Promotion Promotion Promotion: Maximizing Your Youth Ministry Exposure

We live in a world that is surrounded by marketing of all sorts… TV shows, sports figures, movies, and plenty more advertisements flood our day-to-day lives. And as somebody who works with students and tries to promote events and retreats, this can be quite challenging!

Youth Ministry Promotion

And so, I’ve “stolen” a few ideas from media around us, as well as created a few ways of my own to spread the word about any upcoming events in our ministry. I usually try to reserve using some of these tactics only when I really need to spread the word. Not all of these tactics are necessary to use for EVERY event you have, but maybe one or two of them are necessary. Read more

GUEST POST: Does Your To-Do List Match Your Youth Ministry Priorities?

We all have plenty of projects that are due sooner than we can manage. Your submission for the newsletter was due yesterday, you still need volunteers for the fundraiser dinner, and yes, you’ve still got 67 unread emails.

Youth Ministry To Do List

That’s why it’s so easy to spend eight hours blowing through a to-do list that doesn’t do too much to further the Kingdom.

You already know that the time you spend directly with students and volunteers represents the most significant impact you can make. But how much of those things wind up in your day planner?

How many get put off until a day that’s less busy, even though we both know that less busy days almost never happen?

If your to-do list is filled with items that don’t line up with your ministry’s priorities, it’s time to make some changes. Read more

Recruiting Volunteers: You Need A Job Description… So Do They!

You Need a Job Description….So Do They.

Job descriptions.  Ugh.  That’s how I really feel about them.  They just seem like a waste of good trees and ink.  And they’re tedious.  Have you ever tried to write your own?  I was helping develop my own job description (along with descriptions for a few other staff members) and it felt like all the books in all the world could not contain all the crap that had to go in those documents.

So why bother?

It boils down simply to this – expectations.  Clearly defined expectations are a win-win.  Those doing the expecting win, because they know what they’re asking of you.  You win because you know what you need to do.  Clearly defined parameters.  Easily evaluated performance.  Everyone goes home happy.  (Yes, I know it doesn’t always work that way for staff people – but that’s another blog post for another day.)

So if clearly defined expectation equals a win-win relationship, why don’t we do this for volunteers within our ministry?

It’s a lot of work.  #truth   But it’s work that yields long-term results.  It’s much more productive than, say, driving all over the city trying to find shaving cream that doesn’t contain menthol. Read more

The Second Most Important Part of Message Prep

When you are in ‘crazy busy  ministry mode’ and you have to put a good message together, what are the elements you spend most time on? That’s the question we’re looking at today…

Last weekend I preached in ‘big church’ on Philippians 2. It’s always a great privilege to preach in church and It’s always a great opportunity for me to advocate for our student ministry. It’s comforting for parents of teenagers to know that their kids are in safe hands… Well, that’s the plan at least!

As I prepared the message last week, I did not feel I had as much time to run through my presentation and transitions. I felt like I had good time to dig into and unpack the passage, (that’s the most important part of message prep), but by the end of the week I had many commitments to take care of and ‘presentation practice’ as I call it, did not get as much attention as I would liked. You see, every message that I give, I try to practice and make sure that I fully ‘own it’ by the time I present it. As Andy Stanley says something like, “if you don’t own your message, why should you expect the people to own it when they leave?”

So what do you do when you are short for time and have not been able run through your whole message sufficiently? My advice: Practice the ‘take off’ and the ‘landing.’

1) The Take Off – This is the introduction where you gain attention, present a problem and give your audience a compelling reason to hang with you throughout the message. Just like an actual take off in a plane, people want to be able get up safely above the clouds and see where they are going without being stuck in the ‘clouds of confusion’ for too long. In other words, it’s imperative that we present the issue and clearly help our audience see where we are going for the next 20 minutes or so. Having a clear ‘take off’ off is essential and will set up the rest of message well.  Read more

3 Essential Fall Plans You Should Be Making Now For Your Youth Ministry?

This week, here in Michigan, our high schools have their last days and most have already had their graduation ceremonies. The summer is about to begin! However, it is this time of year that I believe it is essential to start making plans for Fall and not wait any longer.

The problem for us is this: Before we know it, we are on a mission trip, we’ve taken that needed vacation, or we are already in August staring down the Fall. It’s true isn’t it? Summer fly’s by! Therefore, to make sure that Fall does not turn into a last-minute planning frenzy, there are three priorities I work on now, while I have the time:

1) Recruiting New Volunteer Leaders: If we wait for potential leaders to leave town on vacation or get into their summer mode, it’s harder to have needed conversations. It’s also good to ask potential volunteers now, so that they can pray and consider helping during the summer months. Sometimes the ‘volunteering seed’ needs to be planted now and will grow over the summer. Waiting to ask potential volunteers a few weeks before the Fall can often feel rushed and disorganized.

2) Plan Out A Basic Calendar: Sitting back here in June is a great time to look at the calendar in a more objective,  relaxed and prayerful way. It allows us to see the big picture of what is going on and allows us to take time to space events and programs out and give healthy margin once the Fall arrives. It also allows us time to tweak and change the calendar without making rushed decisions when a potential calendar conflict comes up.

3) Plan Your Message Series Now: By thinking through your first 2-3 message series now, it will allow your creativity and ideas to ferment over the summer. It also allows us to get others involved and incorporate elements that might not get added if we were running fast into the Fall. Consider the felt needs of your students as you plan your Fall kick off series.Appealing to their felt needs and creating an exciting and engaging Fall series will help you create good momentum right out the gate.

What are you working on now for the Fall? What would you add to this list?

Phil <><

Three Youth Ministry Priorities For Mondays

For many in youth ministry, Monday is their day off.

For others, Friday is their day off.

For some of us, we ask, “what is a day off?”

For me, Monday is a ministry work day and I usually get my day off on Friday. Since Monday is the first day of my ministry work week, I have found it imperative to start the week by focusing on priorities that are time consuming yet a crucial set up to the rest of the week. It should be a given that my soul care should be an everyday priority, but here are three practical priorities I focus on most Mondays.

1) Message Writing: First thing Monday morning I find my usual spot in Starbucks, plug in my headphones, and start message writing until early afternoon. I am usually working a week ahead in my messages and finishing off my current weekly message. (I often speak twice a week, so it can be a hefty message writing morning).

2) Planning: Monday afternoons are spent planning programs, events, and message series. (I usually am working 3-6 months ahead).

3) Email and Task List: Before my day is done I clear as much email as I can, create new task lists (I use google tasks), and try to create a plan for the rest of the week and the tasks I need to get done. It’s important to ‘clear the decks’ before Tuesday gets here…

You’ll notice that there are no meetings with students, leaders, or other staff members. For me, Mondays are my day to hide away and get great messages written, make good plans, and get caught up on email. The rest of week includes a great deal of contact time where I get to invest in students and leaders.

For me, it’s important to have one day per week when I can hide away and get a large chunk of message writing and planning done.

How about you? Do you have a day like this? What is your day off? What do Mondays look like for you?

Phil <><

TOMORROW and the rest of this week: YOUTH MINISTRY RESOURCE GIVEAWAY! Come back and check out what you could win!!!

4 Plans Every Youth Worker Should Be Making? Part 4: A Personal Plan

What’s your personal plan? I’m not talking about loving God, loving students and doing ministry for the next year. Have you prayed about the course your ministry is taking? Have you prayed about the next steps for you? You know, will you be in youth ministry all your life or will you one day ‘grow up’ and graduate to ‘real ministry’ one day, (as we often get asked). Are you a volunteer who is destined for full-time ministry or are you being pressured to minister somewhere else because YOU think you are getting too old? Are you wondering if your current church would keep you on long-term as their youth worker? Do you dream of starting a church, but don’t know how? These are just some of the questions I hear from youth workers.

Bottom Line: Do you know where you are going in ministry? Have you stopped to ask?

Praying through and developing a personal ministry plan is crucial for you, your family, your students, your church, and ultimately your usefulness in God’s Kingdom. Here’s what’s crucial about seeking God for your personal ministry plan:  Read more

4 Plans Every Youth Worker Should Be Making? Part 3: Seasonal Planning

In my previous posts I talked about the importance of youth workers being strategic planners and people who have a long-term teaching plan. Having a good prayerful plan can often be the key to greater effectiveness and help us hang in for the long haul. I know it is not always in our DNA as youth workers to enjoy planning, (or even be good at it), but it is a necessary part of becoming a successful and professional youth worker. Having a good plan will also help us gain greater influence from parents, church leaders, (and ultimately benefit our students).

The previous two posts were pretty in depth and full of information, but today I want to be brief with this idea:

An effective youth worker is constantly planning ahead at least one season.

In terms of events, calendar and programs, it is imperative that we are working at least 2-3 months ahead of where we are. For me, I call it a season. As I write this post, my whole summer calendar is published even though here in Michigan we are barely touching the Spring. It’s so important that we work 2-3 months ahead for a number of reasons:

1) Parents Need The Information: If we want parents to support our ministries we should be getting dates to them at least 2-3 months ahead. For missions trips, however, most parents will thank you if you give them the date 6-9 months out.

2) Volunteers Can Plan Better: If you want volunteers at special events and retreats, they need to book time off and make your program a priority. If you are working a month out, don’t expect to get any support. Read more

4 Plans Every Youth Worker Should Be Making? Part 2: A Long-Term Teaching Plan

In my previous post we introduced the importance of good strategic planning in youth ministry. Even though good planning is not in the DNA of many youth workers, it is a necessity if we want to have greater effectiveness as well as being able to hang in for the long haul.

Today, we’re going to take a look at what we should consider when creating a long-term teaching plan.

1) Consider Your Audience: Depending on whether your students are seekers, strugglers, or sold-out in their faith, will depend on what you plan to teach. It’s good to have different times or programs to focus on these types of students.

For example, our midweek outreach program is aimed at seekers and strugglers. Therefore, we are intentional about hitting topics and issues that are palatable for every kind of student, whether churched or unchurched. Here we address issues like: Dealing with fears, conflict, regret, relationships, making decisions, identity, self-image, life purpose, etc etc. You get the idea.

In contrast, our Sunday discipleship program is focused on struggling and sold-out students, (usually churched), where we teach deeper areas such theology, apologetics, spiritual habits, evangelism, etc etc.

Bottom line: Your audience will determine your content. 

2) Ask Your Students What They Need: This is particularly helpful when teaching many of the felt need topics. Subjects like relationships are always going to be at the top of the list, but you will also glean much about what your students need by asking them. This might seem too simple, but so many of us negate to ask students.

One BIG way to ask students is to do a yearly survey asking them what areas of their lives they need help with. We do a survey like this every May and it allows us to develop some specific message series for the Fall and Winter months. For outreach and large group programs you will discover that you will ‘hit’ many of the same felt needs areas year after year. This is not a bad thing since our students are constantly battling through the same challenges year after year.

Bottom line: Don’t guess what students need, ask them!

Read more

4 Plans Every Youth Worker Should Be Making? Part 1

It’s Spring Break here in South East Michigan, (although we had snow flurries after 80f temps a few weeks back). It’s typical that here in Michigan during Spring break, vast numbers of families leave to head South to warm places like Florida… Except people like me… I am sitting in my local Starbucks watching the white stuff fall from the sky.

Despite the cold weather, it’s a great week for me to spend more time investing in planning while many of my students and leaders are out-of-town. Although the idea of planning can be highly offensive to many youth workers, I believe it is an imperative part to what we must do to have an effective ministry and to pursue longevity in our churches. When considering plans, here are 4 types of plans I believe every youth worker must be praying through and working on:

1) Strategic plan.  2) Teaching plan: 3) Seasonal plan: 4) Personal plan

Strategic Plan: For me, when I arrived at my current church, I prayed about and created a 3 year plan that seeks to build year after year. This plan has been adjusted a couple of times, but there has always been a plan written down. It does not have to be detailed, but must give you a big idea of what you are looking to achieve by the end of each year.

As you look at my plans below, you will see they are pretty basic and a broad brush stroke for each year. I did not look to move mountains, I simply tried to create a plan that would help to build trust, build success, and build momentum. It’s important to realize you can’t change the world at once!

As a younger youth worker I tried to change everything at once and didn’t understand the value of patience and building things slowly. I know there’s a lot of pressure to come in and change the world, but “too fast too soon” doesn’t usually last for the long-term. It’s important that a strategic plan takes time to build a solid foundation that will last for the long haul.

Here’s a snapshot of my 3 year plan I have been praying and working through: 

Year 1: Develop Relationships: Develop relationships with students, parents and youth leaders. Commit to listening first! Do not implement major changes. Listen to the people, review the programs, understand the culture. It’s imperative we listen and learn first so that we can build trust and earn the right to make changes…

Year 2: Tweak Programs: Continue to develop relationships with students, parents and youth leaders. Review the last year with students and leaders and THEN implement adjustments to existing programs and events. Create a teaching plan for the next 4 years and create a ‘big win’ event or trip that will rally people behind a cause or core purpose. (For us, this ended up being a huge mission trip that year). Read more

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