Thursday, March 26, 2009

How to Evaluate Your Ministry

Evaluating your ministry can be difficult and there are many who would rather not evaluate at all because it feels "unspiritual". The truth is we all evaluate our ministries based on our own ministry values whether we have taken the time to write them down or not. Does it not make sense to actually write these things down and be thoughtful about how we evaluate? I am going to lay out one approach I have used. There may be others, but this has worked for me. A lot of the concepts I will be talking about come from material Sonlife Ministries put out a long time ago. However, it is no longer available as far as I know.

If youth ministry is about making disciples it is a good idea to have a description of what a disciple is. A DDP (Description of a Discipled Person) not only helps in the evaluation process, but it helps on the programming side as well. I have made a DDP that I have used available on my web site on the free page: If you are going to make a DDP for yourself, let me suggest you keep it simple five or Seven characteristics at the most.

DDPs are a great start in thinking strategically about your ministry. Jesus gave us a DDP of sorts when He gave us the Great Commission, "teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you." KRAs (Key Result Area) are a way of thinking about how to accomplish the task of making disciples. For example one of our Descriptions of a Disciple is a person who reaches the lost. So a Key Result Area might be training 30% of our students to share the gospel. There may be two or three KRA's for each DDP. You might also use one KRA for multiple DDPs. The point is you are developing a strategy to make disciples. Jesus did this often, He would teach crowds and then teach the disciples how to minister to the crowds and then send them out to minister to the crowds. You might say KRA's are the programming side of the DDP. You can see a sample of a KRA Here

SWOPs (Strengths Weaknesses Oportunities Potential/Problems) are a way of evaluating your KRAs. Simply put you think through the strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential/problems in each Key Result area. If I was evaluating our small groups I might put strong leaders under strengths, limited by location and time under Weaknesses, Connecting with students under opportunities and Kids don't bring their Bibles under problems. You can find blank SWOPs here.

What this does is allow you to see where you are doing well and where you need work. Once you have figured that out you can begin to address the problems and weaknesses and turn them into strengths and opportunities. This process is difficult at times and requires being objective and honest. I will include my volunteer staff in this process when I think it will be helpful to them, but sometimes it is not helpful to have everyone involved. This is a basic look at this process and is not intended to be an exhaustive explanation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Phones Are From Satan, but God Seems To Use Them

I hate phone calls, I can sometimes be found in my office spewing insults at the phone. It's kind of embarrassing to be honest. Last week I took the time to make a phone call. It is not something I do all the time, but if I know a student is struggling or there is something significant going on in their life I will call, text, or Facebook them and just let them know I care.

Most of you probably do this all the time. To you I say "Kudos". For me it is something I have to push myself to do, especially with those students who aren't asking for the attention. This particular student had been struggling with some of his friends. They had been making fun of him for not getting high or drinking with them. He responded by telling his parents and making some great decisions. I just let him know I was proud of him and we chatted for a little while.

A couple days later this student's mom came to me and thanked me for the phone call. If you have a large ministry don't give up on these personal touches and make sure your staff is doing that as well. If you are in a smaller ministry make sure this is part of your ministry, and make sure you are also teaching your staff to do this so when you grow in numbers your staff will be making those connections.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Preaching Jesus

God designed me as a coach. I have coached volleyball, basketball, and football at the high school level. My tendencies in youth ministry are to coach. It comes so naturally to me that I have to be very aware that I am not coaching in situations that require something of a different approach. One of the things I learned from my coaches in high school was to always focus on the basics. There have been times in my ministry when I have forgotten the basics.

Jesus is the most fundamental truth found in all of Scripture. Martin Luther said, "Scripture is the cradle of Christ" and Charles Spurgeon said, "“Nobody ever outgrows scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years” For most of this year we have been doing a series on Jesus. We have been asking questions like, "why worship Jesus?" and "What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?" The amazing thing is this, my students have not grown tires of Jesus, and I have not grown tires of preaching about Jesus. Instead this has opened up my students minds. They have begun to understand that all of Scripture ultimately points to Jesus. We have grown significantly in numbers and in spiritual maturity. Students are bringing friends to hear about Jesus, not to hear me talk about drinking, peer pressure, or some other hot topic. They come to hear about Jesus!!

When we use gimmicks to attract students we may be successful, but gimicks cannot change a students life, only Jesus can do that. Let's stay focused on the basics preach Jesus from all of scripture!!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Theology & Youth Ministry: A match made in heaven

Theology: the study of God.
Youth Ministry: the act of discipling Junior and Senior High students.

These definitions may not be perfect, but I think they communicate the basic premise of both theology and youth ministry. For some in the church these two things are mutually exclusive. Youth ministry for years was viewed as a stepping stone to becoming a "real" pastor. While this mentality still exists in some places, it has wained in recent years and youth ministry has begun to grow up. Today youth ministry is viewed as serious business. For this I am grateful. My purpose is to provide a theological basis for youth ministry. This has been done before by others, but my hope is that thinking theologically about youth ministry and leadership in a youth ministry context will not be something that takes place in the background, but rather it is brought to the forefront.

Theology is the study of God, but it has become a broader term that encompasses much more. God does not exist in a vacuum, instead we have a history of how he has interacted with mankind and with youth throughout all of history. This is part of thinking theologically. Modern youth ministry may be young, but youth ministry as a whole is not.

Genesis. ya, I know it's kind of canned to start with a book that literally means beginnings. But then again, there must be a reason it is called Genesis. I can't prove it but I have a theory about Adam and Eve. I think they were in essence adolescents when they were created. I think if we were there to see them walking down the street (clothed of course) a day after they were created they would look like teenagers. In essence, God created his own youth group by speaking them into existence (how about that for a growth strategy). I can't imagine why God would create them with older bodies, maybe they were the equivalent of a 17 or 18 year old. God in his wisdom certainly would have wanted to skip the diapers and having to do everything for them, but He certainly would have wanted to create them still in their physical prime.

Whatever your thoughts about the last paragraph, they were young in their appearance and they needed to be taught the ways of God. Thus God gave them freedom within boundaries. Wow, that might be profound. God also allowed them to endure the consequences of their choices. Of course the history of youth ministry goes on:
  • Joseph was young when God began to work in him, giving him dreams.
  • Samuel was very young when his mother dedicated him to the ministry and grew up around the temple learning the ways of God.
  • David was called by God (Through his youth pastor Samuel) when he was young and was probably a teenager when he defeated Goliath.
  • Josiah was 8 when he became king and Joash was 7 God used both of those boys as they became men.
  • some of the disciples were likely teenagers (they certainly acted like it at times).
  • Paul raised up Timothy who was a young church leader
  • etc...
God has interacted with people who were young for all of history. Not only is this youth ministry, but it is theology. Youth ministry and theology are meant to be together. More could be said about the numerous passages in the Bible that in one way or another address the issue of youth ministry.

Youth Ministry is not simply a response to a consumerist culture; however, just like the church as a whole youth ministry has responded to culture in negative and positive ways. Thinking theologically about youth ministry will help to differentiate what is good and what is not. Youth Ministry is Biblical and good, it is not a question of whether we do youth ministry, but how we do youth ministry.

  • As you think about scripture and the stories that likely involve teen agers what can we learn about how God interacted with young people?
  • How has youth ministry appropriately and inappropriately responded to culture and fads?
  • How have you responded appropriately or inappropriately to those things?
  • If youth ministry and theology are a match made in heaven, how might that impact our teaching? How can we help students develop good theology?
Coming up in two weeks: "Learning to Use Ministry Models"

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Measuring Spirituallity

I hear it all the time and I'm sure you hear it too. I think I've even said it in an attempt to convince myself. Numbers aren't that important. I've even had people try to tell me that Jesus wasn't concerned about numbers and the Bible really doesn't seem to care much about numbers. Unfortunately this simply isn't the case. Does God care about numbers?

Yes, God not only cares about numbers, He cares a lot. There is an entire book of the Bible about numbers, Jesus apparently thought it was important to know how many people he fed, in Acts we are told the number of those who came to Christ multiple times, in Revelation we are informed of the number that worshiped Jesus or the Father on several occasions. In the end numbers are important!!

Every number is representative of people and people are important to Jesus. Next time you are tempted to suggest that numbers aren't important, ask yourself why? Numbers may not be the only factor we should consider when measuring the health of a group, but they are important and I would suggest that they can be very important.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Relational Ministry

Fourteen years ago I was the half time youth pastor at a small church in Harris, MN. I was going to college full time and trying to support my wife. I remember trying to figure out how to do youth ministry. I hadn't really had any training, so I was just winging things. I had no idea what I was doing, I just loved kids and loved God.

Three weeks ago I received a tweet ( for those of you who don't know what that is) from a former student of mine. He simply asked if I was the same guy who was a youth pastor in Harris, MN. As we began to talk, he recalled how messed up he was back then. He also recalled that I treated him "normal". He even recalled a time when I picked him up at his house on my motorcycle and went to Dairy Queen where I sat and talked with him for an hour. I don't remember this particular event. I do remember doing this kind of thing with lots of students.
This past weekend at the National Youth Ministry Conference in Columbus, Ohio I had the privilege of sitting down with him and his wife A (way to go buddy!!). He pulled out his wallet and showed me a card I had given to the students that said, "If you meet me and forget me you have lost nothing. If you meet Jesus and forget Him, you have lost everything." I was blown away. All these years later he still has that little card I printed up on my printer. I am so proud of him and thankful that I had the privilege of being used by God in his life. Love God, love others, make disciples will always ring true.

Today he is being mentored by another youth pastor and wants to become a youth pastor. What is the moral of the story? Do the little things. Teach your staff to do the little things. Relational ministry is the wave of the past, the present, and the future. Whatever youth ministry fads come and go, relationships are what makes a difference.