[Podcast] ★ How to Team Up With Parents! ★

Terrace CrawfordLast week I had the privilege to speak to my friend and youth ministry blogger Terrace Crawford about my book Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

His podcast This Week in Youth Ministry is quickly becoming one of the most listened to youth ministry podcasts. I appreciated the opportunity to talk about my vision to partner with parents and I greatly appreciate how Terrace is bringing together voices from the trenches of ministry to equip others!

To listen to the podcast you can click here

Phil <><

7 Keys to Influencing Church Leadership to Partner with Parents

You’ve likely heard it said that our time with kids and students is getting shorter in an increasingly busy extra curricular culture. Parents however, still have the greatest influence with their kids, While what we do on a Sunday or midweek program is vital, it’s imperative that we make a shift in our time and resources to help parents to succeed at home. But, it’s not entirely up to us, is it?

Influencing church leadership to embrace a vision of reaching the whole family is critical. After all, your leaders set the direction of the church. And if the church employs you, it’s likely you will have to get them to buy into partnering with parents. But that’s not always easy to do! Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

Here’s the question I get asked a whole lot! How can I get buy in from my pastor or church leaders to reallocate my time and resources to partner with parents? 

Climbing Leadership

While it can often feel like climbing a mountain alone, there are some practical and tactical steps you can take to gain buy in from those who lead us: 

  1. Focus on your Job Description First. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer or full-time, the leaders in your church see your primary responsibility to invest in children or students (or both). We have to remember that the idea of partnering with parents, and the titles of “Next Generation” or “Family Life Pastors” is foreign to many leaders in the church. We also have to consider that there is a certain way children’s and youth ministry has been done over the years. Therefore, it is essential that we gain influence first by doing a great job in the role that we were called to. It can take two or more years to establish a healthy ministry before partnering with parents can truly become a focus. While this might be frustrating, it doesn’t mean you can’t infuse partnering with parents into your role, it just might take a little longer to arrive…
  2. Pursue Healthy Conversations. Part of our role is to constantly find ways to passionately talk up the need and vision to partner with parents. However, in my experience it is crucial to pursue conversations that are positive and filled with great reasons why, as opposed to criticizing what the church is missing out on. In pursuing healthy conversations with the decision makers in your church, keep in mind that they are usually managing multiple people, plans, and ideas. Therefore, ensure that you come prepared.
  3. Own the Vision. Can you articulate why it’s essential to partner with parents in a sentence or two? Can you provide a biblical basis along with specific examples of how partnering with parents is more effective? Chapter 4 in my book provides a clear vision for you to articulate. If you need help in this area, consider picking up a copy.
  4. Have a Strategy. One of the greatest shortcomings in my early days was not having a good strategy that other leaders could support. Having a strategy that includes a timeline and specific steps showing a progression of implementation is crucial.
  5. Share Stories. A story of life change is always going to be the most effective way to cast vision with leaders in the local church. We all want to know one thing. Does it work? Providing stories of how partnering with parents is making your ministry more effective and how it is helping parents to be more effective is so crucial. It ultimate serves as a crucial way to cast vision for leaders.
  6. Request “Stage Time”. I am very fortunate in my church when it comes to my senior leaders supporting the vision to partner with parents. It’s not difficult to ask for opportunities to cast the vision in the overall church. However, this has not always been case. Even though there are always so many events to be promoted and given stage time, it shouldn’t mean that we do not ask. As long as we don’t come across as whiney kids, you and I might be surprised by the opportunities that come our way.
  7. Commit to the Long Haul. One of the greatest ways you and I can influence leadership to capture a vision for partnering with parents is longevity. When you have been around for a while and you have a track record of “getting your job done” as well as having gained trust with key leaders, longevity brings influence.

What would you add to this list? How much “buy in” do you have with your church leadership to truly partner with parents? Is it just an add on, or is it something that is weaved into your role? Who are the leaders and influencers you need to connect with this week to discuss your vision to reach the whole family?

Phil <><

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8 Signs of an Unhealthy Youth & Children’s Ministry Worker

8“The way you invest in your own family will significantly affect the influence you have with parents.” Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

God has called parents to be the primary investors of their child’s faith journey. It’s essential that we comprehend the greater influence of time that parents have with their children.

Our ability to partner with parents will depend greatly on the example we set before them. 1 Timothy 3:5 calls us to take care of our family first, so that we can know how to take care of the family God…

What are the signs that our own walk and family life could be in trouble? Here are eight signs that I list in Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

  1. People Pleasing: We live to impress others instead of pleasing God first. We say “yes” to everyone and everything and feel ashamed at the idea of saying “no” to anyone who asks. We almost feel selfish if we want to say “no” to someone’s request. In the meantime, we become worn out and ministry has little joy or excitement. We are running on empty and our own family gets the few leftovers, if anything meaningful from us.
  2. Platform Builders: We attempt to build a platform of significance for ourselves and live little to no room on the platform for Christ. We are constantly fueled by the accolades of success and by the making a name for ourselves.
  3. Stolen Identity: Our identity is staked in what we do rather than who we are in Christ. It only takes a negative comment or a failed event to make us wonder if we are really cut out for ministry. Rather than being confident in the person God has called us to be, we are stooped in the identity of the position we hold.
  4. Broken Boundaries: We don’t know how to say “no” to ministry needs, yet we constantly say “no” to our family with our time and focus with our own family. Saying “no” to family is often the easier route since they will be more understanding, right? Wrong. Over time an understanding spouse or child can easily become bitter and resentful of the church and your ministry.
  5. All Work and No Devotion: Our personal devotional time has become more of a study time for creating the next great idea or message for our ministry. Reading God’s Word and applying it personally and practically has been replaced by lesson preparation for the benefit of others.
  6. No Time for Worship: Making it into the church worship experience is a distant memory as we look to serve others and ensure that everything depends on us. While we encourage families to sit together in church, our own family has not experienced this for a long time…
  7. Present but not Really Present: In an over connected world where we can be contacted every minute of the day, it’s easy to be with our own families but not fully present with them. Rather than shut off the communication at strategic times, we feel like every phone call, text message, email, and social media request has to be answered instantly. Over time our kids and spouses conclude that the outside world is more important than what happens inside our own homes.
  8. The Temple is Crumbling: We are told that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, yet for some of us it feels like the temple is crumbling. There’s no time for exercise and food is often a comfort that leads to health complications over time. More than anything, we lack energy, and always feel like we need more sleep…

I know there are more to add to this list. What would you add? What steps are you taking to ensure that your family is healthy and your example to parents is worth following? Remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about seeking the author and perfecter of your faith…

Begin to today by admitting to God the areas in your life and ministry that need help… Invite a friend or mentor to encourage you to take healthier steps. Pray for God’s strength and wisdom to discover a healthier way to balance family and ministry… 

Phil <><

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Team Up! Partner with Parents with a Web of Support

PlayFor years, there’s been a tendency for us to focus solely on church programs and miss helping parents succeed at home. While many of us have heard of the importance of partnering with parents, there’s not always been a clear and practical picture of how to do it. That’s why I wrote Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.
Today, we’ll look at a simple strategy that will help support and equip parents without requiring us to expend huge energy or to navigate a huge learning curve:

 

“All parents need a web of support to help them on their parenting journey. It’s our role to connect them. It’s important for them to be surrounded by people who can help and encourage them as they raise their kids.” Excerpt from Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents

Help Parents Develop a Web of Support

  1. Connect Parents with Each Other. So many parents feel isolated and alone. They often feel like they are the only ones who are struggling or making mistakes at home. Whether it’s promoting small groups in your church (even if that’s not your area of ministry), or creating intentional ways for parents to talk and connect within your program and events, parents need to know they are not alone.
  2. Connect Parents with Seasoned Parents. Who are the “been there” parents who have a heart for parents? Who are the seasoned parents who can help create events, small groups, and classes to pour into your parents? So often, we feel like the burden to partner with parents is solely on us. However, if we pray and watch, God will often show us those seasoned parents who can come alongside the parents of the children we are ministering to.
  3. Connect Parents with Volunteers. So often we provide volunteers with the focus to invest and pour into the kids in their group or program. But what would it look like if we changed their focus and gave them a revised “job description” that included reaching out to and encouraging a parent once a week? What if every volunteer in your children’s and youth ministry reached out to one parent each week? What impact would that have?
  4. Connect Parents with Professionals. Do you have a network of professionals you can quickly refer parents to in a time of need? Partnering with them does not mean that we have all the answers and expertise, it can mean that we know who to point them to. If you don’t have a list of counselors and trained professionals, today is the day to begin building one

There are a number of additional ways to build a web of support for parents, but hopefully you get the overall idea. Partnering with parents in children’s and youth ministry does not always require us to overhaul what we are doing, rather we can weave some essential components into what is already existing.

There’s lots more to say, and it’s written in Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. Grab a copy and feel free to contact me and continue the conversation with questions and ideas!

Phil <><

Answering Teenagers’ Toughest Questions.

Youth Ministry QuestionsToday at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference I am leading a peer panel on how to answer teenagers toughest questions. Here are some guidelines and ideas I am providing for people in the peer panel. They might also be useful to you too?

When answering teenagers questions here few things to consider: 

YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW IT ALL: It’s OK to admit to students that you need time to research or pray through an answer. Students don’t expect you to know everything, so don’t expect this for yourself!

EXPECT QUESTIONS FROM TEENAGERS! This is the time in their lives when they reconstructing and putting together a whole new world in their brains. Students are beginning to think abstractly and see things in a whole new way… Questions are your friend since they can become the pathway to students processing and eventually owning the truth. Questioning is not a bad thing, it’s part of their brain development! We have an incredible opportunity to come alongside them as they deal with some of their greatest felt needs… So, expect and embrace questions!

WHAT BIBLICAL TRUTH CAN YOU DRAW FROM? Students are getting enough poor information from search engines and well intentioned friends. God’s Truth is the best starting point we can give them…

WHAT OUTSIDE ISSUE COULD BE IMPACTING YOUR STUDENT? In other words, what is the context? Understanding the context is often the doorway into finding out their specific issue or need. Context will allow us to tailor a better answer with them…

WHO NEEDS TO BE INVOLVED IN THE QUESTION? If you are volunteer, have you spoken to your youth pastor or pastor? Do the parents need to know? Do you need to report this to an official? Or, are there ‘experts’ in your church who can help you with a particular question?

BECOME AN EXPERT IN RESOURCES: You might not know all the answers, but you should work hard to know where to find them.  There are many youth ministry resource companies who can help you.

GET THEM TO PROCESS THROUGH THE ANSWER:  Give them some of the “work” and help them own the answer more effectively. When students go through a process of digging for the answer, it will more likely stick with them. When we can get them to do the work and begin to verbalize what they are learning, they are more likely to own what they have learned. A messy journey alongside a student as we help them discover and process an answer is far better than a well-crafted answer from you and I.

What would you add to this list? What tip is the most helpful one for you? 

Phil <><

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5 Steps to Successfully Deal with Failure

leadership failA greater measure of success can be seen in how we respond positively to failure when it comes our way…

Failure stinks! Whether you are leading a large team of people, or leading your kids, or volunteering, the feeling of failure does not sit well with any leader. If you are like me, it is not difficult for us to go back to a time of failure and beat ourselves up all over again. But, as I look back on my life and ministry so far, I am also able see how God has shaped me (and others) through times of failure. In this post I want to share 5 Steps to Successfully Deal With Failure:

1. Accept that failure is found on the pathway of every leader. As a young leader, I found it hard to accept failure. Somehow I thought it made me inferior and I certainly did not feel I could show failure to those I was leading. However, as time has passed, I have come to accept that failure is part of leadership, but it can also become a pathway to success if I choose to allow failure to shape me positively for the future.

2. Accept responsibility for what you can own. There is always something that failure can teach us, but so often a leader is limited by the inability to own his or her mistakes. The leader who is unable to accept their part in a failure will fail to learn lessons, but also will isolate themselves from others as the followers become disenfranchised with a leader who is unable to accept the truth.

3. Accept the lessons that can be learned. Without failure it is possible that we would never learn valuable lessons, and we would be less likely to have a crucial lesson stick.

While success allows lessons to be sketched for the immediate future, failure can allow a lesson to be etched into permanence.

4. Accept advice for the future. Anytime I have made a mistake, it’s important to share the mistake with key and trusted people around me. Not only have I made it a pattern to share my mistakes, it’s also been imperative that I seek valuable wisdom and insight from mentors in my life.

Without Godly advice for the future, it’s possible to stay paralyzed in the present failure.

5. Accept help from others. Not only is advice crucial, but it’s imperative that we humbly accept help from others when we make a mistake. As a leader, when I have made a mistake, it’s often a challenge to let others come alongside me and pick up the pieces. In some sense, I feel like I should own my mistake completely, which means I should pick up ALL the pieces. However, it’s essential to realize that a leader is leading a team towards a vision or a goal. As a team, you will rally to success, and as a team you will need to pick up the pieces of failure. When a team can be a part of a solution following failure, the failure is shorter lived and the solutions (and lessons) are owned by a greater number of people. However, it is still imperative that the leader is the one who working the hardest to turn around a failure.

How do you deal with failure? What has failure taught you? Who is helping you navigate through failure? 

Phil <><

 

 

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Ministering to Teenagers in a Snapchat World

Snapchat Ministry StudentsA few months ago, I wrote an article for The Leadership Journal about how to effectively minister to students in a culture that is increasingly overly sexualized. Whether you are a parent or someone who works with students, I hope this article will help you as you invest in students lives:

If you work with teens, you have come across the following scenarios in recent years:

A dad discovers his teenage son has been accessing pornography on the smart phone they brought him last Christmas.

A teenage girl meets a boy online and begins “chatting,” only to discover the “boy” on the other end of the messages was actually a 40-year-old married man.

A mom learns from another parent that her ninth grade daughter has been using the SnapChat app to send and receive indecent images with a boy in her class. The situation worsens when the boy saves several screen shots of the images and shares them with other students, destroying the girl’s reputation.

These are nightmare scenarios. But as someone who works with teenagers, I am encountering them more and more. Maybe you have had to face similar situations. If not, it’s only a matter of time.

The idea that we can insulate our kids from a highly sexualized culture is naïve. With apps like SnapChat and Bang with Friends out there—not to mention sexually suggestive images broadcast in primetime (think Miley Cyrus’s MTV Video Music Awards “performance”) a new era has dawned. But I believe we can help them navigate this new world, and help them discover God’s best for life, relationships, and sexuality.

Through working with teenagers, I have discovered some practical approaches that can make all the difference. Here are a few ways every church leader can help teenagers navigate an overly sexualized culture and avoid the many pitfalls and pain it can bring.

(Continue reading the rest of the article at ChristianityToday.com – You MUST register for 90 day free trial to view the rest of the article…)

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15 Ways To Partner With Parents In Your Youth Ministry: The First 5…

Partnering with parents in youth ministry is absolutely essential. When I speak to youth workers, usually we agree that partnering with the family is far more effective than living in a silo youth ministry that only focuses on the students.

But the problems is this: While most of us agree that partnering with parents is essential, many of us don’t know where to start practically…

Partnering-with-Parents-570x372In the book, Think Orange by Reggie Joiner, he makes a great case for using our time and resources to support parents. Each year the average youth ministry will have approximately 40 hours of teachable time with students, while parents will have approximately 3000 hours of teachable time with them. It makes simple sense to support parents and partner with them as they raise their kids…

But what can this look like practically?

In the next few posts, I will list 15 ways in which we can effectively partner with parents. Some ideas are easy to implement, while others will take a change of culture in your church. Read more

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