Thursday, January 31, 2013

My New Month's Resolutions

Ok, I realize it's January 31st.  I'm going to use the end of this month going into February as an excuse to adjust a couple things in my life.  (well, by God's grace)

My January schedule has felt frantic.  To be honest, I feel like my schedule dominated me and I haven't lived as well as I could.

So here is my hope for February, just 2 things.

Walk A Little More Slowly

This is literal and figurative.  When things start moving super fast we tend to rush by what's right in front of us.  I long to find God in the midst of the journey not just in the destination.  By walking (and living) a little more slowly perhaps I'll see and respond better to what's right in front of me.

Schedule A Little More Wisely

Simple things like not scheduling meetings back to back to back.  Placing margin in the day will give opportunity to be on time, but also provide a little space to think and reflect.

How has your January been?  SHOULD you have a couple new month's resolutions?

Take a few minutes to reflect on your January.  Remember, small adjustments can have great impact.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Student Advisory Team - Shut Up And Listen

Imagine a student ministry where the students are more excited about what's going on than you.

They, the students, are pushing others to attend the weekend retreat because they're so excited about what God might do.  Students are approaching you about potential opportunities for them to serve the hurting.  Students are actually dreaming of ways to build relationships with their friends for the purpose of sharing Jesus.

God seems to do a unique work in the heart of students when students feel a sense of authentic ownership.  One way to tap into students wisdom is by creating a student advisory team.  Last week we talked about the why and how to create a sat, Student Advisory Team - Ownership and Influence, this week we're discussing ideas of how you might lead them.

Every gathering with your sat should include prayer and some kind of interactive discussion on humility or servant leadership.  Part of the beauty of having these student leaders together is you get to speak to their hearts about true servant leadership.  As you're pouring into them and helping them learn what it means to serve like Jesus, you're also asking them for advice and input.

Here are 4 areas to get you started.

1.  General Ministry Assessment

It's always fun and helpful to take students through some kind of "SW0T" analysis.  Although it's sometimes difficult for them to think that globally this is a good exercise for them at the beginning or end of a school year.

2.  Specific Ministry Input

Last Sunday I sat in on our high school ministry's sat meeting.  Our high school pastor asked how they felt about the current teaching series we're leading.  The input was golden.  They said the teaching was great but wasn't so good for their unchurched friends.  That was so important for us to hear seeing that our Wednesday night programming is designed for our students AND their friends.

3.  Planning Student Led Events

I love to get a group of students in a room and tell them they're responsible for the heart behind an event.  Asking them questions about the felt needs of their friends and how we might speak to those needs at a particular retreat or student led night of worship always yields great insight.  Last fall our sat did an incredible job thinking through the felt needs of their friends and how we might apply the gospel.  Then they developed a prayer strategy for our entire highs school ministry leading up to the event.  Yes, they gave great input but also felt great ownership.

4.  Asking About Morale

As youth pastors we typically have a sense of general morale.  How are students doing?  Do they feel like the student ministry has unity?  There have been times I'm so far off.  If your student advisory team is diverse enough you can get a true feel of unity and how students are generally doing within your ministry context.  By the way, students hear things we will never hear.

When asking for input it's so important to listen.  I mean REALLY listen.  This is a challenge for those of us who lead by speaking.  It's important that students not only feel heard but are truly heard.

There are so many other topics to discuss with students within the student advisory context.  What have you done that's been helpful or what would you add to the list.

I'm all ears.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Student Advisory Team - Ownership and Influence

One of the challenges of student ministry is helping students feel genuine ownership in the ministry.  For far too long student ministries have asked students to sit on the bench and watch while the "grown ups" play the game of ministry.  It's no wonder they feel little to no ownership.

The reality is students have so much to offer.  They are uniquely gifted by God and are in a position to give great guidance to the direction of ministry.  As youth leaders we are called to "equip them for service".  

Wisely and carefully developing a student advisory team is one way to gain perspective and give students real ownership in the ministry.

The student advisory team is a carefully selected medium sized group of students (no more than 16) who provide perspective and advice to ministry leaders.  The SAT doesn't have authority to make decisions but they do have tons of influence.  

4 reasons you must have an SAT...

  1. Students have a better sense of what's going on in the hearts and minds of their friends than we do.  Many times we make ministry choices in the dark without being aware of what students think.  It's easy to ASSUME things. (you know what that does)  By having a group of trusted students you can learn so much about the morale of the ministry and the genuine and felt needs of students.
  2. It models teachability and humility.  By asking students for advice you're admitting you don't know everything and have a heart to learn and grow.  If their is one thing many students are lacking it's teachability.  And by the way, sometimes it's better caught then taught.
  3. It gives students great ownership in the ministry.  When students offer advice and the ministry moves in that direction all of a sudden the ministry belongs to everyone in the decision making process.  The feel like it's their's because it actually is.
  4. When asking the SAT for advice you're affirming the work and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in their individual lives.  This can go a long way in encouraging them in their ministry to friends or whatever God is calling them to do.
So, how do you select the right students for your SAT without showing favoritism?  

This is a huge challenge.  There are many ways to do this but here's a method I've used for years.  I believe it battles favoritism but also helps assure the right students are on the team.  It involves student nomination then staff selection.

Student Nomination

The first step is to allow students from each individual class (freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior) to nominate.  We create a nomination sheet that explains the characteristics of a SAT member.  It's so important that you explain to students that this isn't a popularity contest but a careful process to discover students in our ministry that are pursuing God and engaged in the student ministry.  This is also a way for EVERY students to have influence on who is on the advisory team.

After all the sheets are collected we ask someone from our staff team to tally the nominations and provide the staff team with a list.  For example, for the freshman class nominees we would see a list of 4 girls and 4 guys.  This would be the 4 girls and guys who received the most nominations from their class mates.  At this point it doesn't matter which student had the most nominations in fact it's better if the staff team doesn't know.  It's just a list of 4 girls and 4 guys.

Staff Selection

At this point the team will select the 2 of the 4 girls and 2 of the 4 guys they feel will be the best fit on the team.  A lot goes into this decision.  First of all, character is priority.  The wisdom your SAT gives must be spiritual in nature so you want your SAT members to have a growing relationship with Jesus.  You also need to think about diversity.  It's important to have voices from different schools, different family situations and if possible different ethnic background.  Prayerful consideration must be given as you seek the wisdom of God.

In our ministry we have 16 slots on the SAT.  If you have a smaller ministry you may want to go with 8.  Whatever the case, how you choose to select the students balancing having the right students while avoiding favoritism is key.  

Whew, that feels like a lot.  So what are you waiting for?  Begin praying and thinking today about how you can develop your student advisory team.  It's so worth the time and effort.

Next week we'll talk about what you do with your SAT once you have it.  The possibilities are incredible.

Other Posts About Student Leadership

By the way, please chime in.  I'm all ears.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Integrity - Has It Always Been This Way?

The Lance Armstrong interviews have me thinking.

Is lack of integrity in leaders / role models a relatively recent (40 - 50 year old) issue or has there always been lack of integrity?  Perhaps we know more stories of scandal because of modern technology and 24 hour media.

Although I was too young to pay attention it seems the first 70 years of the last century provided people  of influence who had reasonable integrity and the last 50 years have seen and increase in lying and public acceptance of it.

I'm no historian, but it seems things started to shift with the impeachment of Nixon and the debacle that was the Vietnam conflict.  You could add other examples but I remember in the 80's when Jim Bakker was exposed and public opinion began to shift about religious leaders.  Who can forget Jimmy Swaggart?  Later we had Robert Tilton and more recently Ted Haggard and the Catholic pedophile cases.  We all have stories that are less public about religious leaders stepping into scandal.

Here's the question; is this a new issue or do we know more because of the media age?

I remember what happened in the mid 90's when Clinton said under oath "I never had sexual relations with that woman".  Even with unbelievable abuse of power, lack of integrity and the objectifying of women, Clinton seemed to get a pass.  And yes, last year he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention which received glowing reviews.  Shocking when you think about it.

Sports is no exception.  Ben Johnson, Jose Canseco, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong and many others have been caught cheating.

With more research we could list hundreds of scandals and breaches of integrity from the last 50 years.

So what say you?  Does the culture of recent history have less integrity or is it simply easier to discover and report?

If our culture has shifted what does that say about us?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lance, Manti and Me - What About Personal Integrity?


  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. The state of being whole and undivided: "territorial integrity".
honesty - probity - entirety - rectitude - wholeness

It's been a rough few days for my sports heroes.  I've been a cycling fan since the late '90's and a Notre Dame fan since the late '80's.

During the Lance Armstrong era I didn't miss a single significant stage in the Tour De France and loved the sport so much I began to race road bikes myself.  I cheered Lance on and loved the fact that he destroyed his competition.  (who can forget the "look" in 2000?)  Although I never respected his personal life you could say I was a huge fan of Lance Armstrong as a cyclist.  There's actually have a huge poster in my office of Lance at the Tour of Georgia.  Watching the Oprah interview last night was sad but not surprising.

This season for Notre Dame has been magical.  I've seen every play at least twice and relished a season initially believed by most would leave Notre Dame with at least 3 losses.  Although the Irish were crushed by the Tide in the national championship game this season will be remembered positively for a long time.  With a top 5 recruiting class and stout defense Notre Dame truly is "back".  Much of the success for Notre Dame this season can be attributed to the play and perceived leadership of Manti Te'o.

The last few days have been interesting, confusing and sad.  From Lance's admission of zero integrity (although not shocking) and the Manti story yet to be completed, these high profile stories paint a gloomy picture of integrity in our culture.  The stories of telling the truth or obeying the rules, even if it hurts, are becoming less and less of a norm and more of a distant memory.

So here's what I've been thinking, instead of taking this time to condemn and throw stones I've decided to take a look at my own heart.  No, I've never taken performance enhancing drugs or created an imaginary friend but I do have my own issues.  My own heart can be challenged and tempted to be untrue.

A little Lance in me.

Being naturally driven with a "do whatever it takes" attitude there can be a tendency to cut corners and push the system to the limit to get things done.  While listening to Lance I even catch myself thinking "everyone was doing it" and "Lance was just leveling the playing field".  These thoughts aren't ok.

You see, God is truth and as his follower I'm called to reflect his grace, beauty and character.  If this "do whatever it takes" attitude pushes past reasonable integrity it's basically saying God isn't big enough and needs me.  Silly isn't it?

A little Manti in me.

Ok, at this point I'm assuming Manti had at least a little awareness of the hoax and played along for publicity or because he was embarrassed.  I hope he's totally innocent and if he is forgive me.

Here's my connection.  It's possible for me to catch myself exaggerating to make myself look a little better than I am.  Sometimes it's not exaggeration but avoidance of someone seeing my weakness.  With pride always at my doorstep the desire to be loved and respected can lead to little breaches in integrity.  I'm sometimes tempted to posture myself in ways that put me in the best possible light.

Listen, Lance screwed up royally and has and will continue to face the consequences.  It's likely that Manti allowed an inspiring story that made him look good get out of hand.  He is and will continue to face the consequences.  But if you love Jesus, instead of condemning perhaps you should feel compassion.  Instead of throwing stones perhaps we should use stories like Lance's and Manti's as an opportunity to look at our own personal integrity.  The church and it's leaders have enough Lance and Manti stories to tell for years to come.

We have no right to condemn until we look into our own hearts and if we look at our own hearts my guess is we won't be as condemning.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Youthworkers, We're Better Together - 3 Themes

"We're better together" has been the slogan for the National Network of Youth Ministries for years.

Their heart is pretty simple, gather youthworkers (adults who love students) together in a local area for prayer, relationship, developing strategy and sharing resources.

The National Network exist to help youthworkers start and deepen local networks.  If you care about kids and want to work together to reach and deepen them, someone from the NNYM staff would love to connect with you or you can check their web site for helpful information.

Getting Started

I have the privilege of serving on an advisory council for NNYM and just returned from our annual gathering in San Diego.  The men and women on the ministry council are passionate about Jesus and the youth of our country.  Spending time with ministry leaders from around the country is always personally encouraging and challenging.  I grow as a leader when around great leadership and for that I'm grateful.

Of course I was challenged personally, but this year there were 3 themes I took away as it relates to student ministry nationally and the necessity for local networks.

We've lost our evangelistic edge

Ok, not everyone has, but it seems the drive to reach out to students on the middle school and high school campus has diminished.  Personally I believe the best way to reach students far from God is to equip and inspire students who are close to God.  As youth workers maybe we need to pull together and dream of how we can work together to see the gospel shared in word and deed.

Prayer is essential.

I heard someone say that prayerlessness is proclamation that we don't need God.  We all know prayer is essential but do we make it priority?  What might God do if we cried out to him on behalf of our students, schools and community?  If youthworkers gathered in your area for no other reason than prayer that would be extraordinary.

Unity is important to Jesus

Jesus prayed for the unity of his people, that we may be one and he and the Father are one.  I'm not sure what that may mean for you in your context but there really is no place for church or ministry competition.  You battle and defeat ministry competition with relationship.  Do you have it?

Recently several churches in our area gathered for worship.  One of my favorite outcomes was the simple fact that students from my church saw me caring for and hanging with youthworkers from other churches.  Who knows, maybe that night was a part of Jesus' prayer being answered.

Let me ask, are you in consistent relationship with other youthworkers in your area?  I know you're busy and have so many parents and students to serve, but if you long to see the gospel go forth and transform the lives of students outside church walls in your area it just makes sense to connect with other adults who love Jesus and kids.  And by the way, other youthworkers need you.  (who knows, you may need them as well)

Maybe there's already a group meeting, if not create one, for the glory of God and the good of students.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dear Parents... A Note To Cast Vision

Dear Parents of Children,

The heart of the Next Generations ministry at IBC is to “declare God’s greatness to the next generation, his might to all who are to come”. (Psalm 71:8)

This includes all ministries to children, students, families and young adults. Our desire is to see children and youth equipped to not only meet the challenges of today but to become world changers as they grow to maturity. As an older generation we share with them the greatness and might of God so they may pass His story to those who come behind them.

It’s exciting to have a staff team working together to look at the big picture, from preschool to launching young people into young adulthood those involved in next gen ministry are working together to serve you and your children on this journey.

What does this mean for you as parents? First of all, there is actually a spiritual formation plan in place. From birth to 5th grade, the children ministry staff carefully thinks through spiritual formation of children. As a church we are committed to partnering with you, the parent, to provide reinforced support in seeing your child grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

What does that mean specifically?

1. We’re committed to partnering with you the parent to teach children the “who” and “what” of Biblical truth.
As children are being prepared for middle school and beyond it’s important they begin to understand the simple and profound truth of who God is. It’s important they have an understanding of the big themes of scripture as well as the simple but life giving truth of the gospel. 

2. We’re committed to teaching in the context of relationship.
Did you know that your son or daughter sees the same adult leader every week consistently? Some of these adult volunteers continue to serve these children through middle school and high school. That happens because relationship is very important and true discipleship and spiritual formation happens most effectively in the context of relationship. 

3. We’re committed to providing principle driven support to parents
Last year parenting at IBC hosted two half-day conferences and three shorter seminars to provide principle based equipping for you the parents. To take a look at our “guiding principles” visit our Parenting at IBC page.         

As a parent, you are strategically placed by God to provide the greatest influence. My guess is most of us didn’t go to “parent school” to learn how to navigate parenthood. Parenting at IBC longs to serve you with core principles and practical tools to help you fulfill God’s calling.

Thank you so much for allowing IBC to partner with you in helping you and your children grow in Christ, connect in community and join the mission. We’re excited not only about what is happening in the lives of children today, but looking forward to seeing them continue to pursue Jesus and serve the world when they’re launched into adulthood.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Herding Cats or Team Unity? - Ministry Team Values

Ahhh, isn't it nice when a team works together in unity?  Even the most difficult challenges become bearable when you're working together.

Unity doesn't happen accidentally, you must work for it.  It's important to have clear expectations of how a team will operate.  If expectations are fuzzy then unity and performance of the team will suffer.

As you know morale and unity are crucial in any team but even more so on a ministry team.  For years my hope has been that students and parents would see our staff team as a family that should be modeled.  The way we support one another, the way we forgive one another, the way we ask for forgiveness and the way we live life together should be a positive model for all who observe.

To help protect unity for out team we've developed 6 value statements.  These words or statements remind of us of what is important to us as a team.  Trust me, having team values doesn't cure everything but it goes a long way in making sure each of us are on the same page.

As you think about common values for your team remember that ownership from the ENTIRE team is crucial.  The team values you create may be the best values ever known to man, but if they're just your values and not your team's values you will struggle to build a unified team that continues to be effective in ministry.

Here are the team values for the student ministry team where I serve.  Obviously these short statements don't fit every setting.  These are values developed by this team for a particular time and situation.  You have to think, pray and discuss your statements for your particular time and situation.  It may also be appropriate to add to or adjust your values every year based on your ethos at that particular time.

Each of our values begins with a statement of belief followed by how we behave towards one another.  Sure there are many more statements that could made but it's important to keep your list as small as possible.

Again, these are statements for how we operate as a team not ministry values, there's a big difference.


We recognize that apart from Jesus we can do nothing, therefore God dependent prayer should permeate all we do as a team.


As a team we are always seeking to improve our effectiveness as we minister.  We value an environment where we are not only open to kind critique but also seek out advice and wisdom from others.

Authentic Relationship

Trust is forged when time is spent together.  We value time where there is laughter, hard work and meaningful conversation takes us deeper in intimacy with one another.  Our desire is to model authentic community to the students we serve and the rest of the church.


Because love always protects, and always trust, we will seek to believe the best of one another knowing that we will also fail one another.  We will strive to assume the best.


If loyalty to God and truth is primary, loyalty to each other will come natural.  We value a team were each of us protect the reputation of one another, being careful how we speak of each other and those in authority over us.


We value a team that is open and honest about its struggles and failures.  Transparency and honesty leads to trust and loyalty.

As a team we don't memorize this list and quote it once a week but we do pull these out at least two times a year to remind ourselves of what's important to us as a team.  If the list is made and never referred to again you've wasted a lot of hard work in bring your team closer to unity and ministry effectiveness.

As we're reevaluating at the begin of 2013 I would love to hear about your values (or whatever you call them).  And just curious, does your team have a list similar to this?  If so, please share, if not why?