Goal Setting and Strengthening Your Leadership in 2020 (12/27)
I absolutely love the New Year. It is such a reflective space for me and I always spend some time setting goals for the New Year. I listened to this podcast last year that really helped me shape my goal setting for the next year. I plan on listening to it again for this year because it was so helpful last year. I have shared it below… If you are one of those peoples that loves growing as a leader I think this two part series is for you. They are about 20 minutes each so short, digestible and practical. Enjoy!
- Six Steps to Your Best Year of Leadership, Part 2
- Six Steps to Your Best Year of Leadership, Part 1
The line between leader and friend (12/1)
One of your goals as a youth leader is to have strong and healthy relationships with students. However, it’s important to maintain the difference between being a leader and being a friend. Problems can appear when those roles are reversed.
Most students have enough buddies in their lives and aren’t actively looking for adults to be their best friends. A friendship with a caring adult is a by-product of a relationship-based youth ministry, and it’s very important. But students need adults who are willing to lead them through life’s tough situations. Anyone can be a buddy. It’s difficult to be an adult leader in a teenager’s life.
Since the leader-friend boundary is often difficult to discern, let’s consider some differences.
A friend-first youth leader will obsess over whether students think he or she is cool. This youth leader might get overly passionate about teenage issues and side with students when they have disagreements with their parents. A friend-first youth worker might hesitate to challenge students to grow deeper in the faith.
A leader-first youth leader doesn’t care as much about being liked but is trusted and respected, asks tough questions, and looks out for the students’ best interests. While friends may emulate some of these qualities, leaders have all of these qualities. Don’t get me wrong: A leader may resemble a friend, but the big difference is that the leader knows where to draw the line.
Students need adult leaders who will give practical direction, biblical guidance, and ongoing care. While students’ reactions may be hurtful at times, they do respect an adult who provides difficult guidance in a loving way. Whether students are going through positive or difficult situations, they’re looking for adults who will give helpful direction—telling them what they need, not what they want to hear.
Teenagers also need adults to give them guidance that’s rooted in God’s Word. Communicating God’s direction is often difficult because it’s not always easy or student-friendly. But students rely on adults to bring God’s perspective into view. Friend-first youth workers do not often get beyond the surface of a situation before quickly turning to something else—something that’s not as threatening as God’s truth. Leaders need to be willing to challenge students to seek God in their daily lives. If you’re not doing it, who will?
Teenagers find plenty of fake and surface relationships; they’re looking for loving, authentic relationships. I want to challenge you to be something different than what students are used to. Seek to love students in an authentic, healthy way. Affirm them in a deeper way than their peers do.
Being an adult leader who truly loves students doesn’t mean you won’t be likeable and fun to be around. But consider being liked a bonus rather than your primary goal.
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” —1 Peter 1:22-23
Three easy things you can do this week to be a next level leader (11/11)
Leadership isn’t complicated. Sometimes it is being available and in the lives of students that makes the biggest impact. The consistent leader is so often rewarded with the trust of their students. Want to take your leadership to the next level? Here is three simple and easy practices you can do THIS WEEK to take your leadership to the next level.
Text one student and ask them how you can pray for them this week
When you text a student individually to ask them about how you can pray for them you are communicating a couple of really important truths.
-You care about them even when they are not at youth group
-You care about their spiritual life and their walk with God
-You value them so much that you are going to take the time out of your day to truly pray for them.
Text your small group about midweeks the day of and Sundays the day before
I can already hear your inner thoughts..”Of course Chad wants me to do this.” Your darn right! Let me tell you why though. I want kids in small groups and at church because I truly believe when they make the decision to come to church or a midweek a couple things happen:
-They interact with the Holy Spirit. Maybe they do not notice it but God is doing something in their life when they show up
-They are choosing to do something positive instead of something negative
-They are staying in the orbit of God’s Spirit and its way easier to make the right decision when you are entrenched in Gods ways. When a student stops showing up their faith takes a hit and God can easily become unimportant to them leading to bad decisions.
-They get sound theology on life and the Bible. I don’t want students getting all of their life advice from their peers. I want them getting some solid life advice and theology from their leaders. That can only happen when you are present in their life.
The list can go on. But heres the deal. Showing up matters. It did wonders for my faith and YOURS. So help the kids be present and show up by giving them simple reminders.
Spend time with God yourself
This is possibly the most important one. You cannot lead others to places you have never been. Do not expect your small group to go deep if you do not go deep with God on your own. Spend time with God, work it into your schedule. If you are busy, I get it, we all are. However, the busier you are, the more you need God. Start your day with God and work it into your calendar and make it a habit. Leaders are always growing while they are leading and essentially your ministry is a reflection of your life with God. You will benefit from it and you know your soul craves it. If someone says “Im so busy.” I always respond with, “Exactly, you are so busy, you need this more than ever.”
Be Available (10/24)
In life, we rarely face real emergencies, but when the time arrives, we know that through a quick dial (911) we’ll find immediate help. This same emergency principle should be true in youth ministry; it’s essential for teenagers to know that a caring adult will be there when a storm comes so they don’t have to weather it alone.
Here are a few ways to be available for teenagers (and their parents).
Being available means communicating their importance. Communicate with your students about your role in their lives. Let them know you’re happy to be there for them if they are going through something difficult. Let them know that no matter what the emergency is, you’re available to talk. I’ve found that not all students take me up on the offer, but they appreciate the fact that I’m available if the need arises.
Being available means being consistent. Show up regularly to your youth ministry times; a consistent presence communicates your priorities. And if you can, occasionally show up to teenagers’ worlds outside of youth ministry; this shows that you really care about what’s happening in their lives.
Being available means serving parents. Since there are no perfect handbooks for parenting teenagers, parents need more help than you might imagine. Often, all they need is someone who understands teenagers and is willing to listen. Let parents know they can call you and that you’ll listen and offer insight and prayer. If nothing else, you might guide a parent toward another parent with a similar situation.
Being available means setting limits. If you make yourself available, you’ll also have to establish boundaries. It’s unrealistic to be available to parents and students every moment of every day. Protect your own personal and family time; be there for students and parents when they need you, but don’t sacrifice what matters most to you.
Being available means referring. While it’s important to be available, it’s equally important that you let people know you’re not equipped to handle all situations and that you might sometimes need to call for help (such as with abuse, suicide threats, and so on). I’m fairly educated (Bible college and seminary), and yet I’m not trained to deal with all of the crises I’ve encountered in youth ministry. I’ve learned to refer to the pros.
If you find yourself in a situation that’s too major for you to handle alone, please ask for help. You’re not a failure when you do this. Actually, you’re a big help. Offer people prayer, encouragement, and support as they find the appropriate help.
The bottom line is, let parents and students know you’re available to them when they are in need. Chances are they’ll not only ask for your help once in a while but feel encouraged and supported, as well.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” —1 John 4:7
• How does a deeper relationship with God increase your ability to love students?
• How would you measure your availability to teenagers? In what ways should you be more available? What limits might you need to set?
Give Right Attention and Affection (10/07)
Whether or not you like to admit it, you probably find it easier to give affection to some students than others. That’s totally natural; some students are just easier to be affectionate with. But all students are in need of encouragement, attention, and affection. When I give a bearhug to one student and a handshake or a nod to another, I inadvertently communicate that I value one student more than the other.
As a youth leader, I’m trying to learn how to give equal levels of affection to all our students. Here are some guidelines I try to follow:
Show consistent affection. A few weeks ago, after having lunch with a group of female students, I hugged Melanie, who responded half-jokingly, “So you only hug me from the side, but you hug everyone else from the front. What’s up with that?” Thankfully, here’s where consistency brought its reward. The other teenage girls chimed in and said, “You’re crazy! Everyone knows Doug hugs from the side. He’s always done it that way.” With that, Melanie was comforted that I hadn’t shown favoritism or treated her differently.
I don’t want to be legalistic in how I show affection, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s best (for me) to be conservative in my affection and hug everyone the same way (which I choose to be a side hug). Regardless of your affection style, try to be consistent. Leaders in youth ministry are vulnerable to suspicion, and it’s not uncommon for a hug and extra attention to be misperceived. Every year I run across news stories of youth leaders who didn’t guard their relationships with appropriate affection, and it led to unhealthy relationships or even crimes.
Consistency plays a huge role in this area—if you’re showing the same type of healthy affection to all students, you’ll personally be above reproach and still make your students feel valued.
Be generous with verbal affection. It’s not uncommon for a teenager to get verbally destroyed at school, at home, or with friends. (I’ve even seen it happen at church.) Verbal encouragement is missing from the lives of many students.
You have the opportunity to be a source of affection that isn’t easily found in a teenager’s world. As an affectionate youth leader, you breathe life into students by being a source of acceptance and verbal affirmation. Your encouraging words can help communicate belonging, and it’s amazing to see what the power of a well-placed word is for a teenager.
When students associate you with inclusiveness, welcome, encouragement, and genuine affection, they’ll be more open to a relationship with Jesus.
CONNECT to God’s Word
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” —1 Corinthians 13:4-7
• In what specific ways can you live out this passage with students?
• Where are you giving appropriate, consistent attention? affection? Where aren’t you?
Presence is Leadership (9/30)
Dang….this really hits home when it comes to youth ministry. I LOVE this. Totally worth the short listen.
Deepening Group Discussion (9/24)
Having a group that hits biblical discussion every time is hard work. It takes a lot of togetherness to get to this point. It’s important to realize that spiritual conversations start thin, almost superficial, and that’s not a bad thing; it just is what it is. Getting students to discuss personal parts of their lives in a communal setting requires a safe environment among you, the leader, and their peers. Here are a few tips for deepening your conversations to get students discussing and wrestling with truth.
1. BUILD RAPPORT
You must connect with your group personally first. Before you talk about their sin, you talk about their hobbies and interests. You must know them on the surface before they’ll show you who they are underneath the surface. When you can, communicate with them and show up outside of group time. During group time, start by sharing funny stories, doing something competitive or playing a quick game.
Model what you want them to be. If you want transparency and honesty, then you have to air your dirty laundry first. If you want them to be tough guys/girls and fake about their struggles, then hide your insecurities and weaknesses, and talk about surface-level stuff. And ask them to pray for you as you pray for them.
Tired of kids fidgeting and distracting? Then give them something to fidget with. It makes sense, trust me. Have something for the kids to hold, do or engage with during conversations. ADHD runs in all of us to some degree. Sitting in a circle and talking about life is a quick way to lose their interest, so bring fingernail polish, suckers or a pen and paper for them to doodle on while they listen. Guys are notoriously bad at sitting still and talking, so consider doing something active while you have the conversation.
4. PUSH BACK
… against their answers. Don’t settle for the “right” answer; shoot for their honest answer. Follow up their answers with more questions. Ask, “Why do you think…?” and, “How does that make you feel?”
Get to the bottom of what they believe by asking more questions. Students are forming their beliefs, and more often than not, those beliefs are built off of what they heard last or what their friend told them. As a leader, you have the opportunity to positively influence these beliefs for good before they become concrete.