Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Make Church Work More Fun – #3 Laugh!

March 27, 2011 1 comment

Does the church take itself to seriously?  Yes.  Do we take our jobs to seriously? Yes.  Don’t get me wrong we are in the Kingdom business and our work is eternally important.  Of course, we are God’s instruments and sometimes I think we play funny notes.  When we do, we should laugh.

This is the third post in the series 5 Things to Make Church Work More Fun .  Laughter is contagious!  It is good for the soul.  It is good for community.  It deepens relationships.  Think about how often when you get together with old friends you think back and share stories about funny events.

Working for the church would be more fun if we would laugh at ourselves and together.  Youth Ministers can bring this gift to the staff by sharing funny things that happened in the youth ministry, something that happened during worship, etc.  Don’t share things to bring others down, share them to help folks be a little less serious and a little more joyful.

Our staff is still talking about the story I shared after Ash Wednesday service about the 2 1/2 year old who wanted a butterfly not a cross.  See if you can convince the boss that sharing these stories together should be a regular part of your life together as a staff.  Its hard to be in a fight when you are laughing about something!

Really stuffy staff, maybe you can break the ice by using a cartoon from Inherit the Mirth.  You can find a new cartoon each week on


Make Church Work More Fun – #1 Give them a Brick

March 24, 2011 8 comments

My wife used to work in the marketing department for a large construction company.  This company did a great job of celebrating and affirming people and therefore people liked working there!  The church on the other hand stinks at celebration and affirmation of staff and volunteers.  I am regularly appalled at how we treat people who have given years of there lives in service to the church when they retire or leave the staff.  We do not publicly affirm volunteers who gave tirelessly in efforts to do incredible things for the kingdom.

So how can we create an environment of celebration?  Well, here is what the construction company did.  Anytime, you felt someone had done outstanding work, gone the extra mile, or had surprising results, you gave them a brick.  It was a virtual brick that you sent by email affirming that persons work, but everyone in the company got a copy of it so that all could affirm them.  One of the staff members kept track of the number of bricks someone earned and they could be turned in for gift certificates to go to lunch extra.  I must say that I loved it.  It created the space for people to affirm each other and celebrate success and rewarded them for it.

Why don’t we celebrate and affirm each other more in the church?  We have not created an environment of affirmation and celebration.  Youth ministers can make working at the church more fun by doing this!  There is no reason that you can’t send out an email letting affirming and celebrating others.  You may be able to talk your pastor into making it some kind of official celebration thing like the bricks.  One pastor, I worked for went for giving them a “hand.”  You sent an email out when you wanted to give someone a “hand” for doing a great job.  It was cheesy, but worked.  It encouraged everyone to get out of their silos and take notice of what each other was doing.

Take the responsibility for building into your staff meetings a time of celebration.  By celebrating others, you will be affirming their call and hard work.  You might even get affirmed and celebrated in return.

What are other ways of creating celebration and affirmation on church staffs?

5 Things to make working at church fun!

March 24, 2011 3 comments

One of my firm beliefs is that youth ministers have an important task on church staffs … making working at the church fun!  Working at a church can be difficult especially when the staff does not have fun and celebrate.  For whatever reason, these things do not come easy to  churches.  We help others worship God on Sunday and then we turn church into a job instead of a vocation on Monday.

If you are a youth worker, then no matter what your age you still have enough youthful exuberance in you to be a leader and bring joy to your staff.  I’ve found that when you do all these things you earn the trust of the staff and church leaders.  If you focus to much on one area, then you can be labeled the church clown; but with perseverance they will join you in these things and find greater joy in their work and your community.

Over the next few days I’m going to give examples and unpack these things, but here’s the 5 things to get you thinking.

  1. Celebrate
  2. Play Together
  3. Laugh
  4. Share Stories
  5. Worship Together

I posted #1 – Celebrate Give them a Brick today to get you started.  Tomorrow’s post – #2 Bowling and Got Cha!

When and how does your staff do these things together?

Don’t Lose Your Life to Youth Ministry

March 15, 2011 4 comments

My Problem

I can remember counting every hour I worked my first two years in youth ministry to justify a raise.  I don’t remember the exact number, but I went to the personnel committee averaging somewhere around 65 hours per week.  How in the world did I average 65 hours?  Well, I counted the 40-50 that I put in working 5 1/2 days a week.  Then, there were the trips, retreats, lock-in’s, 30 Hour Famine’s, etc.  I would count every hour – all 24 – when on a trip or retreat.  I justified it by saying if something happened in the middle of the night I was responsible and had to deal with it.  Makes sense right?

Wrong.  Sleeping (even if only for a few hours because kids are up half the night) does not constitute a work hour.  Although I did have some interesting part-time jobs where I did get paid to sleep (even if I wasn’t supposed to).  But the argument, I was trying to make did have validity not about a raise, but about how much I was working. Unfortunately, I was working at a church at that time that did not recognize either the need for a raise or that i was overworking myself.

But what do you do when you work all week and then go on a 3-day retreat and are expected to be at a Monday morning meeting? I was headed toward mental and physical burnout and being young and single was not a good excuse.

National Problem

The national burnout rate in youth ministry is 3.9 years! Youth Ministers called by God leave the church to sell insurance primarily because working in the church is too hard.  There are a multitude of reasons for this including lack of training and support, pay, and yes long hours.  The church is responsible for a lot of these conditions, but some of them we have control over and must take responsibility for ourselves.

It’s not  Jesus’ fault either, I don’t think he intended for us to “lose our life” the way so many of us take it.  Yes, give everything in our life to Jesus but that does not mean excluding parts of our life – family, friends, etc. – for ministry.  We should give those pieces of our life to Christ as well.  We have more responsibilities in this life than our job.

Avoiding Burnout

Here are 3 not-so-easy steps to avoid burnout. They are not-so-easy because youth ministers are prone to having savior complexes that lead to overworking.  Some friendly advice from someone who still is learning to do these things.  Get over yourself, and get a life!

Manage Your Time or It will Manage you

The Center for Youth Ministry Training supervises lots of young youth workers. One of the components of the program is that each graduate resident receives a veteran youth minister who walks with them during the 3 years of our program.  One of the key ingredients to the coaching program is time management.  If you don’t learn to set boundaries around your time, your time will manage you and you will lose your life to the church.

It is important for you to learn that you can not do it all.  There will always be more to do.  Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you can take a day off or a vacation when you get it all done.  You will be more productive at your job if you are rested and physically and mentally healthy.    Find a time management program that works for you.  CYMT uses the rhythmic week with our students which forces them to find one full day (3-4 hour blocks) during the week that is down time.  The blocks can move around during the week, but they can not go away!

Friends are people who KNOW you!

Another problem that ministers and youth ministers have in common is that we have no friends.  We have a lot of acquaintances.  Parents of youth, volunteers, church members, other staff can all be surface level relationships.  But do you have true friends?  People who know what’s going on in your life.  If you don’t, then you without a doubt feel lonely.  Who are you in a relationship with that loves and accepts you for who your are?  If you are going to make it in ministry and have a life, you are going to need people like this in your life.  If you aren’t managing your time, then you won’t have time to invest in relationships to have friends.  You don’t have enough time in this life to not have friends!

Exercise makes us feel better!

It’s just true.  Your body feels better when you exercise.  Run, walk, chase a ball, throw a frisbee, dance, hike, or climb!  I don’t care but your body does and you will be a better minister for it.  Again, no time to exercise means bad time management.  In this case, your life actually depends on it.

This blog is as much to me as it is to you!  I’m trying cycling as a physical outlet right now.  I’m trying to avoid working at home at night.  I want to be present with my kids and wife.

What have you found that helps you not lose your life?

I’m migrating this blog to  I hope you will join me there!

Importance of Balcony Time in Youth Ministry

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I used to coach soccer and one of the most valuable teaching tools I would use would be video of our games that was shot from the top of a stadium.  This video was valuable because you could see the whole field.  I would teach our videographers to only pan from one half of the field to the other.  They always wanted to be ESPN cameramen and zoom in.  But what I wanted was video that would show my players, the whole field.  When they are playing in the game they could only see parts of the field, they could not see how all the parts were working together and how to adjust the parts so that we could be more successful.

Mark DeVries taught me the power of this idea in youth ministry.  He likes to call it balcony time.  Balcony time is a chance to pull back from the immediate needs of ministry and to go into the balcony and watch what is going on.  Balcony time can happen literally by taking a week to allow others to carry the responsibility and watching your ministry happen with a critical eye for how things work or do not work together.  Were new students welcomed?  Did we start on time?  Was the band ready?  Was the game prepared?

Balcony time can also happen figuratively as a youth minister finds time and space to reflect on all the parts of the ministry and evaluate the health of each part and how they are working together.

Offensive and Defensive Coordinators on football teams bring balcony time and ministry time together into strategic planning on the fly.  Many coordinators work from the booths high above the stadium so that they can watch how plays are developing and see the whole field.  They communicate with assistants who are on the field relaying the information to the players.  Other coordinators like to be on the sidelines where they can directly communicate with the players, but they have trusted assistants in the booths who relay what they see.

Unfortunately in youth ministry we often plan on-the-fly, but without the insight of what is happening in the balcony.  We get narrow-sighted by what we are experiencing on the field.  We can not see all the parts and how they are affecting each other and make on-the-fly decisions under informed decisions.

I encourage all of us to take time each month (an hour to 1/2 a day is plenty) to get in the balcony and pay attention to how everything is working together, to use that time to strategically think about how we can improve our communication, our response, our ministry so that we offer our best.

Here are some questions that you might use to guide your reflection:

  • Where are we having the most success (as you choose to define it)?
  • What area of the ministry causes me (us) the most anxiety? Why?
  • What are the challenges facing each area of the ministry?
  • Where am I spending too much time?  Not enough?
  • What volunteers are ready for more responsibility?
  • What areas are under resourced – $, time, volunteers?
  • What am I doing that someone else could do?
  • Are we accomplishing our mission?  Does each program help accomplish the mission?
  • How well are we connecting the youth ministry to the church body?
  • How are our transition points – children’s ministry to junior high to senior high to? Others?

Make actionable steps that you can begin to put into place.  Be sure to take it one step at a time!  From time to time be sure to get feedback from your team about balcony issues.  They may see things that you missed.

Growing together question? How has balcony time impacted your ministry?  What advice would you add?

My blog is gradually moving to I hope you’ll join me there.

2nd Chair Leadership

March 9, 2011 1 comment

Today, Andrew Zirscky (ymprof) and I have a conversation about what 2nd Chair leadership looks like in the local church.  As youth ministers, we are always 2nd chair leaders.  Listen in as Andrew asks me questions about how to navigate these relationships.

Some things for you to think about:

  • How well do you know your senior pastor or boss?
  • How well do they know you?
  • Do they know what’s happening in the youth ministry?  If not, have you told them about it?
  • Does your vision align with the church’s vision and your pastors vision?

As you grow as a youth minister, your ability to be a 2nd Chair leader is key to your success.

Categories: Leadership, Youth Ministry

Why Churchy work is Hard!

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The Center for Youth Ministry Training is in the process of building a collaborative relationship with a business.  My friend who owns the business has commented through the process about how hard it is to work with churches or churchy organizations.  If you work in a church or a churchy business, you know that he is right; but why…

The main challenge of churches is answering the questions who is in charge.  Is it the pastor?  Is it the church council?  Is it the person in the church with the most money?  Or could it possibly be God?  At CYMT, we have worked with over 30 churches and we find that every congregation is different.

As good American’s, we make ridiculous claims by trying to make God’s church out church.  It’s our parking spot, our pew, and our worship service.  We think more highly of our opinions than we do of God’s, when it comes to worship style, decorations, and the length of the pastoral prayer.

Our pastor should preach to us – not to much challenge that might make us uncomfortable, not to many jokes, not just a story teller, and not to much Bible.  Don’t even think about singing a new song, using a guitar, or using a screen;  but if you have these things, then don’t play the organ or have a liturgical moment cause our church doesn’t do that.

Churches are made up of broken people.  We put financial people on the finance committee because that seems to make sense but then the churches finances become logical and when was Jesus ever logical?  We put lawyers on administrative boards because that makes sense, but how many risky lawyers have you ever met?  We put them their to help keep us safe, but since when is following Christ safe?  We elect politicians of all types to be on ever type of committee in the church so that we can spend all of our time arguing over what should be done instead of doing anything.

Our second problem is that every three or so years we rotate the leadership.  Folks can’t wait to get off the stewardship team or the personnel committee.  If you can’t get something passed, just wait a third to half of the committee will change the next year and will not know anything about your idea.  Therefore, we are visionally challenged because those who cast a long term vision rarely get to carry it out and thus vision drift happens unintentionally.

I am blessed at CYMT to have an amazing board of people who are entrusted with its mission and vision.  I am the Executive Director and my job is to bring that mission and vision to fruition.  We certainly have our churchy moments.  One of our challenges as a board is how to catch members up on all the decisions that have been made in the past.  But we still are a group of good hearted people challenged to lead our ministry forward faithfully.

So what makes the difference?  TIME builds TRUST!

First, the church has got to find ways to allow people to serve as leaders longer.  Just about the time folks figure out what their committee or team is supposed to do, they move to another committee.  If we look around at business and sports models, we’ll notice that the amount of time a group spends together is directly related to their success.  Sometimes, we see flash in the pan ministry moments; but if they sustain themselves time becomes a key ingredient.  How can we build time into our leadership models?

Second, trust is essential.  Time and trust are related.  Time allows for stronger relationships that lead to trust.  My board must trust me to lead our ministry.  If they do not, we will most definitely not move forward and will probably move backward.  Trust is earned over time as a leader has the opportunity to repeatedly demonstrate their commitment to the mission and vision.

Business’ measure risk vs potential quickly.  They are designed to do so because only a few hold the decision making power.  There is no question who is in charge.  Churchy organizations have more people who must understand the risk vs. potential.  They tend to do this slowly and often miss opportunity because of their inability to respond quickly.

As a leader of a church or ministry, you must be attentive to developing your leaders over time and establishing relationships of trust.  The stronger the bond of trust the more responsive your team, committee, or board will be when an opportunity comes along or when it is time to expand the vision.  The more time your folks have spent with the mission and vision or your church or organization the greater their ability to see opportunity.

Finally, a weakness and a strength of churchy organizations is that after they have made a decision they will stick with it to a fault.  They rarely evaluate decisions and they usually only change directions when primary leadership changes (if they disagree with previous direction).

So, establish a leadership group that develops trust over time and lead your church or ministry faithfully into the future and please don’t forget to include God in your decisions.

What else do you find hard about Churchy work?