youth ministry

Over-communicate with your leaders

Want to avoid confusion with your team? Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

I define a leader as someone who takes people somewhere they would otherwise not go on their own.

All-too-often, as I look back on my life in leadership, my tendency is always to get a mile ahead of my team because I have under-communicated the basics with them.

Why are we doing this? What’s our intent? What do we want to get out of this experience? Who are we targeting with our ministry? Why are you serving? How can we accomplish our goals? When is the best time to do this? On and on.

Every once in a while I’d get this feedback: “I know you have a reason for everything we do, and you’ve given us all the information about what we are doing, but I am not understanding why/how this is going to happen.” When I was young in leadership I somehow too this as a compliment. But now I see it for what it is… a weakness I need to address.

When my team lacks focus and drive to execute the vision– That’s my fault not theirs. I tend to communicate the vision too little and the share details too much. In the moment, the logistical details seem more important than the over-arching vision. But in the end, you need both.

You will have leaders who are OK knowing stuff as they go. But to really take a ministry somewhere you need to execute along the way to accomplish the vision.

3 Ways I combat my tendency to under-communicate

  1. Give people the big picture often. Before each ministry cycles starts, (school year, calendar year, however your church does it) schedule a meeting with key leaders to go over the plan. When I do this I present a white paper for the year as well as the teaching calendar, event calendar, and a description of a discipled person. In other words, I start with the end in mind and show my team how we’re going to get there together. In youth ministry, at about the same time, I host a parents meeting and go over the same information… plus some other stuff like cost of events, permission slips, etc.
  2. Put your pedagogical statement out there. It feels cheesy to think about, and I totally stole it from Doug Field’s youth ministry classic, “Purpose-driven Youth Ministry,” but I think it’s useful to put the purpose for a ministry, in writing, on everything you do. Even better, when I am teaching a lesson and there is a handout for leaders, I also like to give them a quick sentence about what we are teaching. “The main idea of tonight’s lesson is that students will learn ______.” This puts your leaders on the inside, thinking of your teaching strategy right alongside of you, and values their intelligence/abilities.
  3. Get stuff to people early. This is the one I wrestle with the most because you’ll always have some people who feel like they need every detail when you can only provide the big picture. Such as, I have volunteers who want small group questions 1-2 weeks in advance so they can think about it in advance. The problem is that I can’t give that because I rarely actually work on the talk until 24-48 hours before I teach it. But I can tell them the passage and the main idea of the lesson. And usually, that’s enough. The same is true for events and trips. I need to give them the information early enough where they can rearrange their schedule and jump on board to help. If I forget, or am lacking, in that then I should expect them to bail on me.
Church Leadership

Lessons from the bench

For the last two years I’ve been riding the pine at church. This time has taught me a lot about what it means to be in church leadership.

From age 16 until 31 I had always aspired to be an up front leader at church. I like being visible. I love speaking, teaching, and preaching. I truly enjoy the grind of regularly doing those things as my vocation.

Over the past two years I’ve gone from being the person everyone on our church campus knew to being a relative nobody. In athletic terms, I went from being a starter to being a player who sits the bench.

And just like in athletics, when you put a starter on the bench, the Coach always does it so the starter can learn.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from riding the bench at church:

  1. Every attendee gets something different out of a Sunday morning, you can’t control the takeaway or topic one bit. I can’t believe I ever thought I could control that.
  2. The more a church offers the less people are involved in their community. Growing a church by doing less doesn’t make logical sense, but its 100% true.
  3. Never assume people know what a term is or who an author/speaker is that you reference. People in church leadership live in a different world, with different heroes, than the rest of the congregation.
  4. Visibly valuing people is really important. This manifests itself in a lot of different ways. But it demonstrates the church leaderships character in what they put up front.
  5. People in the pews care way more about the staff and their families than I ever imagined. It’s not creepy, it’s not some American idol worship, it’s actually quite sweet.

If you’ve gone from church staff to church attendee, what are some things you’ve learned through that process that could help people in church leadership?

Church Leadership San Diego Living

5 Things I Love about my Church

This Easter marks roughly two years since I turned in my Pastor Adam card and went from church staff to church attendee. (I was officially done June 1st, but it was during Easter week  that the offer to come to YS came, which completely changed everything.)

In so many ways I’ve re-learned what it means to be a member of a church. God has shown me hundreds of ways in which my assumptions and desires for people in the pews were flat out wrong.

But, more importantly, the last two years has solidified a deep love and respect for the church universal as well as the church I’m a part of– Harbor Mid-City.

Here are 5 things I love about my church:

  1. They model their bridge building strategy with their staff. When I look at the make-up of their staff– I giggle. A PCA church plant with staff from a huge spectrum of Protestantism. Liberals. Progressives. Conservatives. I jokingly remind them, “In most communities this group wouldn’t even get together to pray… and you guys are on staff together!” I love that they chose to unite around Christ and major in the majors. Let me tell you, this is rare.
  2. They meet at Hoover High School. I’m a huge fan of our location and all the challenges it brings along. I love that we pay to rent part of a high school. I love that we bring 200 adults to a high school campus they would rather ignore. I love that there is a constant tension in the space we use for kids is also a teachers space. I love that part of our being Good News to the community is showing up and worshipping at a place, Hoover, that is so common.
  3. The production value of the service is awesome. Seriously, one of the things I love about Harbor is just how rough the tech side of things are. You would think that I, Mr. Super Church Tech Dude, would be annoyed that every week the microphones are jacked up, the projector is crooked, and they lovingly rock PowerPoint when Media Shout, Easy Worship, or ProPresenter are so readily available. Nope. Every time something goes array in the service I just lean over to Kristen and go, “That’s awesome. I love it.” Because I know the flip side of those blemished moments is not a persons hours of hard work. I know that no one is going to get an ugly stare back at the booth. And I know it’s not going to be an hours discussion at staff meeting. Ultimately… it’s no big deal and it’s treated as such.
  4. They love kids and show it. Most churches get this right. But I have to say that there are two places where Harbor gets this right-er than anywhere else I’ve been. Here are two things I can point to which illustrate this thought. First, early in the worship service they invite all of the kids to come to the front to join the worship band. So about 20 kids come to the front and bang on percussion instruments and dance for two worship songs before heading to kids church. Some people might think this completely ruins those songs. But I love the lesson we are teaching… these kids are a part of the congregation and we need to allow them to participate in the worship. It’s a visual way to say “children are valuable to God.” Second, I love how they handle infant baptism. (This is a theological issue I have NO IDEA where I stand on.) So, they baptize the baby and the congregation affirms their responsibility. [All very normative.] But Stephen has started this little thing which I hope he continues. He leads the parents to the center of the auditorium and invites the congregation to quietly sing “Jesus Loves Me” as a lullaby to the baby. I doubt it leaves an imprint on the baby but it certainly leaves an effect on the parents and the congregation!
  5. They value all people. I wish this were the case in all congregations but sadly it is not. Two quick ways this plays out on Sunday. First, we are an ethnically mixed congregation. We have a Spanish-speaking pastor and an English speaking pastor. Each language group is given equal value. (Not time) The only thing we separate for is the message. (Because translating that would be exhausting!) But for the majority of the service we have both groups together and it makes for a fun cornucopia. Second, we work hard to put everyone on an equal playing field socio-economically. El Cajon Blvd, where the church meets, is really a dividing line between the have-nots to the south and the have-alots to the north. There is a conscious effort to blur those lines on Sunday morning. I don’t have any idea how they pull it off… but it’s something I love about my church.

Those are some things I love about my congregation. What are things you love about yours?