When You Want to Stay but Can’t

In my first post I shared some of the emotions that I was feeling when I was laid off. I hope by being honest and sharing my struggles it will help to encourage those of us who want to stay but can’t. I am not saying that this is the 3 or 5 step plan you need to follow to help you move on, but these are some of the first steps I took to process the experience. It is just a recounting of the process that I have walked after I was laid off.

Want to read more? I’m guest posting this week at The Longer Haul.

When You Want to Stay but Can’t

January 10th 2010 is a date that has marked my life probably more than my birthday, anniversary, and birth of children combined. It was the day my pastor was going to reveal to us staff members (one by one) the vision and plan to turn a corner in the recent struggling history of the church. I was excited about getting to see what was next for our church. I was approaching 3 years at this church and really felt like I was really making progress in our efforts as a student ministry. But, January 10th ended up…

Want to read more? I’m guest posting this week at The Longer Haul. See today’s post here then stick around to see my part two later this week, also exclusively at The Longer Haul.

top 5 questions of a new youth pastor [#2]

This is the continuation of a series in which a friend of mine challenged me to think about the top 5 questions that a new youth pastor might have. In the first part of this series we discussed where to start, with the importance of building relationships with your new pastor, the students and the parents as key starting points. This post is the second part of a 5 part series where I will answer the top 5 questions of a new youth pastor.

2. Where are we?

The challenge of this question is to take the time to look and listen. It takes great maturity to approach the new ministry with patience and intentionality. Taking stock of where the ministry is at this present point will help you in the long run. You can figure out what areas are doing well and in which you need to devote some time. Finding out where the ministry is right now will help you to make changes down the road and pursue the best direction for the ministry. Ask yourself if you have any gaps. In other words, where are the places that need to be strengthened before building the ministry from a solid foundation? I have read that when someone is restoring a car they want to get it back to what is called ZERO. This means that the car is back to its stock form and in good running shape. Then you start tweaking and adding parts and upgrading components to make certain areas of the car more efficient or stronger. This same idea is true for your ministry. You must inspect the quality of all aspects of the ministry to see where you will need to focus your time and energy.

How do you take stock of the ministry? I believe that you must grasp the “pulse” in three main areas first. They are not really in a particular order but are vital to getting an understanding of the ministry.

1. Parents: I firmly believe that the level in which parents participate in your ministry reflects your ability to lead and share vision. One of the best things to do in a new situation would be to spend some quality time meeting parents and finding ways to increase the involvement and leadership of them in your ministry. You do not have to ask parents to commit to being at every single event for. of their. lives but you do need to find  ways to plug them in to make big impacts. Going to sporting/ school events is a great way to chat and talk with parents. They are also nice because there are usually a lot of parents there so you can talk with many of them in one spot.

The level of parents participation in the ministry will also help you understand  the previous youth pastor’s priorities in regards to parents. Did he support them, encourage them and ask them to join him in the ministry or did he push them away?

2. Students: It is obvious that you should spend some of your time getting to know the students that are involved with the ministry. You want to find places and times to talk and interact with the students. As you talk to them and watch them interact you can learn a lot them by observing how they interact with each other. Do you see any students serving without being asked? Do you see any befriending the outsider or new person (besides yourself)? These are the kids you want to get know better and see if you can cultivate their leadership potential.

3. Student Ministry leaders: You have to talk to the people that have stood in the gap before you got there. They have (hopefully) continued the ministry and the ministry has still grown in depth and width even if they have been without a youth pastor. They can give you history and back story on both the students and parents in the ministry. (Just be careful that you don’t go down the road of gossip).

I know that I am asking you to be patient and wait for two posts now but I believe that by not rushing into making lots of changes it will help you in the long run. You will have heard people out, learned the history, and seen all sides of issues before deciding the best course of action for your new ministry. You will also have relationships with people that are deep and meaningful. This will allow you to move forward as a team.

top 5 questions of a new youth pastor [Series]

A friend of mine challenged me to think about the top 5 questions that a new youth pastor might have. I know I have sat in a my new office the first day at a church and tried to figure out where to start.  I believe that all new youth pastors or youth pastors in a new ministry situation should be asking themselves these questions. This post is the first part of a 5 part series where I will answer the top 5 questions of a new youth pastor.

  1. Where do I start?

The first place to start is to observe and learn the new church culture. This church is not like the church in which you grew up. This is not your last church either. It has a different history and it has different baggage. The church has to get over what the previous youth pastor did or did not do. You have to make sure you do not speak negatively about the former youth pastor or what he was doing in this church’s ministry. Someday someone will be in the same situation as you and you have to hope that they will have enough integrity to do the same. 

I would encourage you to spend time with your senior pastor. By intentionally spending time with your senior pastor you will hopefully strengthen the relationship so that you can be real and honest with each other. I hope that you will have the ability to be friends, brothers in Christ, and ministry partners. You have to spend time getting to know each other outside of ministry as well so that your friendship will grow. In the course of hanging out together you will have opportunities to share your heart and he will be able to see your heart in action as you live life together. I would encourage you to spend time getting to know your student ministry leadership in a similar way.

Finally, I would encourage you to spend time with parents and students in as many different settings as possible so that you can be real with them. They can see you as human and a broken person who needs Christ as well.

What would you say a top question of new youth pastors should be?
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3 reasons for longevity in ministry

40 years! 40 years is measuring stick for me when I think about longevity in ministry.
Church sign

You might be asking yourself…Why 40 years?  Temple Myers, the pastor of Memorial Baptist Church (where I grew up), was the pastor of the church for 40 years. He has recently retired. The church also celebrated their 50th anniversary and when I think about the longevity…of being in one place of ministry for 40 years… it is outstanding.

I desire to be in place of ministry for a long time. I have struggled to be in one place of ministry and it really is one of the greatest desires of my heart. It does not matter the position  youth pastor or senior pastor I believe the longer you are in one spot the better.  Honestly it really does not matter what position or title you have, paid or not, it matters more your commitment to the long haul.

There are 3 big reasons why you should strive for longevity in your ministry spot. I believe that the longer you are in one place of ministry the longer you are able to work out your vision for ministry. It takes time as a youth pastor to share your vision for the student ministry and to provide direction to move the ministry towards that vision. It takes 2-3 years or so for people to figure out who you are, what/where you stand, and even where you are eventually going.

Another reason to be in one place of ministry for a long period of time is it gives time so people are able to get to know you and your personality. You are able to do life together. You are able to laugh and cry together. You celebrate ministry highs and lows TOGETHER. There are no awkward moments because you have lived your lives together and became friends united in ministry together. You are able to build strong relationships.

The longer you are in one place the more parents and students will trust you and allow you to be a part of their life. They will let you into the nitty-gritty of their life. They quit pretending to have it all together and you are able to walk through life together. Once this openness happens it will expand your ministry. You can then speak to, encourage, and support parents as the primary spiritual leader of their children. You find yourself in the spot of being a coach and cheerleader to the parents and students relationship. You are able to walk with the parents and encourage the student to be all that God has called them to be.

How long have you be in one Ministry spot? Why did you leave? Should you have stayed somewhere and did not?

New Year Resolutions

2014 graphicThis time of year everyone is seems to make resolutions! They hope to lose weight, get organized, pay off debt, or some other goal. I heard on the radio that most people stick with their new goal for only a week before they start to backslide and eventually give up. I hope to challenge you, my readers, and myself with this first post. I found this quote online and I believe it is fitting for our discussion today.

Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” Jonathan Edwards

  1. I will live for God.” The first part reminds me of one of my youth ministry rules. I call them the Big 5 but I will discuss them in another post. The first of the Big 5 is that “We honor God with our lives.” I usually follow by saying that if we did that one we would not need the others. Jonathan Edwards is right in saying that we need to live for God. That is and should be our first priority! I have to confess that I will be more intentional in seeking to live for God this year. Looking back over the past few years I have been somewhat repressed by my life circumstances instead of seeking to make much of God in my life. Living for God means putting Him first in all aspects of our lives. Are we seeking to know Him and make Him known?This thought also reminds me of one of my favorite verses Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” (NIV) This verse challenges me to remember that my life is not my own. I have been crucified with Christ and I am not longer able to live without Christ in my life. Every aspect of my life needs to reflect and be touched by Jesus.Many times as true believers we accept Jesus as our Savior but our lives do not reflect or show imprints that we were changed by our interaction with Jesus. The early disciples and many martyrs since were marked by their relationship with God. They would not turn their back or faith on God even through desperate and horrible experiences. We should be different than our culture because of our relationship with Jesus….because we are living for God.
  2. Secondly, Edwards reminds us in resolution 2 that even “if no one else does I will.” No matter what we live for God. We will take the tough stand and not be swayed by a culture that seems to have lost its moral standards, its understanding of tolerance, and one no longer upholds values based on the Bible. Ryan Stevenson in his song entitled No Holding Back says “I don’t want anything to come in between You and I. I am holding nothing back from you.” I pray that you will join with me in that prayer for this year. That we would not let anything get in between our relationship with Jesus.

So can you say with Jonathan Edwards and me this year Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will?

Answer in the comments

Do you make New Years Resolutions? Do you keep them?