Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Week and Student Ministry

As youth workers we have a deep hope that students will still be following, loving and serving Jesus long after they leave high school.

A big part of them continuing their faith into adulthood is including them in intergenerational opportunities in our children's and student ministries.  High school students attending and participating in intergenerational worship is particularly important for their faith in the future.

Here's a question... 

How are you promoting your church's Holy Week gatherings to your students?  

Are your students in any way involved in the leadership of those gatherings?

Sometimes we push our student ministry activities but forget about the intergenerational gatherings that may impact them the most.  With all the beauty, depth and symbolism that is naturally included in Maundy Thursday services and Good Friday gatherings there's no doubt students could be deeply impacted.  

It's not too late to encourage them to participate.

Are you doing anything to encourage their participation?

Does your worship team / pastor recognize there will be kids in the room?

What about creative ideas to encourage their involvement?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Surveys for Student Ministry Assessment

If you work with students you know what it's like.  You're planning, preparing, hanging out with that hurting student or sitting in some kind of staff meeting (we all love those staff meetings).

Sometimes we run so fast we really have no idea how people are being served overall.

In my home church student ministry we're in a serious posture of listening and learning.  To learn more about the why and what of our assessment process you can read last Wednesday's student ministry post.

Part of our assessment process is sending and analyzing surveys.  Last week a few of you asked if I could share some samples of those surveys.

I was hesitant BUT what the heck.

As you look through the surveys please remember a couple of things...

1.  We're not experts at creating and analyzing surveys.

To be honest we have no idea what we're doing.  

Did you know there is actually a science to doing this kind of thing?  If you can find someone to help you think through how to ask the questions to get the information you need please take full advantage of that person's expertise.

Here are the broad questions we're trying to find answers too.
  • Are people in our ministry being cared for generally?
  • Do leaders and students feel connected?
  • How are people feeling overall about the student ministry?
  • Are we effective in communicating?
There is other information we wanted but these were the major themes.

2.  Obviously, these questions are for our ministry context.

They're very specific to IBC and the people we serve.

So, here are some samples to consider.  Take the ideas and use what you can to listen and learn from your ministry context.

As you move ahead here are some warnings.  

If you send and receive surveys make sure you have thick skin and receive the information in a way that brings life and growth to your ministry.  Sometimes the truth can hurt but if that truth results in serving kids and families more effectively it's worth it.

Warning number 2 - Student ministry isn't a democratic process.  The purpose of our surveys isn't to let people vote on their preferences, it's to discover how we can more effectively build a relational ministry that results in the life change of students, families and our volunteer leaders.

Whatever you do don't get defensive and try to figure out who said what.  A defensive non-teachable posture will result in the opposite of what you're hoping to accomplish.

So there you go, let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What's Really Going On In Your Ministry? - Stop, Look and Listen

Over the next 3 weeks we're in a time of heavy assessment of our student ministry.

Every once in a while it's important to push the pause button and take an honest look at what's going on.

Do you really know what's going on in your ministry?  

Do your adult leaders feel served or are they burned out?

Are your parents receiving the information they need to feel their kids are safe?

Is all the time and effort you're putting into planning and prepping effective in helping your students grow spiritually?

Listen, what you don't know doesn't help you.  Sometimes we're like the child who plays hide and seek not by hiding but by covering their eyes.  They're not really hiding, the're just simply not looking.

It's possible to lead ministry, invest in a few kids, experience a couple of great "God stories" and still have a ministry that's suffering from poor morale and lack of effectiveness.

How could we not know?

Well, we don't ask.  Sometimes we simply don't take the time to raise our heads above the clouds and look around.  And let's be honest, sometimes it's easier not to know.

Every effective youth worker I know stepped into youth ministry to see kids come to Christ, grow in Christ and change the world for Christ. (or something like that)  That's the grand goal.  It's so easy to be busy running a ministry without stopping to ask the question, "is there fruit"?

The assessment period

Spring is a great time to take the temperature of your ministry.  As you listen and learn you have time to implement change before next fall.  Here are a couple things we're doing in our ministry context.


Over the next week we're creating and sending out 5 surveys.  I've found survey monkey is easy and cheap.  We're sending them to...

Small group leaders
High School students
Parents of high schoolers
Middle School students
Parents of middle schoolers

Surveys are not the end all but they do give valuable information.  For example, what night are high school students most available?  We all have the programming piece we believe requires prime time.  Are your high school students more available on Wednesday night or Sunday night?  Have you asked them?

Do your parents feel your partnering with them or competing with them?  Have you asked them?

Again, what you don't know doesn't help you.  By carefully asking questions you discover reality but also learn of perception and how people feel.

And by the way, it's almost always a good thing for the people we serve to feel heard.  By asking for their opinion you're showing them you care about them.


During this period we're also having conversations with key leaders.  Key leaders include volunteers, students and parents.  This should be happening all the time but sometimes it's good to have an excuse and say to someone, "we're in a listen and learn season right now".  Having a set season where your giving special attention to listening and learning is important.

It's amazing what people will tell you when you ask them.

Eyes On

We're asking people who don't typically attend ministry programming to show up and watch.  We simply want to know what they see and experience.

I can hear it now, "no one knows my ministry better than me".  Well, maybe.  If you're at your programming all the time you have the curse of knowledge.  Often you're too close to the situation to see what you really need to see.

Take the risk of allowing extra eyes and ears.  You may learn something.


I generally pay very little attention to attendance numbers, but during a season of assessment it may important to take a look.  Knowing how many doesn't tell you everything but it can tell you some things.  If the information is available now is the time to take a look to see what you learn.

For example, if you're ministry is driven by small group relationships it would be important to know kids are in small groups.  If 3000 are coming to your middle school worship event but 23 are in small groups there's a problem.  If you value high school students attending the main worship service wouldn't want to know if only 25% were consistently attending?


Finally, at the end of 2 or 3 weeks we'll sit down with all we learn.  It could be we discover we are the perfect student ministry and there is no need to change anything.  (ha)  Or it could be we simply need to adjust how we communicate.

My guess is that we'll find some areas in need of attention.

Final Cautions

Make sure you and your team have a teachable spirit.

We've tried to create an ethos of coaching and teachability.  This exist from staff all the way to adult volunteers.  Hearing people's opinions about our life's work is going to test this ethos.

Keep a positive tone

Just because your asking questions doesn't mean things are bad.  In fact, it's better to do an assessment before things are negative.  Language like, "we want to be as effective as possible" instead of, "the sky is falling" will serve you well.

Don't make promises

Try not to give the impression that someones's opinion = change.  If 75% of your middle schoolers want a lock in every other weekend you're probably not going to do that.

Don't promise change, just use this time to listen.

Remember the individual

At the end of the day ministry is about 1 kid.  The whole reason we're doing the assessment is to make sure we're doing everything within our ability to reach, connect and deepen that 1 kid.  If you have 500 in your ministry it's still a ministry of individual hearts.  Are they connected?

As a fellow youthworker allow me to encourage you.

Stop, look and listen.

It's hard work to discover what you don't know but taking the time to listen and adjust will result in greater impact on the Kingdom for His glory.  It's worth it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Get Away With Your Team

I'm going to be honest, my first choice was to get away at a lake house or somewhere far away where our student ministry team could pray, play and perhaps even build a campfire.  Heck, maybe we could have joined together in a incredible rendition of Kum Ba Yay.  Who knows?

It wasn't going to happen.  Each of us have been traveling and are incredibly busy.  You know, that whole things where you try to balance life, school, family and ministry?  It's a challenge.

It was a priority to get away to dream and pray but how?  Where could we find the time and energy?

We came up with a solution.  Instead of escaping for 24 hours we decided on an in town retreat.  Our time was incredible.  We didn't accomplish all we would have by getting out of town but for us it was just what the doctor ordered.

Here are some thoughts to consider...

Get Away From Your Usual Meeting Space

We all need a change of scenery.  Whether its simply someone's home or a back room at a restaurant, it's important to find a spot that says, "hey, this is different than your weekly staff meeting".  We would not have accomplished what we needed without finding a cool spot in downtown Dallas.

Pray Together

The first 90 minutes of our time was spent sharing what's going on in our lives.  As each of us shared we were tempted to share ministry needs but we tried to keep our discussion about what was going on in each person's personal life.  As a team we're pretty close to one another, but when given the time and space to share it was amazing to hear what's going on in each person's life.

Talk About "30,000 Foot" Issues

Avoid the temptation of getting into the details.  You have your regular weekly meeting for that.

Our time was dominated by 2 issues.  How are we doing with our students who are in our deepest discipleship groups and how are we doing at our entry points for new students.  In other words we assessed and dreamed about the "bookends" of our ministry.  Sure, there was so much more we could have discussed but we worked hard at keeping our discussion at the dream / visionary level.

Eat Great Food

After spending 3 1/2 hours at our meeting space we headed to a close by restaurant and had some delicious food.  Yes, we spent some money but think about all the money we saved by not going out of town?  We laughed, shared stories and connected in significant ways.

Follow Up

This is where the challenge comes is.  When you dream about "30,000 foot" issues it's sometimes difficult to implement those ideas.  Right now our team is in between the dreaming and the doing.  We've dedicated an hour of our weekly meeting this upcoming week to think through what we spoke about at our half day get away.

Getting away for a half day is relatively inexpensive but effective.  Spring is a great time to take your team and dream because you have time to wisely implement change by fall.

By the way, if you don't have a paid staff team don't fret.  These half day settings work perfectly for key volunteers who would love to dream with you.

When are you getting away?