Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fall Parent Meetings...

I learned something today.  Sunday after church is just as bad a time for a parent meeting as any other time in the fall.  I should have known this before today, but it sounded like such a good idea so many months ago when we put it down.  What I DO know is the fall is crazy.  With back to school things as well as every activity, ministry, and club you’re involved with wanting to do a kick off, it seems crazy to ask parents to attend one more meeting.  I’m thinking we will change our thinking again on this matter (maybe old dogs can learn new tricks).  So, how do you plan and implement fall parent meetings?  Do you?  Is it worth it?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hard Work...New Hires...

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much those in ministry work lately.  One thing that has sparked this line of thought for me is the rewriting of a job description for one of the ladies on our team.  For the past five years, we have had a male and a female in both middle school and high school ministries.  About a year ago, the female in our high school ministry left to pursue other callings.  In the process of seeking to hire this position, our church froze our budgets and new hires due to budget reasons.  Thus, we have been short one female for the past year.  The past two months have caused us to think that our current staffing level is not just a temporary situation, but more our new normal. 

With this in mind, we have decided to try and write a job description for our remaining female that will give her a broader base of responsibility as well as the opportunity to touch the lives of more girls in our ministry.  The biggest issue with the components of this new job description is the care of the person filling it.  The position is filled with relational responsibility and it can easily lead to burn out and a sense of being overwhelmed.  It also seems likely that anyone in this position will have a desire to attend every event our ministries do because of the relational equity that can be gained.  So, how do we craft a job description with boundaries?  How do we honor the fact that ministry is not a 9-5 position without making it a 24/7 position especially in a job description that has the ability to be so big?

“You think that’s a problem? I’ll tell you what a REAL problem is!”

Posted by Scott Rubin on

Around Chicagoland, this is the week that most schools jump back into session.
And for a lot of junior highers, that’s a pretty big challenge.

Lots of them headed to new schools, with new people, new teachers.
Lots of them figuring out locker combinations for the first time.
Lots of them will be presented with moral dilemmas starting this very first week.

But if I’m not careful, I can fall into the trap of thinking that middle school problems are “easy”.
I’ve seen adults roll their eyes as they listen to a jr high dilemma.
They’re thinking “I’ll tell you what a real problem is.”
  • A mortgage to pay.
  • A high-pressure quota.
  • An unreasonable boss.
  • A family to raise.
Even our high school volunteers may look at middle schoolers and think “Wait til you get to high school! That’s when stuff really starts to get challenging!”

But for a middle schooler, the challenges, worries & problems they face are every bit as real (and daunting) for them as the ones that we face in our stage of life.

They’re no “less real” to them… and no less scary than the biggest problem you & I face.
For some middle schoolers, their problems really are “middle school sized”. So they can use those situations to learn what it mean to lean on God and trust Him to show them the way through.  At the same time, there are students who are facing issues that are beyond what any junior higher should have to tackle. But there they are.

So before I too quickly jump to concluding that a student’s problems are “easier”… I try remember that their issues are just as “real” as mine are!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hard Work...Expectations...

My last post posed a question about how to find a healthy pattern of work in a vocation you love.  Today, I want to ask how you lead and direct others in the pursuit of this pattern.  I lead a team of other youth workers.  Most are a lot younger than I am.  I remember being new in ministry and thinking those older than me worked way to much and expected way to much of me as they seemed to impose their values of work on me.  I remember thinking, “yeah, but never taking a day off is not healthy.  Just because you do it, does not mean I should.”

Now, I don’t think I’m as unhealthy as some, but I know I struggle with working too much (I love what I do).  Does the younger generation look at me as I looked at those before me?  Probably.  Yet, I learned some great things from those who came before me in the area of work ethic and working hard.  Still, what can I learn from those who are coming after me?  Finally, how can I help them learn a strong work ethic without teaching them to have no boundaries?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Importance of Fun...

Last week I was talking with one of the members of my team about why we play a game in our Sunday morning program.  The general question was "Do we have to play a game?  It just seems like that is not very spiritual and maybe our time could be better spent doing something else."  I love the push, and I agree that every week it is not needed or even helpful.  Yet, we talked about the fact that what we do is not for us, but rather for 11-14 year olds and fun is something of real value to them.  We left our conversation with some things to chew on.

Fast forward a few days to this past Sunday morning.  One of our female leaders was in the bathroom and there were several middle school girls in there talking (go figure, what else would they be doing in a bathroom).  Two of the girls were attending our ministry for the first time and were asking the friend who brought them, "do you always play a game on Sunday morning?"  When she answered "yes," the general response was something like "that is so cool, I think I could get used to coming to a church that allowed us to have fun at church."

Hmmmm..... So, how important is the element of fun in middle school ministry?  I think it has a great deal to do with it.  It may not the most important thing, but for middle school students who like to and need to wiggle and love to have fun, it's pretty important.  We should make sure we understand our audience if we are going to be effective in our mission.

The Little Things Matter...

Recently, Scott Rubin had a guest post on entitled, "My Sunday School Teacher Loves Me."  This is an easy thing to think about, but not an easy thing to really work out in your ministry.  I've visited a lot of ministries (including my own) where the red carpet is not rolled out for new people.  Where it is really difficult to be a visitor.  Where we simply don't do a good job of "loving others."  So, how are you doing?  How's your ministry doing?  I'm sure you say you're ministry is relational, but is it relational to only a few?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hard Work...

Our vocation is hard sometimes.  I love what I do and I love doing it.  I love getting up every day.  I love going to work every day and I love almost every part of my work.  Problem – there are times I love my work so much my life ends up out of balance and I spend too much time on my work.

I believe ministry is a vocation of “seasons.”  There are seasons of engagement and seasons of withdrawal.  For example, the fall is a season of engagement.  We have a ton going on as we ramp up for the fall programming season.  With retreats, weekly programs, and volunteer recruitment and training going on, we can work a great deal for these next six weeks.  However, there are also seasons of withdrawal.  For me, April and May are times that are a lot slower than other parts of my year.  These months give time to think, time to plan, time to relax a bit from the fast pace of ministry life.  Additionally, I think there are seasons of our lives that dictate our engagement in ministry.  I’m 42 with three teenagers and a fifth grader.  I spend very little time at football games, school plays, and other things that my kids are not involved with.  Before I had a youth group in my own home, I spent a great deal of time at these events.  I assume when my kids are out of the house (if I’m still alive and kicking) I’ll resume more of these contact, but right now, it’s not realistic for me.

So, what do you do to keep a healthy life while in a vocation like ministry?  When you love what you do and the list of things to do never gets shorter, what do you do?  Do you work harder, longer, and more often?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Variety of Ages...

My friend Ali Muller wrote this article for Immerse Journal on the importance of having older adults involved with your students.  I love her wisdom here.  This summer, we joined two local churches on a mission trip and one of the things that I found interesting as I looked across the landscape of the 25+ volunteers on the trip.  In my group, there was only one adult under 30 and she is on staff with me.  In the other two groups, there was only one adult over 30, and he was the youth pastor at one of the churches.  Very interesting.  What I realized was we all need some help in gaining a more broad scope of volunteers in our ministries.  A wide variety provides so much.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The note is a powerful tool…

Facebook, twitter, text messaging, and in some cases email, are great ways to communicate with the students we minister to, but there is still something significantly powerful about the handwritten note delivered via snail mail.  Written on a postcard, these simple messages serve two major purposes.  First, they encourage the student who receives them.  Students love mail and love the personal touch of a handwritten note.  Second, they encourage the parents of the students.  Because it’s a postcard, they can sneak a peek at the contents of the card before their student gets their hands on it.  Writing a note takes about two minutes.  Mailing it costs about $.30.  Take time to write a note to a student this week.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Middle School Campference

Have you seen this yet?  If not, what hole are you living in?  This is going to be the best thing for middle school people in a long time.  If you are working in the trenches with middle school/jhigh aged students, you need to be at the campference.  We need veteran folks sharing their knowledge and we need younger, newer, fresher voices teaching, pushing, sharing, and challenging.  Will you be a part of the action?  Check it out.