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Any youth room ideas?

The church where I currently serve has begun a building project. One of the things to be added is a space designated for the youth ministry. The space being used by the youth now will most likely be given to other groups, and the youth program would entirely relocate into the new area. Right now, we pretty much have a blank slate. In a week or so I have been asked to present the youth ministry's needs and wants to the building committee, and I want YOUR help...

I've been thinking through our approach to ministry, and the things we value, and many of those concerns. I want to hear your input, thoughts, suggestions, warnings, bright ideas, your experiences with creating youth ministry space... If you could design your 'fantasy-land-youth-space' what would it look like? What are some things I should keep in mind as we approach this?

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Think Steps, Not Programs

This post is part of a series. For others in this series, check here.

Think about a bug flipped over on it’s back, legs in the air frantically waving, trying to find some traction to scurry away. Motion doesn’t always mean progress.

Within an organization, what we’re looking for is motion in a particular direction. When planning for a ministry organization, you’re not just looking for more stuff to do, more programs or activities to keep people busy or entertained. You’re hoping to lead people in a particular direction –towards relationship with Jesus.

Just as getting in a car and driving the wrong direction to get somewhere isn’t helpful, it’s also unhelpful to offer programs that don’t lead people toward the end goal. When planning for a ministry organization, before you start anything at all, make sure it takes you where you want to go. If you begin with the win in mind, then you can begin by looking at how programs fit together so they lead people down a certain path and in a certain direction.

The second practice in this series helps to begin generating momentum in a particular direction through intentional programming. We’ll call this practice, "Think Steps, Not Programs."

Instead of creating lots of individual programs, begin thinking of each program as a step leading people towards that eventual goal, thinking of how those pieces fit together to move people in that direction, thinking of where you are wanting to lead people.

Often churches approach ministry from a ‘needs’ based philosophy: "What is the need?" and "How do we meet that need?" This isn’t necessarily bad, but can easily lead to lots of busy-ness that doesn’t particularly aim at the goal. This ‘needs’ based approach may even lead to lots of good activities, but they may be activities that distract from the overall win rather than lead people towards it. Meeting felt needs may promote bigger numbers, more attendance, or even a bigger budget, and all of these things look good, but may only be surface deep. The idea is having a strategy that helps in moving people in a process toward a maturity in Christ.

A more strategic approach to programming would be to ask the questions, "Where do we want people to be?", and "How do we get them there?" Ministry, then, isn’t trying to fill people’s time with busy-ness, but instead is about creating environments that lead people toward the win and finding ways to engage people in those environments. This helps aim at growth, progress, and moving deeper in a relationship with Christ.

So that’s the basic idea of this practices: beginning to think of environments in terms of steps leading toward a defined goal, not just a buffet of programs designed to keep everyone busy. Here are a few steps toward how to make that happen.

1- Define where you want people to be, where you want people to end up.
What’s the environment you hope for everyone to engage? Perhaps you want to ask, "What’s the best environment for life change to take place?" If you think that’s some small group format, then that may be where you lead people. If you think the goal is to have people participating in a corporate worship service, then you may create steps that lead in that direction.

2- Steps need to be easy, obvious, and strategic.
The environments that serve as steps for an individual’s growth and development must have some key qualities in order to be effective. Steps must be easy; they must be able to make the step. It must be obvious; people need to see it and we need to communicate it. Steps need to be strategic; they need to lead people where they need to go.

3- Lead people toward ONE goal.
Beginning to think steps, not programs helps to ‘trim the fat’ if they are leading toward ONE goal. There’s an economic efficiency because the costs are streamlined and the activity within the organization is focused. For people to move from A to B, you don’t create multiple B’s to accomplish the goal. This confuses the person coming through the process, and creates hassle and complication within the organization. Once you’ve identified the best environment for people to experience the win, establish a process that leads to that specific environment.

So, let me offer a few questions to stir the thinking:
How have you seen this fleshed out? Does your ministry have a clearly defined, or structured process for leading people toward maturity in Christ? Is a ‘buffet’ approach to ministry really a hindrance or can it be helpful? What are some ways to connect the steps, to help make them ‘easy, obvious, and strategic’? What other benefits might ‘thinking steps, not programs’ offer?

Join the discussion in the comments section below.

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Sort of Adults and Sort of Kids

I came across these quotes in Chap Clark’s book "Hurt: inside the world of today’s teenagers" about the in-between world adolescents live in:

"The opaque glance and the pimples. The fancy new nakedness they’re all dressed up in with no place to go. The eyes full of secrets they have a strong hunch everybody is on to. The shadowed brow. Being not quite a child and not quite a grown-up either is hard work, and they look it. Living in two worlds at once is no picnic."
–Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

"It has been said that adolescence begins in biology and ends in culture."
–John Santrock, Adolescence

"Adolescence, then, is a psychosocial, independent search for a unique identity or separateness, with the end goals being a certain knowledge of who one is in relation to others, a willingness to take responsibility for who one is becoming, and a realized commitment to live with others in community."

Sometimes we tend to -I tend to- forget just how difficult life is as a teenager; the questions and doubts, the excitement and enthusiasm, the growth and change. Hopefully those who have walked the road a little longer than others can look back with a sensitivity and compassion as we carefully invite those younger than ourselves to navigate their new found experiences with wisdom.

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Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!Happy birthday [dangerous wonder]. Happy birthday.
See where it all began.

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Introducing Ben

I would like to introduce you to Ben. I don't know Ben. In fact, I know very little about Ben, but I do know I stumbled across his blog earlier today and he's had some interesting things to say. I wrote a little before about the church and web2.0 and Ben has a whole series on some of the things I was thinking about (but his thoughts are certainly more developed).

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White Lightning dies again...

So, I thought White Lightning was better, but no. She died again yesterday - popped a belt or something. I was driving when all of a sudden the steering locked up and the battery light came on. Not a pleasant surprise! I had it towed back to the folks who worked on the car over the weekend and they repaired/replaced the brokeness. I noticed though that it looked like oil was still leaking. They told me it was from before. I told them to take a look at it again. They did, and sure enough it was leaking again; said it was a defective gasket and they'd replace it for free. Except not until next Monday when the part comes in.

So, we're rolling again and keeping a close eye on the oil level. This week, I hate cars. Maybe I'll go Amish and buy a horse and buggy.

*(No offense inteded to my Amish readers.)

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Look what I did

I made a poster for one of our upcoming youth events and wanted to show it off. See...

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White Lightning rides again...

My car, a white '96 Saturn SL2 with 144k+ miles, affectionately known as 'White Lightning', was ill last week. She went to the car doctor over the weekend and seems to be running much better again. Apparently there was a little oil leak that let oil drip down onto the spark plugs causing some trouble and the hoses to the spark plugs were rotting. The biggest problem, though, was that one of the engine mounts (the piece that holds the engine on the frame) was cracked. The mechanic put it this way: "If that cracks the rest of the way, your engine's gonna fall out on the ground." I'm not a real car guy, but even I know you don't want your engine on the ground! That's what was causing the shakes and shudders. When the engine was running in gear or shifting into gear, it was beginning to shake loose from the car.

So, that's fixed and White Lightning rides again...

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Clarify the Win

This post is part of a series. For others in this series, check here.

The practice of clarifying the win is all about naming the target on the bull’s eye. We’ve all heard the old adage, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Well, the alternative to that is to aim at something, and clarifying the win tells you -and everybody else- just what you’re aiming at.

Given a task or job to do, everyone aims at some goal, some outcome. As a leader, it’s important when delegating authority to give a clear goal for that individual to strive toward. If a person isn’t given a particular goal, they may still be successful, but it may be success in a wrong direction. Or successful by some other set of standards.

Without a clear ‘win’ people would have to guess about what is ‘winning’ and they may guess wrong. Not clarifying the win can cause conflict between people or departments, competition for resources, space, people…

But by clarifying the win, several important things will begin to happen.

There becomes a sense of team alignment. When pieces of an organization can see the big picture, a win in one area is a win for the entire organization. The whole team begins to see what everyone is aiming at and knows where the process is headed and what the eventual desired outcome should be.

Clarifying the win provides an advantage when it comes to resources, too. If you know the goal, it’s easier to know how to spend time and money and where to apply people gifts and talents.

Plus, it’s motivating. People like to win. And when people are winning, when they feel they are being successful and accomplishing something, it’s reassuring and brings a greater sense of fulfillment or meaning to the work that is being done.

“So, give me the practical stuff.” OK, I hear you.

Here are five steps that can be a part of clarifying the win:

1- Sum up the win in a simple phrase.
By keeping it short and sweet, it will be easily repeatable and will more quickly lock into the minds of those helping to accomplish the win.

2- Keep the win as specific as possible.
Short and sweet isn’t it. It needs to be stated specifically, too. This helps ensure that the win is in some way measurable. “Making disciples of Jesus” is too general. But if you believe that becoming a disciple of Jesus happens best within the context of community, then you may aim at something like involving people in some sort of small group environment. Also, the process of specifying the win may look something like this: what’s a win for church → for student ministry → for myf → for myf discussion leader. How does each level push toward the win?

3- Build into the environments ways to restate the win frequently and creatively.
One great way that people learn is through creative repetition. Whenever possible find ways to creatively restate or re-present the win. This helps to drive the concept throughout the organization. It also helps to keep the goal fresh in everyone’s mind.

4- Continue to meet to clarify the win at every level.
Like I touched on just above, it’s important to clarify the win at every level. Be clear about how each piece of the process builds toward the win. What is the win for a Sunday school teacher or an acolyte or any particular environment? How does that volunteer’s role contribute to the win for the whole organization? Then ask questions that coincide with the mission. Those questions will indicate the win, and people will detect that; people will redirect themselves to those questions. When you celebrate a win, people will work toward that point of celebration.

5- Plan events with the win in mind.
Perhaps for a certain event, you would work through questions like these: When this event is over, what do we want people to walk away with? What do we want people to do? What do we want to look back on? What’s the point of celebration?

The task of clarifying the win, of picking one for-sure target that everyone is aiming at, is important. It can also seem intimidating when you consider having to determine that for each piece of the puzzle. But you can’t afford not to. You can determine the win or it will determine itself.

Join the discussion in the comments section below.

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Aren't middle schoolers great?

So, I lead a Bible study on Wednesday nights for some of our youth.

I was at the middle school for a pep rally today and saw one of the boys in the Bible study group. On his way out of the gym he sees me, gives me a high five and says, "You going to Bible study tonight?" I was thinking, "Um, yeah..."

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Hitting the Headlines

Today we had our first team meeting for the South Georgia Conference Safe Sanctuaries steering committee. The meeting went well, we laid a foundation for the work we’ll be doing over the next year or so, and it looks like we’ve got a great team. I’m excited about being a part of something like this. I’ll share more as we go.

In other news, poor old White Lightning (my white ’96 Saturn SL2) doesn’t seem healthy today. As I exited I-16 this morning, she shook and jarred and whirred and whined… the check engine light flickered on… we shared a moment together. Right now the car still runs, but… we’ll see.

Since I’m sitting in the hotel room (enjoying the ESPN on the tv and the wireless internet and the time all by myself to sit reading and blogging – ahhhh), I thought I’d share some "me" news (yes, kirk, "selfish me"), but also wanted to point you guys to a few worthy headlines:

* As football season dawns, high-school football in particular, remember, "It’s just a game."

* Speaking of football, Friday, September 8, 2006 was a Sad Day for Georgia Southern Football (also here). The Eagles kickoff their season tomorrow night, and I’m sure this, along with the loss of WR Teddy Craft this summer, will mark this season. Perhaps even more than the arrival of new GSU head-coach Brian VanGorder.

* In light of my thoughts from last Saturday night, Mike Devries caught my attention with this and this. Not only a few really good worthwhile questions to reflect on, but a great word picture (living to the rhythm of the song versus performing a mechanical routine).

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When are you quiet?

Last Saturday night I had the opportunity to speak at a youth worship gathering in Statesboro called the Summit. I wanted to do two things here: record my experience in this teaching opportunity, and share with you a little of what I shared with the group Saturday night.

Every once in a while, I’ll have ideas for teaching that seem, well, risky. Sometimes it’s ideas that are just different from the norm or approaches to a presentation that seem a little ‘out there’. Sometimes I feel like I’ve potentially got something really good and don’t want to ‘waste’ it (yeah, there’s probably deep rooted personal issues there). My plan for Saturday felt risky, like it could be good or be a total belly flop. It didn’t dawn on me until Saturday afternoon why I felt that way.

I wanted to challenge the teens to intentionally carve out times of silence and solitude to simply be with God.

I planned to begin by showing Rob Bell’s Nooma "Noise". In the video, Rob sits on a couch watching television for a moment, and then begins to talk about the noise in our lives. He tells the account of Elijah on the run, hiding out on a mountaintop, listening for God to speak. There was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but God was not in any of those. As Elijah waited, the text says, “there came a gentle whisper” or “the sound of shear silence”. Bell then points and clicks his tv remote and the screen goes blank. The remaining eight minutes or so of the video are spent in silence, reading messages and questions that prompt you to consider the noise in your life and what affect that noise has on your ability or inability to hear from God.

Then I stepped up to say a few things about our pace and rhythm in life, the noise we endure, and challenge them to take time for silence.

So here’s the picture: big room full of teenagers, nearly ten minutes of silence, and then I expect them to listen to me. Now, do you see why it felt risky. What I realized was that the reactions to my teaching was dependent on the audience’s willingness to engage with what I was talking about. If they engaged with the silence, reflected on the noise in their lives, and wrestled with hearing God speak to them, then -bang- homerun. If not, then it’s ten minutes that feels like an eternity and then some guy saying I need to do that more often; definitely a belly flop.

As I think about it, though, all teaching - really good teaching - is dependant on the learner being willing to engage with what is being taught. I can think back to times in high school and college when teachers just went through the motions, I, as the student, just went through the motions, not really engaged or concerned with the material, and how pointless those classes seemed and how little I actually learned, how little I’ve retained.

I think this is key for any teaching to have significant impact. Maybe what I’m talking about is a need to present in a creative, fresh, and compelling way the important truth that people need to be connected with. Maybe what I’m talking about is raising the hearer’s awareness of their need for what is being communicated. Maybe this is why Jesus, a master teacher, waited for opportune times to teach and spoke in ways that were interesting (stories) and powerful.

So, here is what I was learning through this realization: How much of my teaching is placed on the shoulders of those learning and how much is simply me spouting forth some clever insights I’ve picked up along the way? How much do I raise the awareness of the need for what I teach, so that the message is perceived as relevant? Connecting people with God is always relevant, but only hits home to the extent to which those hearing the message perceive it to be relevant to them.

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7 Practices of Effective Ministry

This is the first in a series about the book "7 Practices of Effective Ministry” by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones. In this book, they share the guiding principles for the leadership of North Point Community Church.

I want to say up front that I don’t think every local church should be a copy of North Point (and I think the folks at North Point would agree). I’ve not fallen into some sort of twisted ministry-lust with their church or anything like that. (They do have an absolutely incredible church!) Instead, I think every local church, given their unique local setting, needs to minister to people in a unique way according to God’s leading, I do, however, feel like this book gives some very solid principles for leadership that many churches would do well to consider.

Throughout this series I’ll briefly explain each of the seven practices they identify, maybe try to share a little of how I’m currently wrestling with that particular principle, and offer some fodder for discussion. It’s my hope that those of you who read and are interested in these ideas would help to make this a discussion by sharing in the comments for each post. Perhaps together we could all gain a bit more. (If you use an aggregatorBloglines, etc – I’ve added a feed for the comments on this blog to help you follow along.) If there’s lots of discussion or not, at least this will be a chance for me to more thoroughly work through these thoughts.

Two last things:
1) I highly recommend this book to anyone leading in ministry. Get it!
2) As a supplement to the book, there is a podcast series called ‘Practically Speaking’ available through i-Tunes or you can find the mp3’s here.

part 1 : Clarify the Win
part 2 : Think Steps, Not Programs

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Am I playing hard to get?

What a terrible tease I am!

I had full plans to begin a series on a great little book, but, instead, haven't posted at all this whole week! My apologies. We moved into our new house over the weekend (thanks to everyone who helped - you did a great jorb!) and we don't have the 'net hooked up there, yet. On top of that, we had a lightning storm here in town and it kicked the dsl at the church all out of whack, so I've been disconnected all week.

I'm finally back on today with a log jam in the e-mail inbox, piles of reading I want to do in my Bloglines account, and I'm trailing 11-3 in the first round of our fantasy baseball playoffs because my line-up has been frozen - AAHHH!

But life is much better today, now that I'm back online.

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