My First Year in Youth Ministry Part II
My previous post was difficult for me. You see I am not a fan of realizing my mistakes and part of that post was doing exactly that, seeing and acknowledging where I was wrong. There are a lot of things that I would have done differently but many things that I would not. The previous post was a turning point for me as my excitement is returning overcoming my burnout.
I am emotionally tied to many churches, not just the previous church that we were at. There are churches that many of my friends and family members go to that know me. There are churches that we have been at here that we still go to from time to time. All of these churches have one thing in common….
There are things that I wish they could see, acknowledge, and hopefully turn around.
No church is perfect. You simply cannot be the all things church to all people. Some like contemporary music like myself while others like traditional services like Steph. Churches today are moving away from choirs and invitations. The last church (a Baptist church in theory and membership to their association only) did not have an invitation. Steph even asked the pastor why churches are moving away from that and he basically said it was not the style of many churches today
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 4:10
So given this soapbox of my own personal space, here are a few things that I wish churches would learn, remember, acknowledge and turn around…
1 – The great commission is still in effect. We are called to go to all nations and make disciples. All nations includes the nation, state, city, community, subdivision and street that you are currently on. The mission field does not begin at the edge of the ocean; it begins at the edge of your seat. It is so easy to send a check to organizations that function overseas while ignoring the house across the street.
2 – God will put lost and hurting people in your path. He will give you “low hanging fruit” as it is called in many sales programs. These are people who have clubs and organizations that my utilize your facilities. They may have events in your area. Engage those people. Reach out to them. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Develop relationships and friendships so that when you invite them, they will feel comfortable knowing people there. Follow up with them so that they know someone there cares about them.
3 – A church needs vision. Sure every company and church out there has a vision statement or slogan. It’s a goal and a direction that everyone knows and works toward. Without direction, where are you going? Who are you trying to reach? What is the ultimate goal of what you are trying to accomplish? How do you measure your success if you have no goal to work toward? Find God’s vision for your ministry. Share that vision. Promote it. Move toward it.
4 – What image is your church putting out there for the world to see? When people are asked about your church, what do they say? What do they know about you? When you deliver God’s message, does it bring out confusion or instruction? Does it help healing the hurt or add to the wounds? Conviction is one thing, offending others is another. Make sure that the message that you are sending out, aligns with your beliefs. Sometimes what isn’t said or done speaks volumes more than what is said or done. People won’t go somewhere that they are unsure of or feel unsafe to be a part of.
5 – Take care of God’s house. Look at your own home and compare it to the House of God you worship at. If the paint is peeling or faded at your home, you paint it or repair it. If the paint is the same way at God’s house, someone else will do it or we have a maintenance man to do that.. You would not want to visit a church with run down, outdated, needing repair, poorly landscaped facilities. Why in the world would you expect someone to come to your church with God’s house in neglect? If something in your facility isn’t working, hasn’t worked in many years or isn’t needed any longer, either fix it or get rid of it. The sanctuary isn’t a mini warehouse to store unused equipment. Sunday school rooms shouldn’t be used as storage rooms.
6 – If you plan to reach no one, you will reach no one EVERY TIME. Having ZERO first time visitors at Christmas is one thing, especially in a small church. Having ZERO first time visitors at Christmas AND Easter is a message. It’s a message that you are reaching NO ONE. These are the easiest 2 Sundays of the year to invite others to church. Many Christmas and Easter only people will come if invited one of these 2 Sundays out of obligation and doing what is expected. There are 50 other weeks of the year. Invite and promote year round not just at Christmas and at Easter.
7 – Visitors to your church are gifts. God has blessed you with sending new people to come and hear His message. Reach out to them. Engage them. Make them feel welcome. Follow up with them. Invite them back. I have had the opportunity to visit some of the most popular and fastest growing churches in the Southeast. I have never felt more alone at church in my life. There is something to be said about smaller churches where you are noticed because they do exactly that. They notice you. They need to know where the bathrooms are, where their kids need to go, where they need to be at, etc. And this is just the first few things when they walk in the front door. Help them be where they need to be by TAKING them, not by telling them or expecting them to know. Value their visit and let them know it. Do everything that you can to make them feel comfortable otherwise good luck on getting visit #2.
8 – There is a reason that people HATE going to funeral homes. There is no life there. There isn’t any excitement. The look on the faces of the people there SHOW how much that they don’t want to be there. What do the people in your church show on their faces? Are they excited to be there or are they just there out of obligation hoping that it gets better? If there isn’t any excitement in your members, why would someone new want to be a part of what is going on there?
9 – Worship is essential. I love contemporary even loud and wild worship music. It gets me there. Steph loves the traditional music with great stories and messages in them. It gets her there. There is nothing wrong with either, when done right. It’s not about the style of music; it’s about how well it’s done and presented. I just heard a contestant on the show “The Voice” a few weeks ago do “How Great Thou Art”, the hymn. She did this so incredible it would bring you to tears. I’ve also heard it done like nails on a chalkboard. After all scripture says “Make a Joyful Noise” Worship out of joy and present your worship in a manner that is worthy of our God that you are worshiping.
10 – Great leaders all have one thing in common; they bring up great leaders behind them. Christ poured His life into His disciples and made them into great men of God. He taught them so that after He was gone, they would carry on God’s plan. Those disciples in turn brought up great men behind them and the message spread. Some people are born leaders while others are developed into great leaders by great leaders. I have been incredibly blessed to be connected with so many great men of God in my lifetime and I treasure what I have learned from each of them. Look for people with leadership potential and do everything that you can to bring them up. Encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone. Give them the training and resources to move them to the next level whatever that may be. Communicate with them often.
11 – Churches are not businesses. Sure they all have income and expenses just like a business. They have to have a staff to maintain these incomes and expenses just like a business but the members of your staff, are also in most cases part of your flock as well. Don’t just go to them when you need something or when they did something wrong. Take care of them just like you would any other member of your flock. Treat them with the same love and care as you would the young couple that sits in the back or the widow who sits on the front row. Your staff has needs and hurts just like the rest of the sheep. Encourage and build up your staff. Develop them. After all sometimes they work as hard or harder than the pastor does. Often they do as much or more ministry because the pastor is unavailable.
12 – Your youth and children are the greatest resource that any ministry could have. Make them feel special. These are not the church of tomorrow. They are the church of today and the leaders of tomorrow that you have to cling to with everything that you have or you will lose them to the world outside. The world is a very appealing place. There is more now that appeals to youth and children than ever before. Bring them up in a Christ like manner. Grow them into the great men and women of Christ that they will become. Raise them up and they will raise up future generations. Help them to know that this is their church also.
13 – Pastors are not rock stars. Don’t become unreachable to those in your ministry who connect with you. These people hear you every week bring about God’s message. If you allow your schedule to consume you to the point where you cannot meet with those who need you to minister to them, then you become less of a minister and more of a public speaker. The world needs fewer public speakers and more people doing ministry. One of the pastors that I am connected to has ministry staff just to take care of the administration so that he can focus on ministering to his congregation. He has no part in the administration. He still does hospital and nursing home visits, funerals, and weddings and his is one of the largest churches that I have been a part of.
Lastly, if there was one thing that I wish churches could be more aware of and remember…
God forgives our sins and remembers them no more. Everyone has a past and there was only one perfect person since the beginning of time. That was Jesus Christ who was pure and sinless. The rest of us are not. Over the course of our lives we have all made mistakes. Some of those are huge and have long term effects on our lives. We have enough to deal with the consequences of those sins. Don’t hold the past sins of those in your congregation against them. Jesus’ ministry was about restoration and healing. Protect those under your care but help those who struggle with past sin. Help them and give them opportunities to move on. Don’t be a stumbling block for what God is doing in their lives. Your choice to hold them back in ministry could be the one thing that keeps someone else from hearing about a life with Christ and keep them out of eternity. You never know who that one person will be able to reach or what he or she may accomplish with just a little encouragement and prayer.
Throughout my life, You have had a plan. As part of that plan, You have placed me in the path of many great men and women of God and in the places of many great churches. Thank You for making me a part of Your plan. Thank You for providing for me to help work through Your plan. Help me to always learn and never take for granted Your gifts in my life.