Friday, February 26, 2010

Who are you following?

Is youth ministry a team activity or an event for the Lone Ranger? People inside a youth ministry often believe that they are part of the parish team, yet those outside the youth ministry often believe the youth team is heading in their own direction. Who is right in your situation? Are you heading in the same direction as the rest of your parish?

Here are two groups that your youth or young adult ministry should be following:

  1. The Parish Priest – Your Parish Priest and the other clergy should know what you ministry is doing and approve the direction it is taking. Your role as an intern and minister is to steer your ministry in the same direction that the Parish Priest is leading the Parish.
  2. Parish Council – Your parish council have been discerning the direction that your Parish is heading, your job is to be guided by their direction. The Parish Council look at the best interests of the entire parish, where as you are focused on your ministry. As important as your ministry is to you, it may not be the number one priority for your parish.

Here are a few things to think about when looking at who you are following:

  1. Affirm in Public – give public affirmation to the Parish Leaders. Your ministry should affirm in public how it is following the direction of the Parish. This public affirmation will help promote your ministry in its standing within the parish and gain you respect from the Parish Leaders.
  2. Challenge in Private – if you feel that the interests or needs of your ministry are being overlooked, always challenge the leadership team in private. Arrange a meeting with your Parish Priest or Pastoral council. Never show disrespect to the parish leaders, especially in public.
  3. Suggest rather than complain – people are usually looking for improvement, but complaints always sound negative. How can you turn your complaint into constructive feedback? Your constructive feedback may just be the advice that the Parish Leaders are looking for.

Why is all this important? One day the current members of your ministry will leave and join other ministries in your Parish. For example, young people grow into young adults or leave for the social justice group or focus on the music team. The attitude that you instil in the people under your care now will benefit the entire parish when they leave your ministry. Who knows, the next Parish Council President may be in your young adults group right now.

Please leave a comment about how you have affirmed the Parish Leadership in your Parish.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Join in the Blog

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Where is your ministry going?

Recently I was meeting with an intern when they asked me the question “what can I do with my group when we meet?” This is a question that I get asked by those who are new to ministry and they are looking for the perfect program. I have learnt to answer with the question “where are you headed?” In order to know what to do when your ministry meets, you have to know where you want to take the group.

Stephen Covey say that the second habit of effective leaders is to “begin with the end in mind.” In ministry the leader has to dream a vision of what the ministry to look like when it is fully established. Once you know where your ministry is headed, you can then work out the steps to get the group there. Andy Stanley calls this the Principle of the Path, the path that you begin determines the destination.

Here are three focus areas to help you determine where you are going:

  1. Big Picture Vision – when your ministry is fully developed what will it look like? Some people might call this the five year plan but you need to hold this image up to your group on a regular basis. Also you may take five year or ten years to achieve this vision so dream big and create concrete examples for the vision.
  1. Graduation Day – what will an individual leave your ministry with? We don’t often think about people leaving our ministry, yet we know nobody stays in a ministry forever. If you want to know where to take your group think about what skills and abilities do you want them to have when they leave your group. Focusing on one imaginary person, it also makes your big vision practical, a vision for real people.

For example, if you want your high school students to graduate your youth group with a love of the Bible, you will have to teach them how to read and pray the scriptures.

  1. +/- One Year – How has your ministry grown n the past year and how will it grow in the next twelve months? Whilst we don’t know how long it will take us to achieve our big picture vision we can make a plan for the next twelve months. Break up the year into months or terms and make a plan based on three types of events:
    1. Recruiting: you need a special recruiting phase at least once a year even if you invite new comers to each meeting. You also need a period to teach the new recruits the culture of the ministry.
    2. Leadership: in each twelve month period you should also offer a leadership development program to raise the next leaders for your ministry. The best phrase to describe this is “do yourself out of a job”.
    3. Celebration: “all work and no play” is a bit boring so make a plan to celebrate and have fun. Celebrations are not just “nights off”, they are really important events where people share the successes of the ministry and feel ownership.

So the next time you are wondering what to do with your ministry night or training session, think about where are you going and how will this meeting take us closer to where we want to be. Leave a comment about ideas that help you determine where you are going.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Failure is essential

Have you ever heard the saying “Failure is not an option”? People say this when they know that they must succeed at all costs. I often hear this is war movies where it is a matter of life or death, then failure really is not an option. Yet most of us fear failure even though we don’t live in a life or death world. Many people don’t begin something or try a new adventure if they think they might fail.

Recently I heard Craig Groeschel say that in ministry “Failure is not an option, it is essential”. Craig has found that many people don’t begin new ministries if they think they might fail. In his experience, failing in ministry teaches you about how to improve a ministry, so failure is his path to success. For example, it was only after trying rock concerts in their youth ministry did they realise that the Church shouldn’t do rock concerts, yet what they did learn was that young people are attracted and engaged by music. So now they include music in their regular youth nights.

This week I have been meeting with a number of Youth Ministers across the Diocese. The common link I have noticed is that all of them have grown so much in their understanding of ministry. Whilst I hope that every youth minister has a few successes to keep them in the game, I know that each one of these successful youth minters has made some mistakes. It is the failures that they have experienced that make them successful today.

For example, one of the youth minsters spoke to me this week about improving their youth group. The current youth group is version two and is so much better than version one. The difference between the two versions is the experience of the youth minister. The youth minster is more hungry for the version two group to work because of the mistakes they made with version one.

In your ministry what mistakes are you making? How can you learn from the mistakes you make in ministry? In looking at starting something new, remind your group that failure is not an option it is essential. Don’t chase failure, but don’t be scared to try something new.

Please leave a comment about how you have learnt from failure or mistakes in ministry.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It started with Three

How many people does it take to change a light bulb? This is often a joke told where the answer gives an insight into a particular stereotype. When I heard this recently, I wondered how many Catholics does it take to start a youth group? Whilst I am sure that there are many humorous answers that we could give if we were telling a joke, some people actually want to know how many people do you need to start a youth group.

Let me tell you my answer with a real life story, you may even guess the group. About five years ago three Catholic young men were interested in starting something in their parish for young people. They wanted to lay a solid foundation for youth ministry in their parish and “get it right” from the start. So they decided to come together every Thursday night for prayer, to ask God for guidance, vision and direction.

Their next step was not to launch into a mega ministry or try to entertain the “youth”, the three young men thought “who can we invite into this group for prayer?” As they added the next person then the next person, the group began to grow. This was training the group in the evangelical spirit which characterises the group today. Not “Evangelical” by denomination but the group has a heart for evangelisation or to put it simply they want to share this with their friends.

Five years later those three young men have gathered 50 or 60 other young people to meet for prayer on a Thursday night. The group looks different from what it did five years ago but the element of prayer is still present. If you ask me what makes this group successful, the prayer element and evangelistic spirit would be it.

Sometimes as an intern or a youth minister, you may want to copy the program of a successful youth ministry that you admire. Instead copy the heart and culture of the ministry. Many people think that Hillsong is successful because of their music, yet it is the culture of small discipleship groups that drives the ministry. Some people might thing the group mentioned above is because they have a supportive Priest, but it is more than that.

So next time you ask yourself how many Catholics does it take to start a youth group, know that it only takes three.

Please leave a comment; perhaps you have a funny comment to make about how many Catholics it takes to change a light bulb or to start a youth group.