship. One of your priorities will then be to transform the small groups into discipleship-oriented small groups. Yet this goal is still fairly vague, because what exactly is meant by ‘discipleship-oriented small groups’? Goals are best when formulated SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-related.

I’d advise you to choose about three main priorities and formulate them SMART. That doesn’t mean that anything outside these areas gets eliminated, it just means that you will focus your efforts and your resources here (use the 80/20 rule!).

Formulating goals is an important step in making a strategic plan for youth ministry

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How to make a strategic plan for your youth ministry part 1

Don't forget to take the time to pray before you start on your strategic plan for your youth ministry

I’m a big believer in goals. There are several reasons for this: without goals you can’t set priorities, you can’t plan effectively, it will be hard to allocate resources, you can’t evaluate and you’ll have a hard time getting people fired up for your youth ministry. So in any youth ministry, goals are key to getting things done. On the highest levels, these goals should be put into a mission statement and a vision statement. Then every two or three years or so, you’ll need a plan that distills lower level goals for your youth ministry and broadly describes how to achieve them: a strategic plan for your youth ministry.

Here’s how to write a strategic plan for your youth ministry:

Step 1: Pray

Any plan has to start with prayer and lots of it. Time and again we need to realize that we are merely humans, the clay in God’s hands and that He needs to direct our paths and lead us, lest we end up getting lost and taking lots of people with us. Before you start the process of writing a strategic plan for your youth ministry, take a weekend of dedicated prayer to focus on God.

Don’t forget to take the time to pray before you start on your strategic plan for your youth ministry

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Applying the 80/20 rule to youth ministry

The number of baptisms can be a paramter to define sucess in youth ministry, but there are many non-measurable parameters as well

This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry. In an earlier post I discussed the 80/20 rule and how this rule can help you set priorities in your youth ministry. Today I want to delve a little bit deeper into how this rule can be applied in youth ministry. But first, let’s recap what the 80/20 rule is about.

Shortly put, the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto principle) states that there is often a 80/20 connection between input and output, between efforts and results. In short, in many cases 80% of the results come from only 20% of the efforts. But it works the other way around as well, 80% of the problems you face in youth ministry come from only 20% of the students/parents/church members.

Now let’s see how we can apply to 80/20 rule to your youth ministry by asking a whole bunch of questions. I’d advise you to take some time to work these through, you’ll be amazed at the insights you’ll gain.

1. Identify biggest results

What does ‘success’ look like in your youth ministry? In other words: what’s the 80% of results you want to strive for? You can describe success in youth ministry in different measurable parameters, for instance:

  • Number of baptisms amongst youth
  • Attendance in youth services
  • Number of students involved in small groups

But there are also many indicators of ‘success’ in youth ministry that aren’t so easy to measure, like spiritual growth, a good relationship with each student, growth in unity, etc. However you define success in your youth ministry, make sure you do somehow define it. Otherwise you’ll never know how you’re doing.

The number of baptisms can be a way to define sucess in youth ministry, but there are many non-measurable parameters as well

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Time management in youth ministry: setting priorities

time management matrix

This post is part of the Time management in youth ministry series. In youth ministry, there’s always more to do than we have time for. If your to do list is anything like mine, it can become quite a challenge to determine what gets priority and what will have to wait. I use very two effective ways to determine my priorities that I’d like to share with you. In another post, I describe the INO system, which is a third way of determining priorities.

In youth ministry it’s essential to set the right priorities. We can’t do it all.

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Why your youth ministry needs a mission statement

A mission statement will set goals for your youth ministry

Does your youth ministry or youth group have a mission statement? By mission statement I mean a short (two sentences max) statement of what your youth ministry is about, what the reason for its existence is. If you have a mission statement, is it still current and does everybody who’s involved know it? I believe a good, current, well-communicated mission statement is essential to each youth ministry. Here’s 5 reasons why.

1. It sets goals

A good mission statement sets the goals for your youth ministry. It defines the reason for your existence. Without one, you’ll run the risk of becoming a fun activity-focused ministry without any clear direction where you’re going.  Often in a mission statement you will put into words what God has shown you to be the way for your youth ministry. And never underestimate the power of Holy Ghost-inspired, cleverly formulated, and well communicated goals. It will inspire people (youth and volunteers), motivate them and will make them want to achieve ‘success’.

A mission statement will set goals for your youth ministry (photo: Gary Scott)

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