Recently when sharing about his ministry a youth pastor said “you attract people like youself.” Though I agree with his statement the fact is a ministry will never reach full potential if you stop there. This pastor had a youth ministry that had decreased to a small number and I was asking questions to evaluate the ministry in an area that had good opportunity for growth. If I were consulted to mentor this youth pastor there are 7 principles I would focus on to help him grow a dynamic youth ministry. Today I want to talk about one that is important in any type of ministry.
Connecting is critical to growing a dynamic ministry. If you settle for a ministry that only reflects your personality and gifts it will always lack growth and be hindered from reaching it’s potential. A basic leadership principle I learned from John Maxwell is to bring people around that are different from you and have gifts you lack. How can you do that in a youth ministry? Here are few things I did to connect when pioneering 4 different student ministries from scratch…
My most challenging student ministry was the one I started at a juvenile delinquent home. No Christian group had ever been successful and I was told it was impossible. Most of the kids were in secure lock up for felony charges but the staff agreed to let me have one shot at a gathering with them. What did I have in common with these kids? Absolutely nothing! Before the event I found out their main source of activity and enjoyment was ping pong. I had never even played ping pong but I asked the most influential guy in the room if he would teach me. We connected through ping pong. After that I began to spend about 20 hours a week at juvi until I recruited a replacement. Unfortunately I never did get too good at ping pong.
A campus ministry sent me to a liberal college to help start a ministry that was struggling with recruiting and evangelism. Here are a few things I did to help me connect with students…I dressed like students dress, I attended student activities, I went to places students go, I asked one of the most influential guys on campus to teach me how to ride a skateboard, I asked students lots of quetions about themselves to help me find their passion and points of interest and then zeroed in on that, etc. My desire was to become all things to all men in order to reach some.
The principle I have been taught is that connecting is required for ministry growth. I did many things that were out of my comfort zone. By nature I was a person who was not into sports, outside activity, music or video games. I am the person at the beach who will not even go into the water but sit in a lawn chair and read a book. Today you might be challenged to see this because I will do anything to connect with my family, friends and other people I come in contact with.
Read a facebook post this week from a youth pastor I worked with at Skyline Church in San Diego who has built an incredible youth ministry at Saddleback Church. Kurt Johnston posted: “New Rule: Every youth pastor should be required to visit two dynamic youth ministries a year to learn what they are doing.”
What are you doing to grow your ministry?
For more info on this topic read previous post “How To Build a Ministry that will Impact Youth Culture” and see “Called to Youth Ministry” which you can click on at my blogroll.
The fall schedule is in full swing and already I need to practice what I preach about reclaiming your schedule and living out your priorities. How about you? Are you on the busy treadmill going faster to nowhere? Today I wanted to share some simple ways to stop the busyness that interferes with the your priorities.
1. Pray about every request. I don’t mean you have to pray for a month about helping out in kid’s church one or two weeks, singing a solo at church or attending a baby shower. I just don’t think life is that complicated. What I am talking about here are the long term requests to do something or something that will take a lot of time. When I speak at a conference it may only be a one hour keynote address or a seminar but I have to think about prep time (I may spend 20-30 hours or more on one message) and travel time. Also, what will I have to say no to if I say yes to that request?
2. Use a calendar and set boundaries on your time. To keep your priorities you must guard the time you set aside for them. We have weekly family time and I write it on my calender. The same with QT, time with Todd and other things that I have determined are priorities. If I don’t write stuff in when I get a request I may look more available than I really am.
3. Watch out for those little things. Lot’s of little things add up to many things. It’s hard to say no to “little” requests but 10-20 of them in month add up to a lot.
4. Give yourself permission to complete tasks imperfectly. I am a perfectionist by nature and the negative to this is taking too long on too many tasks. I don’t have time every night to cook a gourmet dinner. What I have learned is that having the time as a family (dinner together is a high priority) is important. The first week of September was an unusual week for us and we did take out two nights…pizza one night and Chinese another. It was a decision we made to take some pressure off and this enabled me to have more family time.
5. Delegate. To live priorities one must learn to delegate. I find in ministry that most people want to be involved and serve. If a leader has a problem with delegation they often have problem with being a control freak. Delegate it and the blessing of that is that a team will develop.
Too often people live by the tyranny of the urgent of someone else. Without clearly defined priorities it will be difficult to beat busyness. What have you learned that has helped you to take control of your schedule?
Have you ever been angrily criticised by another? I have and if you are involved in ministry you probably have also. During the past week I have had a couple of friends share their recent experience with me. Today I want to share a few words of wisdom from John Maxwell on responding to criticism.
1. Very few attacks are worth fighting over.
2. If you start answering every critic, all you will get is more critics.
3. If you explain yourself, all you will do is explain yourself.
4. The more successful you are the more criticism you will attract.
5. Nothing frustrates the critic more than not getting an answer from you.
I’ll close with one of my personal favorites “If you wallow in the mud with a pig, both of you will get dirty.”
#10 Bring Closure
All mentoring should have closure. This helps to bring a satisfactory end to the experience. When mentoring has no closure it usually dwindles down to uneasy feelings on the part of both people. Mentoring is never meant to be forever ongoing. A happy ending will include closure in which both parties evaluate, acknowledge what was helpful and where empowerment occurred and then mutually end the mentoring relationship. What frequently happens in successful mentoring is an ongoing friendship that allows occasional “spot” mentoring as needed. I am very thankful that I have remained friends with many women that I have ministered to in the past. It has been a joy to serve with some of these women in different ministries.
Bringing closure is probably the most violated of the commandments, and the most detrimental. Even unsuccessful mentoring should have closure. Because closure is so important to me I am very grateful that 98% of the mentoring relationships I have been in were given this important end. I want to share from personal experience that I understand closure may not always be possible. Sometimes a person may lack the emotional maturity to handle what is needed to bring closure. By the way, a great book to read about this type of emotional maturity is by Pete Scazerro called The Emotionally Healthy Church. Unfortunately the people who need this type of book the most usually will not respond to what Pete has written. But this is a great read and I highly recommend it.
What about you? Any war stories on closure you want to share?
#8 Communicate Expectation
Have you ever been disappointed with a mentoring relationship? Most of us have at least once.I have found that expectations are the root of the most disappointing mentoring experiences. This commandment is mainly the responsibility of the mentoree. The basic rule here is before you say yes you must communicate to the mentor what you are looking to gain. No one is a mind reader and yet we often assume that a person understands what we are seeking. Lack of expectations being met does not have to be the source of dissatisfaction in mentoring.
#9 Have Fun
Because I naturally have an intense personality having fun was a difficult commandment for me to learn. I learned about this commandment from my supervisor when I was on staff with The Navigators at UCSD. A very wise man, Fred Wevodau said to me…DuAnne, what they will remember the most are not the Bible studies or the Scripture they memorize. What they will remember the most is the fun that you hadtogether. And the principles they learn from you in the fun times. I found this to be true. Fortunately for the students I ministered to I took his counsel to heart and made some drastic changes in what I had planned for us to do during the year. A few examples…
- Each year during spring break we took a trip to a destination that was unknown to them until we arrived. I drove late at night while at least 6 slept and when they woke we were at the Grand Canyon. They were very surprised especially since I am not the camping type.
- Once during an intense Bible study (Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crab) I asked them if they had a free 2-3 hours to do anything they wanted what would they do? After each of them shared I then said “okay go do that and then we will meet back here at 8PM.
- I had each woman in my Bible study fill out a “wish list” about things they loved doing and wished they had more time to do. Most of the lists were simple things and they all varied. Occasionally during a one-on-one time instead of prayer of Bible study we would spontaneously go do something on the list. One mentor was pleasantly surprised when instead of doing the lesson we had planned I took her to ride a roller coaster.
These are just a few ideas that came to mind. The point is to make it fun. I learned that “hang time” is not wasted time, it’s valuable to grow deeper, healthy and committed relationships that will pay off over the long run. It also offers us an opportunity to understand each other better.
What are you doing fun with the person you are investing in? What are you doing fun with your leadership team? What are you doing fun with your children, the most important mentorees in your life?
#6 SET TIME LIMITS
I am a loyal person and take commitment very seriously. When I lived in San Diego I kept this quote by Chuck Swindoll on my frig: “Integrity is keeping your commitment even when the circumstances surrounding the commitment have changed.” Being committed is good. Loyaltiy is good. But with every great strength there is usually a weakness. My weakness was never setting a time limit on mentoring. I had a group of women in SD that I mentored for 8 years. Kind of long, huh? You’re probably wondering what I did with them for 8 years! I do want to say that we started as an evangelistic Bible study. The years did seem to fly by. I do recall that I gave them an opportunity every quarter to not be in the discipleship group. But they all stayed unless they moved out of the area. The point I want to make is that if you are anything like me it is so tempting to go into a mentoring relationship open ended. I don’t do this anymore because…
1. If it does not work out for whatever reason you can back out without losing face. This helps you to keep a good relationship.
2. The mentoree will not become overly dependent one person for growth.
3. It enables you to avoid hurt feelings when the mentoring comes to an end.
4. It motivates the mentoree to put a lot into the mentoring knowing it is temporary.
Maybe you know of some other reasons. We would love to hear your experience with this.
Just like in a marriage it is good from time to time to evaluate how the relationship is going. It is always better to be proactive vs. reactive. It is easier to fix something on the front end. Review the whole process and look to see where progress has been made, where there are problems, and what should be done (if anything) to improve the mentoring.
Do you evaluate? What questions do you use for review?
#5 Keep it Confidential
To have the greatest impact, mentoring must be up close and personal. This can happen long distance (phone, email, letters) or face to face. Trust is important to any relationship including that of mentor and mentoree. Once trust is violated it takes too long to rebuild. Some people are more vulnerable and open about their lives and some are less vulnerable and private. Whatever the case may be, keep all things confidential and don’t share with another without permission.
Early in my ministry I made mistakes in this area. I learned that just because I was open about some matters did not mean that everyone is or should be. I also learned something from my children that many of you have also learned. Both of my boys are different. One is more private and the other more transparent. To be respectful I try to ask permission before using a personal family illustration that involves one of them.
Today I try to make it a habit to share in one-to-one relationships and small groups that“what we talk about stays between us.” Making this a practice helps others to feel like I am a safe place. When people trust you as a confident I am amazed at how God opens up hearts.
What about you? What is your experience on this subject? Do you have a safe person to bleed with?
#4 Agree on Accountability
Something that does not usually happen but should be planned is to agree on accountability. To get the most out of being mentored this should be planned. Without it you will not see the impact of change that is possible. The heart of empowerment is not just in what a mentor shares but in the application which accountability is a catalyst for. We all know that change is difficult and rarely takes place without this.
Accountability can take place in many ways: during meetings, scheduled phone calls, probing questions during meetings, or a time planned for evaluation.
What a mentor likes to see is a mentoree who takes responsibility to see that the accountability takes place. The mentoree’s self-initiative in accountability speeds and enhances empowerment.
When I served on staff at churches and Christian organizations it felt natural for me to request accountability and ask for evaluations. I don’t recall serving in any ministry where I have not done this. It has probably served as a catalyst to enhance my growth more than anything else. Everyone has blind spots and we don’t arrive at knowing it all. Our character will never be complete until we are with Christ.
Are you on staff at a church? Are you a volunteer in a ministry? Are you being mentored? If so I hope that you are receiving regular evaluations. If you are involved in ministry at this time I hope that you have someone in your life who cares enough to give honest feedback.
Continuing with the top ten commandments of mentoring, here is #2…
2. Determine the Purpose
I have spoken with many women (and some men too) who shared with me that past mentoring relationships proved to be disappointing. This is often due to having different or unfilled expectations. I am very big on communicating the purpose of everything you do, especially mentoring. Expectations should be expressed and agreed upon at the beginning of every mentoring relationship. If a mentor does not know the purpose of the mentoring relationship she will not even know where to begin, much less where to finish. If a mentoree does not understand the purpose she is more than likely going to be disappointed.
In 2007 I began a mentoring relationship with a woman on staff at a very large church. Because she had been a Christian for many years and in full time ministry I expected that she wanted our focus to be on leadership development or developing a dynamic women’s ministry in her church. What she desired was to be discipled in her walk with the Lord. She had come to realize this was a hole in her leadership and so this was our focus for 6 months. I admired her for having the courage to be honest and vulnerable with where she was. Sometimes pride will hold a person back from developing the walk a leader needs for success in ministry. Because we determined the purpose she was not disappointed.
In closing I want to remind you that passion follows purpose and living out your priorities. Without knowing the purpose of your mentoring relationship it can be ho-hum and boring. What about you? Have you determined the purpose of that mentoring relationship?