Sunday, October 26th, 2014
According to the US Patient Office, cruise control (also called speedostat #2519859) was developed in 1948 by inventor and mechanical engineer Ralph Teetor. With the oil crisis of 1973 cruise control became a popular option for saving gas and soon offered as standard equipment by the mid-1970s. Of course, the beauty of this technological marvel of speed regulation is that you can simply set it and forget it . . . at least for a while.
Cruise control allows drivers to direct less effort in getting where they want to go and endure less stress in the process. However, it also produced an unforeseen consequence – getting so comfortable that paying close attention to safety becomes ancillary.
Don’t Set the Cruise Control
In student ministry, be careful not to set the cruise control. Instead, strive to lead your ministry out of imaginative priority rather than dutiful auto-pilot. Leading from imagination and excitement is more productive and healthy than leading from memory. The goal is to help create and shape the future rather than simply repeating the past. It is tempting to operate a student ministry from the cruise control – set it and forget it . . . letting it run until it needs your attention at a critical moment. Unfortunately, there are too many student ministers who have set the cruise control and except for a few increases and decreases in speed, it remains pretty much the same ministry. The faces change with incoming sixth graders and outgoing graduates but otherwise, it remains very similar. How can you tell if your ministry is running on cruise control?
Seven Signs Your Ministry is on Cruise Control
- Your sermons more often come from your archive file than your study file.
- The only thing you changed on the student ministry calendar was the year . . . again.
- New faces come mostly on fifth grade promotion day.
- The good news is that there is no bad news.
- You don’t remember the process of scheduling youth for baptism.
- The youth worship order is a template that requires only song title changes.
- All your student leaders are veterans.
Three Ways to Turn Off Cruise Control
- Calendar with Purpose: Don’t just repeat ministry events because the dates roll around. Consider the needs of the students, parents, and the targeted lost community. Let the purpose dictate the calendar rather than the calendar dictate the purpose.
- Calendar with Passion: Create a platform where creative minds offer alternative ministry ideas that bring passion and urgency to reaching students with the Gospel.
- Calendar with Vision: Plan your ministry calendar with an eye towards the future rather than the past. Only repeat ministry events that produce progress in achieving the ministry vision and goals. Don’t be afraid to drop something from your ministry calendar, especially if it does not require a ministry to produce it.
If you need a break from the fast pace of ministry management then let your volunteer team step up to assume some heavy lifting for a few weeks. It might be tempting to set the cruise control and step away but remember the long-term success of your ministry and your health depends on your being engaged and invested personally. Cruise control is great as long as it is not your priority plan for executing student ministry.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.” Proverbs 13:4
Saturday, October 18th, 2014
How important are small groups in student ministry – well, I think they are so important that I’m not sure it can be articulated in a short while? Whether you are the youth pastor, small group leader or potential volunteer candidate, I want to share with you a dozen benefits teenagers receive from the ministry of small group leaders:
1. Consistent Adults Other than Mom and Dad
They have another significant adult caring about what they do and the decisions they make. I once heard Psychologist Dr. James Dobson report that 40% of kids are born into homes with no father to mentor them, correct them or cheer them on and that every adolescent needs a “significant other” adult willing to journey with them for the sake of what I call the THREE “C”s Challenging, Correcting and Cheering.
2. Small Groups Provide Weekly Personalized Encouragement
Youth receive weekly encouragement to grow spiritually from someone other than mom or dad. There is only so much mom and dad can say and only so long it will be heard before the ears of a teenager become supersaturated with the dos and don’ts during adolescent development. Small group leaders bridge that gap for parents and in the cases where spiritual parenting and modeling is absent, the gap they fill is quite significant!
3. Support from Invested Adults
Small group leaders provide an important support beam when hurricane force winds blow through the life of a teen. An invested connected parent and youth leader simply cannot meet the needs of enough students – they need help from committed small group leaders.
4. A Caring Presence to Keep them on the Right Path
Youth receive an encouraging word or a smiling face at sporting events or other type activities. A caring presence from non-relatives is a KEY player in keeping them on the right side of the road or correcting their actions when needed.
5. Encouragement to Stay in Church
Youth get to connect with an adult who is truly excited to see them at church.
6. Shows They Are Not Taken for Granted
Youth are NOTICED when they are not present in small groups and they respond positively when they realized their presence is NOT Incidental or taken for granted.
7. Positive Affirmations
Students benefit from of the voice of affirmation – whether a text, tweet, facebook, phone message or old fashioned snail mail note – they can’t help but know invested small group leaders care and will not give up on them.
8. Provides a “Neutral Adult”
Students need a “neutral adult” for practical life issues – being too close to the situation makes a parent vulnerable to emotional rule. A small group leader can support the parents from one step outside the boxing ring.
9. Creates a Safe Place for Students
Only in a small group can a student find the connection deep enough to have a SAFE place or person in time of need.
Youth are accounted for in small group – they are noticed when present and when not present. Small group leaders provide the ultimate management system for the youth ministry.
11. They Retain Spiritual Truths
Only in a small group can spiritual truths be planted using the highest retention rate methods. It’s these teaching methods that provide future Holy spirit recall moments.
12. Small Groups Grow Devoted Christ Followers
If you want your students to become fully devoted followers of Christ INVEST in small group and small group leaders.“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Acts 2:46 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
When it comes to being truthful, we naturally check the box that says “Always.” Why is it so important to always be truthful? Is it as simple as because it is the right thing to do? If so, then why is it so easy to tell lies? Consider four reasons to be an automatic truth teller.
Four Reasons to be Truthful
First, we strive to be truthful because we know that is the example of our Lord. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” . . . Matthew 5:37. If we are to be imitators then we must tell the truth.
Second, we pursue honesty in all situations because we want our witness to be above reproach 100% of the time. “So that you can remain blameless and pure among a warped and crooked generation.” Philippians 2:15. Our witness and productivity as a kingdom builder demand absolute integrity.
Third, we aim for truthfulness because we are trying to set a good example for the students we lead, the parents we equip and the team we serve alongside. “The integrity of the upright shall guide them”. . . Proverbs 11:3.
Fourth, we pursue honesty simply because the bible dictates that we be truthful. “Speaking the truth in love” . . . Ephesians 4:15.
We should strive for the character of honesty so pure that being so seems like second nature or unnatural to do otherwise. We want to be careful not to do or say things that students recognize as less than truthful. Sometimes it is tempting to do something simply for shock-value rather than truth value. Be careful if you find yourself venturing down this road because the “shock” might be found in the pastor’s office and the “value” may be a lesson hard learned and pricy. Strive to hold yourself to the same truth standard as you do for students and volunteers.
Five Times It’s Easy to Tell Lies
As I consider the simple Christian necessity of being a truthful person I am reminded of at least five situations when it is incredibly tempting to tell something other than or less than the truth.
- When you are about to look bad in front of the pastor and staff.
- If your integrity for telling the truth will be overshadowed by the consequences of the truth you tell.
- When someone you highly respect will probably think less of you after they hear the truth.
- If telling the truth will hurt someone you care deeply about.
- When telling the truth might lead to your being rightly or wrongly relieved of your ministry position.
Three Categories of Lies
From my own children to intern staff and students I have continually taught that there are three categories of lies. Consider the following and see if there be any truth to these three types of falsehoods.
Telling something you know is false. This is when you deliberately tell something that you know to be untrue. It could be completely fabricated, the opposite of what occurred or embellished beyond recognition. Example: Supervisor ask: Are all the chaperons on this list cleared through the required background check? Reply: Yes! (but you do not know that for certain – you only intend for each chaperon to be background checked before you leave on the trip- your hope is they will each be cleared but they are not yet cleared)
2. HALF BAKED
Telling only part of what you know to be true. This is perhaps a technical truth but because the information is incomplete the listener is led to believe something less than the truth. Anything less than the whole truth is simply not the truth. Example: Supervisor ask: Did you clean the vans after camp like the transportation policies requires? Reply: Yes sir, I sure did (but the rest of the story is that the vans were cleaned out but not until after the Sr. Adults used them.)
3. THE SOUND of SILENCE
Remaining silent, when confronted with a search for the truth, is equal to a lie. Keeping quiet in hope that no one will ask the right question requiring you to speak the truth has the same consequence as an outright lie. In this case, the silence leads directly to a different conclusion than if you had spoken up. When you know the truth about something and simply remain silent leading others to assume or conclude something other than the truth, it is a lie sewn in silence.
There is a lot of pressure to “produce” in student ministry but when it comes to being truthful about challenges, mishaps, wrong decisions or even results, there is never a good reason to be anything other than completely truthful, honest and forthright. There may be three categories of lies but there is only one category truth and He delights in lips that speak the truth.
“Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.” Proverbs 16:13
“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” I John 3:18
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Keeping your supervisor abreast of your vision and plans can save you a lot of time and frustration. Think of the time you spend Informing and sharing as an investment account that grows over time. It may be only duty in the beginning but eventually, it grows into something worth a great deal. You not only build trust but you build a rapport and maybe even a friend.
There are some pastors who are friends with their student minister. Some even hold the ministry to students and the student pastor in high regard as he executes his ministry under the umbrella of the church. Some student ministers and supervisors even enjoy a relationship that supersedes the ministry they share.
Reasons to Create a Good Relationship with Your Supervisor
The time and frustration you will save in the long run will far outweigh the time and energy you spend connecting with and relating it to your supervisor. When the occasion arises, run your ideas by your supervisor to get input and feedback. Sure, you may get nothing but that’s ok. Maybe your supervisor is out of touch but his friendship and approval can still be an asset to you.
Let me share four compelling reasons why it is worth your effort to pursue the best communication possible with your supervisor.
Essential Chain of Command
Sharing information upstream is simply the right way of doing things. If it is not in your job description it should be. Keeping your supervisor informed is not just the right thing to do, it communicates respect, courtesy, and competence. As information flows up and down the communication chain and you do not want to be the weak link.
Essential to Your Success
It is nearly impossible for you to be highly successful at your ministry job without your supervisor’s support. You may be good at your job. You may even possess the potential for being Moses of the youth group. However, without the support of your supervisor, your ministry will be less than it could be. Your headaches will be more frequent too. Our research indicates that student ministers who enjoy regular communication with their supervisor are less likely to be terminated or experience premature ministry exit. Our research also reveals that 100% of youth ministers prefer communication over termination.
Essential for Protection
Your supervisor can not protect you from the accidents that occur in student ministry if he is not aware of what is going on. He cannot protect you from negative or ill-informed members who turn on you or share misinformation. Even if he does step up to provide a shield he may be forced to do it blindly. It makes him look bad if he does not know the situation. Therefore, he is inclined to either throw you under the bus or defend you and risk his reputation. Without a relationship and track record of good communication and sound judgment, he is less likely to do the latter.
Essential for Promotion
There will be many times when you will need extra promotion for a student ministry happening. Few people can speak directly to the hearts of senior adults and parents of youth like the senior pastor. Your supervisor most likely runs in circles to which you have little access and no time to cultivate. So, consider him to be an extension of your promotion and marketing arm.
If you are convinced of these four essentials truths, then cultivate the relationship with your supervisor. Figure out their leadership style. Learn how they like to receive information and when they like to digest new ideas. Know when the timing is best and worse, and how he enjoys relating to you.
”My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:19-21
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” Colossians 3:23-25
Thursday, July 31st, 2014
Some students naturally shine when they walk through the door of your student room. Their personality, appearance or verbal skills make them stand out from the crowd. Others will shine through athletic or academic achievements at school or travel competition. Many students, however, will only shine when they have the opportunity to use their gifts and talents within the student ministry platform. While this creates a huge opportunity for student ministry and for the individual youth, remember one principal: Floodlights are usually better than spotlights. Let me share six benefits of floodlights over spotlights:
Floodlights allow students to move in and out of the beams with greater anonymity. If they need positive attention to blossom they can move to the center. If they are more inclined to serve and grow without attention they may gravitate more to the edges where light is diminished. This approach provides students with greater flexibility along with opportunity.
Not Focused Primarily on the Naturals
Floodlights lessen the temptation to focus ministry attention on those who are natural standouts like the athlete, magnet, beauty queen, pied piper, and general extrovert.
Floodlights allow you to spread opportunity and attention more equally among youth. Giving students equal amounts of attention will not go unnoticed. Parents of students who do not naturally shine will quickly move to your corner. Students who have a low opinion of themselves will take notice and translate your deliberate strategy into authentic concern and love. Shy students will feel more comfortable, less intimidated as well as a sense of ownership in the ministry.
Doors Wide Open
Floodlights send the message to the church and community that your front door is wider than that of pop-culture. It creates a community with loads of acceptance, love, and support distributed with equity.
Opportunity for More Difficult Students
Floodlights give the hard to love, hard to know, and hard to handle student the opportunity to move out the shadows towards the light.
Floodlights unite students of diverse backgrounds, family systems, and ethnic origins. Conversely, spotlights lend themselves to division, separation, and individualism.
As you implement your strategic student ministry vision remember to reach for your floodlight more often than your spotlight. Give youth equal attention and demonstrate unconditional love. Developing a flood light ministry won’t cause all students to respond, but gives every student an honest shot at shining.
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” Isaiah 56:6-8
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“To the Jews, I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law.” 1 Corinthians 9:20
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
While the work of student ministry is serious business, you don’t want to take yourself or your circumstances too seriously for too long.
First, things never stay the same for very long so why get too accustomed to it or spend too much time lamenting it. Learn from it, take a minute to study it but move on rather quickly.
Second, most student ministry mishaps are not as bad as it seems even when something is truly bad. It is simply human nature to replay the bad stuff over and over in our head but don’t let your imagination run wild with making it worse than it truly is. We also have an adversary roaming around looking for our soft spots. He wants to shoot an arrow of defeat into our armor the second we remove a piece. So never remove the protection you have by sinful conduct or dwelling on the negative. Our enemy loves to hit the replay button over and over in slow motion. In fact, he often likes to add special effects to magnify the sense of failure.
Third, nothing is ever as good as you remember. It is also our human nature to amplify our successes or listen to the voices of the cheering crowd. We allow the fan club to hold too much of our attention for too long until we believe we have what it takes to become a local church legend.
Rarely is anything exactly as you think it is. That would assume that you know everything about something or something about everything. Stupidity is thinking what you know is pretty much all there is to be known about that particular subject. If we do not steer clear of extreme highs and lows, then we fall victim to wrong thinking and practical stupidity.
Don’t Take Your Ministry Life Too Serious
The secret is to take the ministry serious without taking your ministry life too serious. If you are a serious person by nature, then you may have to work at getting jokes, giving in to humor, learning to laugh at yourself or your situation. Failure to manage your serious side can lead people to think you are acting superior, disapproving of their sense of adventure or fun. It may also cause you to miss out of the benefit of lighthearted work. Taking yourself too seriously can put a strain on relationships so lighten up and level out.
Maybe serious is not how you operate or how others would describe your personality. You are by nature the life of the party, the humorous one, or the jokester. Your struggle can be just as frustrating but for different reasons. Since student ministers are already viewed as living on the fun side of ministry-ville, some people might not take you serious enough to allow your ministry strategies to have a major impact. Those in your leadership team who favor their serious side may find it challenging to convey their concern for a seriousness situation. It is important for you to strike a balance between being serious about ministry and being serious in ministry. If you can strike this necessary balance you will find the ministry, your leadership team and your mission much more enjoyable during the day to day ministry life.
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful” Proverbs 15:13
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart.” Proverbs 15:30
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” Titus 2:6-8
Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
Every ministry must give attention to numbers. Why? Because data gives you a snapshot of where your successes and challenges are developing. You don’t have to be numbers-driven to be affected by numerical data. If your numbers go up, you feel confident. If numbers go down you start questioning the game plan. Very few ministries are impartial towards numbers. After all, coaches are judged by them, merchants succeed or fail by them, athletes are passed over or paid according to them, and pastors compliment or complain because of them. It is rare for a supervising pastor to say with a straight face that he does not care about numbers. Even when it is said, it is often out of a desire not to appear to be ruled by them or appear spiritually immature about them.
The sooner you come to terms with the fact that you are going to be judged, evaluated, complemented, compelled, compared, or competed with over numbers the sooner you can move towards healthy respect for numbers or immunity from number obsession.
Good data coupled with honest interpretation can result in greater effectiveness, so let me share seven positive and seven negative number points.
Positive Points About Ministry by the Numbers.
- Numbers can provide a snapshot of our ministry.
- Data can help determine where challenges are developing.
- They help determine where successes are developing.
- Numbers can reveal the portion of the wall that needs attention.
- Numbers represent souls and souls are extremely important to God.
- They allow us to measure with accuracy.
- Numbers call us to fervent prayer – either thanking God for his protection and favor or pleading with Him for it.
Numbers Are Negative When…
- You use them to compare your ministry to others.
- They depress you or suppress you with them.
- They are your sole focus.
- You allow them to determine your strategy or corrupt the vision God has given you.
- You applaud them or yourself.
- When you beat yourself up over them.
- They are more often analyzed than prayed over them.
Aim for Balance and Health
The secret is to notice without obsessing. Focus more on becoming a healthy ministry rather a bigger ministry. If you are healthy you will eventually grow. The theory of Student Ministry growth is expressed as A+H=EN>. If it is ALIVE and HEALTHY, it will EVENTUALLY and NATURALLY grow.
The responsibility for nurturing a youth group towards sustained health is just as much your responsibility is as keeping your body and mind fit for service. But patience is a continual struggle and steps towards allowing health and subsequent growth takes time. Therein lies the rub – how much time? Of course, each ministry situation is different and to some degree, health is dependent on the excitement, attraction and overall health of the church as a whole. Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Be patient and remember that the best growth is gradual and steady and if it all happened at once you would struggle to assimilate students and families or meet their individual needs.
Numbers should be for our health and ministry benefit so keep them in perspective and remember that what you do is too vital, too important to be unduly distracted by a negative number game.
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace being build up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase”. Acts 9:31
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him, the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”. Ephesians 4:15-16
Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Who’s job is it to research, evaluate and select bible curriculum for your student ministry? In most student ministries the youth pastor is responsible for recruiting, training and nurturing small group leaders who teach biblical truth and exhibit a Christian lifestyle. The tools you select to assist your volunteers and yourself matter a great deal. When you purchase curriculum, don’t simply use it “as is” out of the box. Instead, read through it ahead of time and tailor it according to the individual needs of your students. From the mega-ministry to the mini-mart, someone should be “proofing” what is being served up on the table of truth from the curriculum toolbox.
Put Curriculum Under a Microscope
A publishing company will never know your students as well as you or your small group leaders. If you have put your curriculum under a microscope you will be well informed and able to comment on any aspect of it. In many cases, it’s not a trust issue between you and the publishing group. It is a responsibility towards “righty diving the word of truth”. It is also your opportunity to offer custom thoughts/ideas from which your small group leaders can draw from.
When you take the time to know what your volunteers are teaching the parents will appreciate it and you will be conveying to your parents important a priority the small group discipleship time is to you. It is equally important that you consider having all your small group leaders using the same curriculum. Doing this allows students to be on the same page and leads your teachers towards a standardized approach in unpacking biblical content.
Consider the FIVE “T”s when selecting curriculum.
The Five Ts of Selecting Curriculum
1. THEOLOGY: Is it theologically sound?
You don’t want to miss the mark on this one. You are the gatekeeper, the filter, and the watchman.
2. TOP DOWN TENETS: Does it match up with my senior pastor and his major theological tenets?
While you might think this would not be an issue with selecting student ministry curriculum it can become one. Often times a Youth Minister will inherit a senior pastor or vice versa and find out later that the two are on slightly different pages regarding a couple of theology points. If you intend to remain in your position then you need to be a team player and be willing and able to allow your theology to play second fiddle to that of the senior pastor.
3. TOOLS: Does it provide volunteers with enough quality tools to promote excellence in teaching?
Small group leaders must have access to the quality commentary but equally beneficial and often compromised is a surfeit of ideas to get students connected, engaged and responsive during the Bible lesson.
4. TEACHING: Is the content built upon solid instructional methods?
The explanation, examination, and application should reflect high retention teaching methods that demonstrate a solid grasp of adolescent development?
5. TIMED OUT: Is it stimulating, attractive and current regarding culture, references and illustration?
Just because the curriculum is old does not mean it has an expiration date. At the same time, just because the curriculum is new does not mean it has been built upon solid methods for teaching adolescents.
Don’t Be a Curriculum Slacker
In most youth ministries, teaching students the bible is accomplished from two main delivery platforms: 1. The adolescent pulpit during a weekly large group gathering and 2. Small group discipleship programming like D-groups, Life groups or Connect groups.
No matter what you call your teaching or discipleship delivery system, take your responsibility for selecting curriculum seriously.
In a growing number of churches, the responsibility for selecting the primary discipleship curriculum has been removed from the privy of the student minister. Why? In many cases, it is because a youth pastor didn’t consider one or more of the Ts. Don’t be a curriculum slacker who lets everyone choose what they want to use without your scrutiny. Equally important is not to jump on some new band-wagon of popular publishing without careful evaluation. Someone may be an awesome camp preacher, a great writer, or extremely creative yet completely miss the mark for developing high-quality student ministry discipleship curriculum. If selecting the curriculum for building disciples is your responsibility be diligent not to fumble the ball from lack of focus or give it up through carelessness.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may, by all means, save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel. So that I may become a fellow partaker of it. I Corinthians 9:22-23
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
Every church and every student ministry has its own personality. Some are known for their friendly disposition while others are known for their generosity and big heart towards missions. Some are community-minded while others appear more separated. In large ministries, even grades can have a distinct personality. I once had an extraordinarily large eighth-grade boys group and their personality as a grade in our ministry was overwhelmingly that group of “extrovert jocks”. There were always new prospects showing up on Wednesday night because these guys were outgoing with regular opportunities to invite team-mates and school friends. They were the seniors of the middle school and therefore wielded considerable leverage for outreach.
Your Personality’s Impact
What type of personality does your group have? What type of personality do you want to have? If you stick around long enough, your ministry can become more like you. Is that good or bad? Your personality will essentially rub off on the students, the leadership and parents. They become comfortable with how you manage the ministry and how you approach situations. In a productive and healthy ministry, their confidence in you goes up as does their trust in your decisions. Remember that you are modeling the ministry to students that you want your volunteers to imitate.
Have you ever wondered what personality types are most vulnerable to burn-out, firing or failure in Student Ministry? Which personality type tends to register more ministry success and health? Taken from Gary Smalley and John Trent’s personality type inventory, the four animal types (Golden Retriever, Otter, Beaver, and Lion) help point to an understanding of what personality types appear to enjoy longer ministry tenure.
Personalities Most Likely to Burnout
According to Ken Kageler’s study, the breakdown of personality types among those youth ministers who were fired or burned-out rank as follows:
32% are Otters
30% are Golden Retrievers
25% are Lions
13% are Beavers
In our own SME study of student ministers with exceptional tenure (7 years in the same church), we found the highest-ranking personality type was the Golden Retriever, which earned 43.5 percent.
Dominant Personalities of Youth Pastors
According to Kageler’s study, the dominant personality type among youth ministers in the United States is the Otter at 32 percent, followed by the Golden Retriever at 30 percent.
Additionally, Kageler found that the personality type leading in numerical attendance growth among middle school youth belongs to Lions at 81 percent followed by Beavers at 74 percent, while high school youth returned a 69 percent for Lions and 59 percent for Otters.
The Different Types
Golden Retriever types are loyal, relational, calm, easy-going, dependable, quiet, objective, diplomatic, and humorous. It is not surprising that these personality traits would produce a youth minister with a propensity towards exceptional tenure. There is an 8.7 percent difference between the frontrunner, Golden Retriever, and the second place personality type, which is the Lion.
The Lion likes authority, takes charge, displays great confidence, enjoys leading, and is very determined. Since there is a significant difference between these two personality types, one might conclude good news for both. The positive reality is that both types have a good record in position tenure. While all personalities have success at longevity, the Golden Retrievers and Lions can take comfort in the solid longevity track record among their diverse personality types.
Our study ranked the Beaver the lowest for longevity and tenure. At 17.4 percent, the Beaver falls 26.1 percentage points below the dominant Golden Retriever. The results might persuade a search team who places a high priority on longevity to seek a Golden Retriever or Lion for a youth minister.
Otter and Beaver
On the other hand, Beavers and Otters might take note of their standing in order to be more deliberate in achieving skills or practices that may extend tenure. No matter your personality, you have the opportunity to impact many lives. You can enjoy a healthy productive ministry as God calls you and leads you to shepherd students. Remember, your ministry, over time and to a great extent, will become “like” you. So minister with excellence and enjoy what God will build through your efforts.
“Be ye, therefore, imitators of God, as beloved children;2 and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell. Ephesians 5:1-2
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” I Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
Make your ministry a Watchtower ministry. That can be a scary statement if you have ever had the Jehovah’s Witness pay you a house-call to leave their flagship flier the Watchtower. Of course, I am not talking about a little pamphlet stuffed with well-disguised lies. I am talking about peering into the lives of students and observing their circumstances, their high times and their lows. If you have a large group, you will need to cultivate your leadership team and small group leaders to be the primary watchmen. If your group is smaller you may be the only one manning the tower at first.
My Literal Time in a Watchtower
Before seminary, I wanted to save some start-up money for married life. Since my degree was in Criminology, I took a job in the Florida penal system at Union Correctional facility. As an engaged single guy I signed up for every hour of overtime I could get – double shifts, holiday pay, and close-custody compensation. However, there was one drawback; my extra shift was usually on tower-duty. With a standard issue 12guage shotgun and an AR15 rifle, I sat in a concrete tower overlooking the recreation yard occupied by a thousand inmates each day. The visual vantage point from a tower is tremendous. You can see trouble brewing and direct help to various areas as needed. One vigilant watchman can respond to a variety of situations.
Likewise, one committed ministry watchman can provide a tremendous amount of support to a student ministry. Give your volunteers the advantage of noticing students who might be struggling with life issues. Train volunteers not to assume struggling youth will be okay or that someone is speaking encouragement and truth into his or her situation. Train volunteers to pursue relational investment with students and engage them with genuine care and concern. Don’t get so busy that fraught students slip through the cracks or get lost in the masses.
“Then the lookout called, “O Lord, I stand continually by day on the watchtower, And I am stationed every night at my guard post.” Isaiah 21:8
“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’” Ezekiel 33:6