Creating a dress code for your youth ministry

Does your youth ministry needs a dress code and if so, what should that look like?

Summer is on its way and it always brings up the inevitable issue of clothes. Or rather, lack thereof. Appropriate clothing can be a bit of an issue in youth ministry. But is it wise to enforce a dress code in youth ministry and if so, how do you go about creating a dress code for your youth ministry?

The 4B rule

Let me start with describing my own experiences. Yes, we did have a dress code in my former youth ministry, but only for those students who were up on stage. We simply enforced the 4B’s rule: no breasts, butts, boxers and bellies visible. Easy to remember, works like a charm. Every now and then the worship leader had to remind someone of the rules, but all in all it functioned pretty well. [Read more…]

The unintended consequences of rules

The S.S. Eastland lying on its side in the Chicago harbor: an example of best intentions having horrific results.

On July 24th 1915 the steamer S.S. Eastland capsized in the harbor of Chicago. More than 800 people perished in an accident that could have been easily prevented. You see, after the catastrophic collision of the Titanic with an iceberg, a new law was passed stating that all passenger boats were required to carry enough lifeboats for all passengers. Understandable and certainly issued with the best intentions, but it proved to be fatal for the S.S. Eastland.

This steamer’s design wasn’t optimal to begin with, and with the added weight of the extra lifeboats it became top heavy. It capsized while tied to the dock. There was no time to hand out life vests or use the lifeboats and 844 people died, including many women and children.

It’s a horrific example of measures taken with the best intentions, but gone horribly wrong. And it’s not the only example of negative unintended consequences.

Take the law for instance that required cyclists to wear a helmet in Australia in the early nineties. Yes, the number of cycling related head injuries was greatly reduced, but there was another huge unintended consequence: the number of cyclists was reduced as well. People didn’t want to wear the helmet and so they stopped cycling.

What we do in our youth ministry may have the best intentions, but that doesn’t man it can have some big negative unintended consequences. And these consequences can even outweigh what we were trying to regulate in the first place. It’s important to see if the rule and what you’re trying to prevent with it, is indeed more important than the unintended consequences and effects.

Can you think of an example in your youth ministry where the consequences of a rule were worse than if you hadn’t done anything in the first place?

The S.S. Eastland lying on its side in the Chicago harbor: an example of best intentions having horrific results.

How to get rid of a bad youth ministry volunteer

There can be plenty of reasons why you need to part ways with a bad youth ministry volunteer. But how do you do that?

No matter how good your screening process for new volunteers for your youth ministry, at some point you may find yourself stuck with a bad youth ministry volunteer. There can be many reasons why a volunteer doesn’t work out (anymore) in your youth ministry:

  • A lack of chemistry with the students, the team, or with you as youth pastor;
  • The volunteer has demonstrated risky behavior that hasn’t changed after several warnings;
  • The volunteer is going through a rough season in his or her life and simply doesn’t have the energy for youth ministry right now;
  • Not everyone is destined to stay in youth ministry forever, even after having successfully served many years it may be simply time to leave;
  • The gifts and character of the volunteer don’t match with the task he or she is doing;
  • The volunteer does a reasonable good job with the students, but is causing problems in your team (no team player) for instance with excessive criticism;
  • Despite best efforts and the necessary youth ministry training, the volunteer simply isn’t ‘performing’ well;
  • You may have made some changes in the youth ministry (for instance in programs) that the volunteer doesn’t feel comfortable with or the volunteer doesn’t support the mission and vision (anymore).

Even the above list is far from exhaustive. There can be many reasons why you need to part ways with a bad volunteer, but how do you do that?

There can be plenty of reasons why you need to part ways with a bad youth ministry volunteer. But how do you do that?

[Read more…]

There is no formula. There is God.

There is no formula for succes in your church or your youth ministry. There's only God.

“I’ve seen so many brothers and sisters whom I love who follow one paradigm after another. They’re going to Willow Creek. They’ll do 40 Days of Purpose, this model and that model; en they end up discouraged. They find out after 18 months that no system works. There is no formula. There’s God.

This is Christianity. This isn’t copying IBM or Apple. We’re supposed to get before the Lord and find out what God wants us to do. Every church is unique. Every pastor is unique, so we can’t make shortcuts and get some model that we copy in some mechanical way to get the same results so we can be more influential or have a church that’s large and all of that.

When I see that 1,500 ministers are leaving the church every month, I think much of that is discouragement that comes from ‘Oh, that’s the answer. No wait, this is the answer’. ”

Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, in an interview with Preaching May/June 2012

There is no formula for succes in your church or your youth ministry. There's only God.

The lie about the makeability of youth ministry

makeability youth ministry

I’m a control freak, I admit it. I’m a very structured and organized person, I always 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 expresses 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.

It’s for this reason that I sometimes take issue with some posts, articles and books on youth ministry that follow the format of the ‘golden rule’. Their advice will be something like this:

The surefire way to draw more teens to your youth services

The 5 things you need to do to make your small group grow

3 guaranteed wins for your next youth retreat

The single best way to attract new volunteers

And I admit, I’ve been guilty of using headlines like this. They work well on social media to draw attention to your post, let’s be honest. But deep down, I’m uncomfortable with them.

They assume a makeability of youth ministry.

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…]

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.

[Read more…]

How to make a teaching plan for youth ministry

Making a teaching plan for your youth ministry has several benefits, for instance less stress and more variety in the topics and passages you teach on.

One of the most challenging plans to make for a new season of youth ministry is a teaching plan. Yet it’s also the most rewarding one, both spiritually and in terms of stress reduction. First, let’s have a look at some of the benefits of making a teaching plan. Then we’ll discuss how to actually make one for your youth ministry.

The benefits of a teaching plan

I admit: I’m a planner, so making plans and planning in advance comes natural to me. Yet I’m convinced of the benefits of a teaching plan for every youth ministry. Here’s why:

  • It prevents you from last minute stress, trying to figure out what to teach on
  • It prevents you from teaching the same (familiar) topics each year because you lack inspiration at the moment you need to come up with a topic
  • It ensures more variety, because you can take the time to come up with topics and passages from the entire Bible instead of just the books or passages you’re familiar with
  • It gives more depth to your Bible studies and sermons, as you have more time to prepare
  • It creates clarity for guest speakers because you can ask them to preach on a certain topic or passage in advance, thereby giving them time to prepare properly as well
  • You can let Bible studies, sermons and anything else you teach reinforce each other by painting the bigger picture instead of just picking random topics that students can’t connect within the bigger story of the Bible
  • You can select your topics and passages in such a way as to stress an overall message, theme or the gospel, therefore being way more intentional in your teaching

Making a teaching plan for your youth ministry has several benefits, for instance less stress and more variety in the topics and passages you teach on.

[Read more…]

The 7 habits of effective meetings

It's not always possible of course, but sharing a meal together as part of your meeting is a great idea if you want to add some fun, community and sharing to your meetings.

[This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry]. Meetings have gotten a bit of a bad reputation. That’s because a lot of them are bad. They’re too long, unfocused, have way too many attendees and afterwards no one really knows what the point was. For many people, meetings feel like a complete waste of time.

But when meetings are done the right way, they cannot only become effective, they can actually become something to look forward to. Meetings are actually a very practical and good way of getting things done, especially in youth ministry where it’s always about people first. So how do you transform meetings into effective, something your leaders actually look forward to?

Here are the 7 habits of effective meetings in your church or youth ministry:

1. Always start and end with prayer

You’re not the local hockey club, you’re the church. That means that God should always be front and center whenever you meet. Never run a meeting without taking the time to pray, ask for His blessing and guidance. Always communicate your dependence on God. In fact, I think a whole lot of Christian meetings could benefit from less talk and more prayer!

It's not always possible of course, but sharing a meal together as part of your meeting is a great idea if you want to add some fun, community and sharing to your meetings.

[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.

[Read more…]

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?

[Read more…]