youth ministry

Infographic: Why Youth Ministry Must Decentralize

Infographic: Paid youth worker ratio to American 10-19 year olds

Click here to view or download full-sized version

Source: U.S. Census Data


You cannot reach 427 10-19 year olds with 1 paid youth worker. We have 40 years of data which tells us this is impossible. The way we currently do things is part of the solution but we must think differently to engage more of our societies 10-19 year olds.

We must decentralize our role, invite more adults who minister to teenagers already to the table, and multiply our effectiveness.

The cause of Christ is too important to continue on with another 40 years like this.

My invitation to you is simple: Join us. Help us innovate contextual means for decentralizing our role and impacting more 10-19 year olds. I am not alone, there are thousands who think like me. Together we can write a new story of youth ministry.

Ready to dream about your ministry, again? (Instead of just surviving.) Join us next week at The Summit.

Church Leadership

Listen to the Right People

A big mouth doesn’t always equal an effective mouth

Photo by sroemerm via Flickr (Creative Commons)

One thing I’ve noticed happening in Christian-land these days is that there are a lot of voices saying quotable things about stuff they have no clue about.

The biggest one, something I’d label a pet peeve, is people who have successfully planted a megachurch trying to teach people in existing churches how to change their church culture.

It’s all a big misunderstanding.

Let’s face this one reality– A guy who planted a church and it grew to 10,000+ members cannot possibly help a 100 year old church of 300 who is struggling. Nor can they help a church plant that started in a house with 25 people and has grown to 200. Or a church that was once 1000 but is now 85.

Let’s face a second reality– If a person is a wonderful communicator of biblical truth they are not likely a prophet to your struggling ministry. They don’t know a single solitary thing about your situation. Nada, zip, zilch. If you had the chance to meet them they might tell you the same thing. They are probably impressed with what God does through their ministry, too. But that doesn’t mean squat to your church context.

Do take their words of encouragement personally. But let’s face it, they don’t know how to fix your church.

Should I try to change my church?

Of course! Just make sure, when you need advice, you listen to people who have actually done what you are trying to do.

  • Hire a consultant. Having an outside expert come over a series of months is probably the best and fastest thing you can do to systemically change a church. A neutral third party can be the best money you’ll ever spend.
  • Get to know people. It shocks me how fast newly hired church leaders want to move. Most church issues are based in culture. Over-eager church leaders will try to change stuff without understanding the culture enough… thus making the problem worse. Then they quit and leave the mess to someone else to clean up.
  • Become the expert on your community. You have the one advantage that truly makes a difference. You are there. When you read a book, article, or hear a message, everything you take in should be screened through the matrix of your unique church culture. Something you hear can be a fantastic idea– but a complete disaster in your culture. Become the expert of your community. (Which means spending decreasing time in the office and increasing time meeting the people you are trying to reach.)
  • Innovation is always welcome. I’ve never been in a church where new ideas were frowned upon. The trick in a church is how you implement an innovation. If people spent half the time on implementation that they spend on generating new ideas they’d be a lot better off.
  • Fools GoldPhoto by sportwrapper via Flicker (Creative Commons)

    Focus on transforming the people you have. The people in your church already have access to the people you want to reach. A popular speaker says, “You need to focus more on reaching than keeping.” That phrase shocks me. It sounds brilliant but is incredibly rude. Do you want to go to that church? I know I don’t. Rather than focusing on shedding people you don’t like why not focus on teaching in such a way that transforms those people’s hearts? Why not pray for those who are your enemies that they might become your allies? You don’t turn around a church by shedding all the people. You turn around a church by transforming people’s hearts around a common vision.

  • It’s about we not you. When I read books and listen to speakers I’m shocked at how little value they give to the leaders of their congregation. When a leader starts to say “this is my vision” everyone should automatically know that this person isn’t leading people. Vision is inclusive.
  • Measure the right things. Do measure stuff. Just make sure you measure the right stuff. I can’t believe how many people are upset with their congregations because they are measuring stuff like butts in seats and dollar bills. We both know those aren’t Kingdom measurements.
Church Leadership

Sell Your Church Reach Your Community


Permit this heresy: There is no mention of a church owning a building in the New Testement. I’m not saying it’s unbiblical to own a church building, I just think its worth it is worth thinking about.

What would church look like with no building? How would programs change? How would staffing change? How would worship services change? How would staff meetings change?

How would church finances change? How much more mission could you do without building maintanence? Without a mortgage? Without property insurance? How much less stuff would you buy, in general if you had to store it at your house?

How would your community change? If it changed the zoning of church property to commerical or residential? If that space became a public park? If that building became used as a community center?

I’m not saying that churches shouldn’t have buildings. I’m just saying that for some congregations the benefit of having property is not outweighed by the negative impact on the congregations mission and finances.