19 October 2017

Preaching to High Schoolers

On Sunday morning we launched a new sermon series – as we normally do in our Youth Ministry at the start of each new term. It is called The God Series and is designed to answer the many questions that we are hearing raised by high schoolers about God – questions such as, Does God exist? Does God Hear? Does God Care? Does God Relate? Does God Help and Does God Restore? Although not my point in this blog post, it is worth mentioning that when our communication is designed to address real questions that high schoolers are asking, there is a much greater chance that they will show up and be engaged in the learning environment.

Of course, that presupposes that when they show up, we don’t bore them to death with a monologue that is designed to tell them what they must know and believe. And while there may be a place to do that (not the boring part because according to Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life: “it is a sin to bore a kid!”) it is so much better when we preach or communicate in a way that is designed to ensure engagement and facilitate interaction in the process.  That after all was the topic of my last blog post so let’s move on…

One of the things we have done this term to ensure engagement takes place during the time set aside for the Word part of our service (we have 3 morning youth services and have 30 minutes to share the Word at each service after the Worship, Welcome, Announcements and Offering message), is to create a fresh structure where each session has 3 parts to it (each roughly 10 minutes in length): Express, Explore and Experience. As I describe each part of the service I will use an example from the first week in our series so you can see exactly what takes place in each part of the teaching experience (the theme was “Does God Exist?” and you can listen to the audio of the session using this link).

Part 1: Express: Questions are used to get youth expressing what they know and believe about the topic in small groups. For some time now, we have seated 5 to 7 high schoolers around a table and each table has either a high school leader or young adult leader (or both) seated among the youth. Their responsibility is to ensure that high schoolers are engaged in the learning process and contribute as much as possible. We seldom if ever have discipline issues using this format and if we ensure high schoolers are involved in the learning process there is almost never a moment when someone needs to be singled out for being disruptive – plus people learn best when they are involved in the learning process.

An Example: Each person in the group was asked to share how they would answer a question (How do you know God exists?) received from a friend who does not believe the Bible. They were given a handout (a mostly blank page with the a title printed on the top of the page: “Evidence That God Exists”) and their task was to come up with a list of evidences for the existence of God. This exercise took roughly 7 minutes and I asked each group to send one person to the microphone to share their top evidence for the existence of God. Here is a photo taken as high schoolers were engage in this part of the session:

Here is a photo of some of the completed handout sheets that groups completed:

evidences that And here is a photo taken as one of the youth were giving feedback on behalf of their table:

Part 2: Explore: The second part of our session involves the facilitator exploring the topic (using Scripture, media, video, stories, etc) to bring new insights or reminders of truth to the topic.

An Example: In this session we explored some of the main arguments that have been put forward for the existence of God without using the Bible. Here are some of the main evidence that I presented: (1) Cosmology, (2) Design (we discussed how the Universe is Fine-Tuned and showed a great video from this link); (3) Morality, (4) Experience and (5) Scripture (not Bible verses but the creation and composition of the book itself). Here is a photo taken in our third service where our Friday night event leader, Asher Pardey, was the one facilitating the session:

There were also numerous Illustration used throughout the teaching with some activities taking place at the tables. Here is a photo of some of objects that we used to help illustrate various points:

 

Part 3: Experience: In the third part of the session the facilitator gets youth to internalise what they have learnt through an interactive experience – this could be a small group task, or a personal time of reflection, or a plan of action to implement what they have learnt.

An Example: High schoolers were each given a pen and writing paper and an envelope and they were asked to write a letter to a friend who does not believe in God in which they explain to them the reasons why they believe God exists. They were asked to make it personal and include illustrations or stories. They were challenged to actually give the letter to the person when they next saw them. Here is a photo of high schoolers engaged in writing the letter to their friend:

You can download the PowerPoint that was used in the session using this link.

I am sure you may be wondering whether I believe that one cannot preach in the stand-and-deliver style that we were exposed to growing up in churches – or even the style that is currently mostly used in the adult church – and I guess my reply would be: Sure you can! But if you truly want to engage high schoolers and ensure that you involve them in the learning process and have them walk away established and equipped to be able to live the message, then I would propose that is a better way to approach preaching to high schoolers. May God help you take your communication to the next level!

10 October 2017

Creating Engagement and Facilitating Encounters

During an Every Nation Pastors Retreat in October 2017, I led four sessions with the high schoolers designed to facilitate fresh God Encounters starting with (1) The Encounter Session to help us pray the Lord’s Prayer, then (2) The Contemplative Session to hear God speak during a hike up the river and across the pontoon at Wilderness National Park, followed by (3) The Power Session where we experienced filling, healing, deliverance, miracles and power for evangelism, and finally (4) The Fitness Session which was a spiritual workout in “God’s Gym” where we used spiritual practices to engage with God.

During the debrief session everyone testified of how they had personally encountered God during the week. You can download the material from the four session by navigating to the following page and scrolling down to the bottom of the page under the heading: God Encounters Youth Sessions. Here is the link.

As I have reflected on the experience, I have realised that happened last week was somewhat typical of my approach to teaching in ministry generally. Our Friday night events at Youth are designed to engage high schoolers fully from the moment they walk into the room to when they leave – and it includes providing activities that teens can participate in while leaders engage with them, it included the use of videos that are then debriefed, or experiential learning moments where high schoolers are engaged in the learning process.

Even our Sunday morning “church” for high schoolers is designed to maximise engagement and also create God encounters or at least, hands-on experiences so they grapple with trust in a way that makes them active participants in the learning process.

There are at least two tools that I came across during my studies in training and development some years back at Damelin College that have shaped this emphasis on Creating Engagement and Facilitating Encounters:

Firstly, an Experiential Learning Model by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford (read about it here) that stressed the importance of involving people in the learning process – here is a graphic that illustrates the learning process that one can create to create a learning experience where essentially you create an experience for youth, get them to reflect on the experience, draw conclusions from the experience and put the new learning into practise:

 

Secondly, the Edgar Dale Cone of Experience also helped to shape how I go about imparting truth to people (read more about it here). Here is a graphic that explains the Cone (and honestly, all of us want people to go away from our sessions having learnt as much as possible from the experience):

Image Source: http://www.sparkinsight.com/factlets

 

My website (The Youth Ministry Resourcer) contain resources that reflect a desire to create learning environments that engage people and also that facilitate God encounters for people.

It takes a lot more work to do create learning experiences rather than to simply stand behind a pulpit and preach to people – but it is so rewarding when everyone in the room is engaged and goes away changed by the experience. In my next blog post, I will describe a creative approach to preaching to high schoolers that we are using this term at youth.

19 September 2017

Empowering and Releasing Leaders

Encounter Leaders September 2017

During the past 9 months, I have been intentionally working on releasing areas of ministry to leaders that God is raising up in our youth ministry. It has always been a goal and maybe even a part of my strategy but somehow this season has taken it to a whole new level. This has happened in three key areas of our ministry at Encounter Youth in recent months:

1. Lads Group Leader. Even though small groups (or Connect groups as we call them at Every Nation Rosebank) have always been a key part of our ministry – where high school leaders are equipped and empowered under the oversight of an adult leader (where necessary) to lead small groups on Friday nights at Youth), this went to a new level when I approach an adult leader to run a Saturday afternoon group for lads who live in the area around our church – and it takes place at a restaurant in the area (in fact, the owners have recognised the impact on the lives of the lads and for the past few months have subsidised the meal and drinks every Saturday afternoon). I still attend the group and even assist with facilitating if he cannot make the event (which almost never happens), however he has been empowered and released to run the group.

2. Friday Event Leader. During this past term one of the high schoolers who graduated from our ministry last year has take responsibility for our Friday Night youth event – which is aimed at Engaging high schoolers with the Gospel – and is designing the event, creating the presentations and also running the night (or using other high schoolers to run the night). This has been of huge help to releasing me during the week and even though I do still help where I can, there have been some weeks where I have been able to trust that what has been created will be effective and engaging for the high schoolers.

3. Sunday Service Leaders. At the beginning of this year, we launched a third Youth service on a Sunday morning because our church launched a third morning service. It immediately presented a challenge as it meant I  would have to be at church from 7:30 to 2 on a Sunday – something that my 12 year-old son and 86 year old father would not appreciate. This almost forced us to consider releasing the three services into the care of three different service leaders and it has been an amazing journey. We built a team around each leader and each has a WhatsApp group they use to help with planning for their service and appointing people to be responsible for different parts of the service.

As these leaders have emerged it has freed me up to focus on other areas of ministry such as engaging with parents, creating admin systems and strategies for disciplemaking that did not have my attention before.

How are you doing when it comes to empowering and releasing leaders in your context? It takes a lot of work to make it happen, but it is the approach modelled for us by Jesus and it is so rewarding when it becomes a feature of our youth ministries.

 

The Description of a Discipled Person

Talk about falling off the bandwagon in a big way! It has been years since I have added a post! So I thought I should do something about it. Two weeks ago I invited two youth leaders from Botswana to spend a week shadowing what we do in our ministry at Encounter Youth at Every Nation Rosebank and during the week we spent hours working on developing our approach to disciplemaking in our respective churches. I have uploaded the template we used to my website at: http://www.ymresourcer.com/Strategy.php (about a half way down the page you will see a section called: Building a Disciplemaking Ministry). That section has the following image header:

 

Building a Disciplemaking Strategy

 

Anyway, one of the things we created was a Description of a Discipled Person which was based on a tool used in one of the Sonlife training sessions. We came up with 8 qualities of a disciple that we are developing in our youth ministries. For each quality we found a Scripture, a Bible Character and also described how that quality would impact their relationships, attitudes, beliefs and actions. Here is what we came up with:

 

Quality #1: Word-based    

Bible Passage: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word?” (Psalm 119:9)

Biblical Character: David

Definition: A discipled-person loves and lives by the Word.

Knowledge: They know the Word reveals God, builds faith and transforms lives.

Attitudes: They believe the Word is a guard against sin and a guide to righteousness.

Skills: They can read, study and apply the Word.

Relationships: They let the Word shape their relationships and they share it with others.

 

Quality #2: Prayer-filled    

Bible Passage: “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2)

Biblical Character: Daniel

Definition: A discipled-person devotes themselves to prayer.

Knowledge: They know prayer connects them to God, changes them and advances the kingdom.

Attitudes: They believe payer cultivates intimacy with God and creates transformation.

Skills: They can praise, confess and intercede through prayer.

Relationships: They pray with people and for people.

 

Quality #3: Christ-centered      

Bible Passage: Imitate God, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Biblical Character: Peter

Definition: A discipled-person reflects Jesus in thought and deed.

Knowledge: They know that Christ sets an example for us in life and godliness.

Attitudes: They believe Jesus is their standard for godliness and example to follow.

Skills: They reflect Jesus’ character (who he is) and priorities (what he does).

Relationships: They model Jesus to people.

 

Quality #4: Spirit-empowered   

Bible Passage: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens and empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Biblical Character: Samson

Definition: A discipled-person accomplishes great things for God.

Knowledge: They know the Spirit empowers them to do what they can’t do in their own strength.

Attitudes: They believe that God wants to work through them.

Skills: They have courage to speak and act in faith.

Relationships: They act so God changes people through them.

 

Quality #5: Socially-responsible        

Bible Passage: “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need.” (Hebrews 13:16)

Biblical Character: Esther

Definition: A discipled-person does good and shares with others.

Knowledge: They know that God blesses them so they can bless others.

Attitudes: They believe they are called to be selfless and generous.

Skills: They can identify people in need and help to meet their needs.

Relationships: They mobilise resources to show love to people.

 

Quality #6: Mission-minded      

Bible Passage: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Biblical Character: Paul

Definition: A discipled-person shares the gospel near and far.

Knowledge: They know that God loves the lost and wants to use them to reach them.

Attitudes: They believe God has called them to make disciples of all nations.

Skills: They know and share the Gospel.

Relationships: They start relationships with unbelievers and share the Gospel with them.

 

Quality #7: Leadership-empowered 

Bible Passage: “God has given each you gifts … use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Biblical Character: Nehemiah

Definition: A discipled-person uses their gifts to lead others.

Knowledge: They know that God uses them to lead his people.

Attitudes: They believe they are called to be servant leaders.

Skills: They can use their gifts to serve people.

Relationships: They serve people in the world around them.

 

Quality #8: Church-connected 

Bible Passage: “All of you together are Christ’s body and each of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Biblical Character: Barnabas (Acts 9-15)

Definition: A discipled-person is active in the body of Christ.

Knowledge: They know they can’t follow Jesus and not belong to a local church.

Attitudes: They believe the local church is the hope of the world.

Skills: They can find their place and role in a local church.

Relationships: They have a sense of family with other believers.

 

So, do you know what you are producing in your youth ministry? Why not consider using the template and creating your own Description of a Discipled Person? Let me know how it goes! The next step is to ensure that our relationships, initiatives and strategies all work together to help produce those qualities in people.

 

8 June 2011

Youth Pastors and Unity

I just got back from a monthly gathering of youth pastors in our geographic area on the northern edge of the city of Johannesburg. We have have been meeting every month for the past 5 years – represent five to eight either different churches from vastly different congregations – and as usual spent time catching up around coffee and snacks, and devoted the bulk of the time to checking up on each other’s souls and relationship with God and family, praying for one another and spent a little time planning our next youth event. We allow youth pastors from outside our geographic area to attend to observe what we do but encourage them to start something similar in their own area. Here is a picture taken in 2009 of the youth pastors who were a part of our monthly gatherings:

We came together five years ago driven by the need to journey together as youth workers in the area, ensure that the high schools in our area are covered by at least one youth ministry and to work on getting our youth to engage on a regular basis with youth from other churches.

So not only do we meet as leaders once a month, we also meet as youth groups once a term (we rotate through each of the youth ministries so that each church gets a chance to host a gathering). At these gatherings we play together, eat together, worship together and listen to speakers who share the Word of God.

We also meet once a year as youth groups either on a weekend for a social or sports event – some times it takes the form of an end of the year dinner, or a mid-year bash. We are busy preparing to host a dance-off on the top of an exclusive residence in downtown Johannesburg in 3 weeks time. We have also presented leadership training on one occasion but that has not been a significant focus of our gatherings. Here is a pic taken at a recent sports event we held:

We also meet as youth pastors at the end of the year for a dinner together with our spouses and here we reflect on the year together, honour each other for who we area and for what we have accomplished and thank God for what He has done in and through us. Here is a pic we took at one of these gatherings in November 2009 with our family members:

In my years in youth ministry I must admit that it has never been easy to create this kind of a network among youth pastors. Everyone seems to be so busy, and more concerned about connecting within their denomination or movement’s circles that they don’t seem to see the importance of meeting together with youth pastors in their area from different church backgrounds. It takes someone who keeps the vision alive and who communicates regularly about events – and also a priority on scheduling the next meeting before we leave a meeting.

We call our gatherings as youth pastors Unity Fraternals and the gatherings as young people Unity Rallys. In essence it is a demonstration of the unity that Christ has called us to reflect in the city in which we live and minister. It is one of the highlights of my month and despite leadership transitions in our area will continue to feature in our calendars.

Here is my challenge? Are you currently engaged with the co-labourers in the corner of the vineyard where Christ has planted you? Is God calling you to start something or re-engage with youth pastors that you may have met with at one time?

3 June 2011

Leading Teens to Christ

Our Church, His People Christian Church in Johannesburg, is currently undergoing a significant transition. We are becoming a disciplemaking church. Maybe I need to clarify this a bit! We have always been a church that believes in discipleship, and are part of a movement, Every Nation Ministries, that is solidly focussed on disciplemaking (our current president, Steve Murrell, has a book due out in June 2011 entitled: Wikichurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering, and Viral), but if we are honest we have been more of an attractional church than a missional church.

Most of the people who come to faith in Jesus do so because they have been befriended by someone in the church and invited to a Sunday morning service where they have an opportunity to respond to the invitation to accept Christ as their Saviour and Lord. So we have embarked on a process of church-wide change that will equip the entire congregation with practical skills in disciplemaking so they can help their friend ENCOUNTER Jesus as Lord and Saviour, CONNECT with other believers and GROW to spiritual maturity (these are the first three steps in our faith journey – the remaining two are REACH your peers and INFLUENCE your world for Christ).

In our youth ministry, we seek to faithfully reflect the strategy used by the wider church body so that we work in alignment with the church and do not become like a planet in it’s own orbit. So while we will be launching some new strategies for peer based evangelism in the third term of 2011, I thought it worthwhile to share our currently approach to evangelism among teens.

We have a Friday night event aimed at teenagers in the youth room (a dedicated space that teens refer to as their second home – one with plenty of space to chill out, listen to music, play games like pool, table tennis and fuseball – or just hang with their friends. It is used on Sunday morning for our main weekly worship and teaching service (this is aimed at the GROW level in our faith journey).

We have designed a four-week cycle of events that is completed twice in each school term (which is about 10 weeks long). Our goal is to create a safe and inviting teen-friendly environment that Christian teens will want to invite their unsaved friends to. Our four week cycle is as follows:

Week 1: Connect Night
The first week is an event that has been with us for years – it was called Chill ‘n Connect – and basically we do nothing for the event apart from preparing a space where teens are free to hang out, play games of their own choosing and enjoy refreshments together. It gives leaders a chance to connect with teens because we are not running around preparing for or presenting the program. Sometimes we do thrown in a spontaneous time of Karaoke or a game of speed relating that helps to facilitate interaction among teens – but this is the exception and not the norm. A key factor in our four week strategy is that each week must be viewed as a step and not a program on it’s own. We make sure that we invite teens to return the next week and to bring a friend that they are seeking to disciple. The next week’s event is advertised at the beginning and the end of the night and a handout provided – as well as a text message sent out during the next week.

Week 2: Attractional Night
This night is not actually called Attractional Night – but that is what it is. We use the name of the event to advertise the night – for example: Ten Pin Bowling Night or My School’s Got Talent Night. We make it easy for teens to be able to invite their friends to the event by providing an event that teens would relate to – often with the chance of prizes being won as an added incentive. This night includes a brief but clear message about who we are as a group, what we believe in and sometimes even an introduction to the gospel – and again, a major focus of the night is ensuring that the visitors are invited to the next week’s event – the next step in their faith journey.

Week 3: God Night
That is what it is! A night that teens can expect to encounter God and we hold no punches. It includes song, dance, worship, and a clear gospel presentation with a call to respond to the gospel. While we move as a church towards a more personal disciplemaking approach we still provide opportunities for people to come and hear the gospel and have a chance to respond. In fact, my experience working among teens has taught me that when teens begin a relationship with a friend who needs Jesus and they start to build a friendship, when they get to the point of next steps they look around for a leader or an event to assist them with helping the person cross the line into the kingdom (ie. through conversion). We have in the past trained our teens in peer evangelism (that is what our REACH strategy is all about) but we don’t seem to have cracked it with seeing teens complete the whole disciplemaking process themselves. Watch this space. Before the night ends the teens are invited to return the following week for the next step in their journey.

Week 4: Go MAD Night
This is our Go Make a Difference Night and is an opportunity for teens to put their relationship with God into practise. We have done numerous service projects in the past including serving at local police or fire stations, visiting orphanages or hospitals, and are currently engaged with our teens to develop a longer term service project. We asked the question a few weeks back: “If igniteYOUTH shut down – would the community miss us?” It was a chilling realisation to conclude that they would probably not miss us – although they might even be happy that the music on Friday nights was gone. God has called us to make a different in the world in which we live and after all that is the fifth step in our faith journey: INFLUENCE your world for Jesus.

Each week we advertise the next week, but also show the cycle that we are moving through so that our core teens understand what we are trying to do. We also advertise our Sunday event on Friday nights and also advertise Friday nights during our Sunday morning events for teens who enter our ministry through church attendance on Sundays. Here is a sample of our cycle that is currently being advertised:

So what is your evangelism strategy for teens? Do you have a process that you are following to help those who have not yet trusted Christ for salvation?

Youth Pastors and Pastoral Care

On Sunday morning during a youth service, in fact, just before I got up to preach to the 50 teens in the youth room, I got called out of the room to attend to a teen in the foyer. He had told me before the service that he was worried about his mom who was going in for surgery and had been having sleepless night. He was clearly anxious and I prayed with him and made my way back into the youth room to wait for the worship to conclude before I would preach. A few minutes later I was called out again and this time was confronted by a critical situation – the young man, Neo, was clearly struggling to breath. I immediately made my way to the main sanctuary and had the media guy place a notice on the big screen that read: “A doctor is needed immediately in the youth room!” Two doctors in the congregation responded immediately and I briefed them with the little information that I had on the way up to the youth room.

As I stood over Neo’s lifeless body I could not see any signs that he was breathing and the 3 teens standing with him were trying desperately to revive him – saying repeatedly, “Come on, Neo, breath!”. I left the doctors to attend to him, made my way into the youth room where the teens were sitting down waiting for me to start preaching. I send my colleague, Mtha, out to be with the doctors and Neo while I immediately called the group to prayer for Neo. I prayed that God’s would send his resurrection life into Neo and make him live.

I concluded the prayer, with lots of Amens from the teens who were clearly worried – and started with my session of living in Victory for the morning. My assistant, Mtha, entered the room and said that as I had prayed Neo had sat up with a huge deep breath and that he was in good hands with the doctors.

Whether or not that was an instance of someone being raised from the dead is not my focus in this blog post – what is my focus is on what happened next and since then during the course of this week. Neo was taken to the hospital because one of the doctors who treated him realised that he had not just suffered an anxiety attack, but that he was experience abdominal pain. He had a pre-existing condition of stomach ulcers and the the anxiety had escalated his condition and he was needed further medical attention.

I made my way to the hospital to see Neo straight after the second service and found his friend Sipho at casualty with the news that Neo had been having more pain attacks and was in a critical condition. More of our youth arrived at the hospital concerned about his condition and after about an hour of not hearing any more I decided that I needed to make a plan to feed the teens who were not about to leave the hospital. I returned carrying Steers Burgers, chips and cokes and fed the hungry crowd. It was not until much later that afternoon that Neo was admitted to a ward and allowed visitors.

On Tuesday afternoon, I picked up a leader and some of his friends and we made our way to the hospital to visit with Neo (bringing him a copy of Philip Yancey’s book, “Where is God When It Hurts” and a card that all of us signed). Because we had used our bulk short text messaging service to update all our teens and ask them to pray that God would be with Neo, guide the doctors and bring the healing that he needed, I was able to read out messages to Neo from teens and parents who assured him of their prayers and well wishes. He had been given so much food and fruit that, before we left his bedside, he distributed most of it to his friends because he was not allowed to eat before undergoing a sonar scan. We visited with him for 2 hours and I then dropped off all the teens and his mom who had been visiting him.

We took some pics at the hospital and my colleague even made a little video that we posted on the igniteYOUTH Facebook site (tagging people in the pic and video). When I posted a comment with the photo on our Facebook page, the first person to respond was Neo from his hospital bed (it made me realise once again the power of social networking when used for the sake of the kingdom) and many people were able to comment and send him greetings. Neo wrote: “am hre i am yes its me neo recovring perfctly am brightr than the morning sun am lucky to hv god n my igniteyouth behind me i love u guys n to my mum this no one lyk u i love u n my fmly tnx god bless all of u for me loads n tons of love”.

What struck me was the number of messages that went around on Facebook about how we are a family – and that members of the group appreciate the care that they receive from leaders and from each other. One teen wrote that “We are like a family” and his was told quite sharply: “We are not LIKE a family, we ARE a family”.

Neo was discharged from hospital on Wednesday morning this week – and I was able to fetch him and his mom and drop their off at home. I spent a while with them, drinking tea and praying with them. In fact, I have just made a very early morning run to get both of them back to the hospital (Neo for a scope to check out the extent of his ulcer condition, and his mom to undergo an operation). They have both expressed sincere appreciation for all that we have done this week – and I know that we have communicated the love of Christ. His mom is a tradition healer and does not attend church – but who knows where her faith journey will lead as she has experienced the love of Christ this week!

So what have we learnt this week? Clearly, one of the critical roles of a youth pastor and the leadership of a youth ministry is the provision of pastoral care to teenagers or their families who are experience challenges like illness, medical operation or bereavement in their lives. There are times when we need to drop everything we are doing and move into crisis response mode to show the love of Jesus in as practical way as possible to those in need.

We don’t do it for this reason, but it will have a profound impact on the life of the group, bringing a sense of closeness and cohesion to the group. In fact, this Friday night, my colleague will be sharing on spiritual family and the kingdom of God and will use this situation with Neo as an example of how God has called us to demonstrate his love to people.

Are you aware of the needs of teens in your group? Have you let parents know that you need to informed about any challenges their teens face so you can respond timeously? Let’s be proactive when it situations like we faced this week and be Christ to people in their time of need.

I also learnt again the power of prayer – for who knows, if we had not prayed for Neo on Sunday – we might have lost him!

4 June 2010

Lessons For Leadership From Birding

Are there lessons to be learnt for leadership in a hobby like birding? Well, I have been doing some serious bird photography since the beginning of 2010 – the upgrade to a bigger zoom lens made it possible for me to get that much closer to birds! There are 953 bird species in Southern Africa and my goal is to photograph each one. So far I am sitting on 311 – you can check out my online album at this link.

I recently realised that my hobby is teaching me a great deal about life and leadership. Recently I got to share devotions with the 60 or so leaders of the church where I serve as youth pastor. I spoke about lessons for life that birding has taught me. Hey, Jesus did the same thing when we said to his followers: Consider the crows. They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even have a storeroom or a barn. Yet, God feeds them. You are worth much more than birds. (Luke 12:24). You can download the PowerPoint presentation I used that features some of my favourite birding pics from here.

Here are some lessons that I have learnt while doing bird photography:

Lesson 1: Be Early. There is a great parable that says: The early bird gets the worm. It is true, birds feed early in the morning and as a photographer I know that I have to be up and about early in the morning to get the best shots while the sun is rising! The Message translation of 2 Corinthians 6:3 says: Don’t put it off, don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. When we arrive late for meetings with people we communicate that they are not important and we arrive stressed and therefore unprepared. As a soldier in the military I was trained to be not just on time, but early to be prepared for anything unexpected. So get there early so that you can lead the meeting effectively.

Consider the Birds: How are you doing in terms of being punctual? What do you need to do to improve in this area?

Lesson 2: Be Prepared. There is a parable that says: A wise owl knows how to feather his nest. The wise owl spends time preparing the nest so that when the egg is hatched it is well protected and the chicklet will grow into an owlet. As a bird photographer I had to be prepared at all times. If I have a full-memory card or flat camera battery or the wrong camera lens is on my camera, I will miss the shot. A leader must always be prepared. The Message translation of Ephesians 6:13 says: Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Great leaders don’t wait until the last minute to get things done. They think everything through twice and cover all the bases. A bit of thinking and preparation beforehand will ensure that we do not suffer later.

Consider the Birds: How are you doing in terms of being prepared? What is getting in your way?

Lesson 3: Be Patient. There is a parable that says: Do don’t run around like a chicken without a head. My best pictures are ones that required me to wait for just the right moment before I could get the shot. When I go running around the bush trying to cover a large amount of ground, the birds hear me coming and disappear into the thickets. When I settle down and wait for them to appear and come to me, I get the shots that I need. In life it is true that good things come to those who wait. The Message translation of Romans 5:4 says: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. God will work in our life, but it takes time and I have to surrender to what He is doing in my life. As a leader I have to be patient with people and not force their development.

Consider the Birds: How are you doing in terms of being patient? How can you be more patient with people?

Lesson 4: Be Relational – There is a parable that says: Birds of a feather flock together. I have gained immense value in learning how to identify birds by interacting with others birders in online forums where we are able to post pictures to have bird identities confirmed. I also post my pictures online so that others can benefit from what I am doing. The Message translation of Hebrews 13:16 says: Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. Great leaders are those who freely share what they create with other leaders. It frustrates me immensely to see leaders who just work in their own area and never share what they create with others. We have so much to share with our peers. Each month I get together with other youth pastors in our community and we spend time catching up about our lives and sharing what we create with one another.

Consider the Birds: How are you doing in terms of being relational? Do you intentionally hang out with, and share with, other leaders in your area?

Lesson 5: Look Good. There is parable that says: Walk proud like a peacock. Obviously God does not want us to be proud, but there is nothing wrong with looking our best and striving to be the best that we can be in every area of our lives. The Message translation of Colossians 3:12 says: So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. We must clothe ourselves with the fruit of the Spirit! After all, we represent the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Consider the Birds: How are you doing in terms of looking good? What fruit of the Spirit do you need to work on?

4 December 2009

Approaches to Strategic Planning

I was asked this week to give someone some fresh ideas to doing strat planning with different ministry teams for a new year of ministry. I came up with the following suggestions:

1. Ten Rules of Strategic Planning
See the Ten Rules of Strategic Planning article for a set of guidelines for strategy planning.

2. SWOT Exercise
I recently led a non-profit youth ministry team through a strategic planning process and incorporated a SWOT and Transformation analysis exercise. I know SWOT is old, but I made sure that we identified Critical Success factors arising out of the analysis and then creating an Action Plan (as in, “who will do what by when”). There is a fun exercise in the handout where people look at the letters to the churches in Revelation as sample SWOT analyses. You will find a handout and a presentation for this exercise at my website – on the Strategy page – it is the first item mentioned on the page. The website is: http://www.ymresourcer.com.

3. Transformations Exercise
The Transformation exercise looks at what transformation is taking place in our ministry, what is causing it, what is hindering it and what we must do to see even greater transformation take place. You will find a handout and a presentation for this exercise on the Strategy page of my website – it is the second item mentioned on the page.

4. The Balanced Scorecard
This may be a bit too complex an exercise, but it is a 7 level strategy planning process that is ultimately focused on Performance Measurement. It is called Performance Measurement and there are links to the resources on the Strategy page of my website.

5. The 7 Practises of Ministry
I presented a session on the 7 Practises of Effective Ministry some time back at our church and believe that it could be used to guide a strategy planning session – ie. you start by identifying what is the win for the ministry; then you think through the steps you are working on to reach your strategy; then you start to narrow the focus of all that you do; etc. You will have to read the outline and look at the Improving Your Game items for each of the 7 practises to use it as a strat planning tool. It is what I used to create the original igniteYOUTH strategy when I arrived at the church that I now work in some five years ago. The resource for this is also on the Strategy page.

6. The GTD Mind Sweep
I have used the David Allen idea of a Mind Sweep (or mind dump) and we would spend about 45 minutes just getting everything possible that has been running around in our heads out and onto a couple of sheets of butcher paper. It is not a brainstorm but rather just a clearing of every incomplete loop, any ideas we have had that have not been put on the table, or acted on recently, any areas that need to be developed. We were allowed to look back and forward in dumping out thoughts – but it was not a review of event that have taken place. It should be followed up with an Action Plan session where we make a decision as to what to do with each item that was raised and complete a Who will do What by When action plan for each item.

7. Sonlife Strategy Planning Process
There is also the strat planning process I have taught to thousands of leaders across the continent of Africa with great results. It is aimed at getting a ministry to write a ministry vision with goals. They write a ministry purpose statement, identify KRA (the Key Result Areas that they need to work on to ensure they achieve their mission), write a descriptive statement of each key result (it is what that key result area looks like when it is fully functioning); then they do a SWOT analysis on each KRA (what are the strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats that will impact on the achievements of results in each area); then create goals for each KRA (both faith goals that go in their prayer journal and work goals that go in their calendar. There is a worksheet that is created for each Key Result Area. Look at the this document for a template to use.

8. The Ground Zero Strategic Planning Process
The document Strategic Planning presents an approach to strategy planning that I have not personally used, but it looks like a comprehensive process as well as a document that have fresh ideas for different parts of the planning process.

9. The P.L.A.N. Strategy by the Crossroads Consulting Group
I came across this approach to strat planning a while back – it has 4 steps using the PLAN acronym:

A. Priorities (What we want to accomplish)
* What are the most important things we need to do in our key ministry areas to move our mission forward?
* What are things we need to do and complete in the coming year?

B. Lasting Results (Setting the targets for performance)
* What will be the results that will help us know we have accomplished our priorities?
* How will we set these targets so that they become an exercise in faith as well as effective leadership?

C. Action Strategies (Setting the stage for execution)
* How will we go about accomplishing what we want to see happen?
* What are the appropriate strategies, or best practices, that we might employ?

D. Next Steps (Making our “to do” lists)
* Who will do the work?
* When will it be accomplished?

10. The 3 Horizon Strategy by Diann Feldman
See the document 3 Horizon Strategy that has a detailed approach to strat planning.

11. The GTD Horizons of Focus
The 6 Horizons of Focus that David Allen created for the Getting Things Done approach to action management is a great resource for strategy planning.

If you have any other approaches to strategic planning – please leave a comment with some information about it so others can benefit from your experience.

3 October 2009

Getting Things Done 10: My Weekly Review

The GTD guys say that if you are not doing a weekly review you are doing dong GTD. That is true – you cannot downplay the importance of a regular weekly time (for me it takes about an hour) where you get Clean, Clear and Current. Here are the things that I do in my Weekly Review:

1. Review Planner: I look through my Mission, Roles and Goals (the three key features of my weekly planner) and ensure that I am living my mission.

2. Process Paper: I make sure that my physical inboxes are empty. I process all my receipts and file them and any other items that need to be kept in my filing system.

3. Process Notes: I work through my paper journal and review any notes that I have taken in the past week, looking for items that  need to be followed up on.

4. Review Calendar: I look back at the last week and identify calendar items that need to be moved forward to the coming week. I also fill in my weekly planner for the coming week at this time – I create calendar items for my goals for each role and also transfer items from my electronic calendar to my paper calendar at this point.

5. Mind Dump: I spend some time dumping anything that is on my mind – any thoughts that have not yet being captured and transferred to my system, I walk around and see if anything is out of place in my world, I think about each person in my family and whether there is anything that I need to follow up with them or do for them, I do the same for people in my work environment and I look at anything that needs to be done in the home – this is not the time to do it all, but to make a note of it and create next actions.

6. Review Lists: This is the critical part – I go through my Projects list and check off any completed items, create new items and check off completed projects. I go through my Next Actions list and check off anything that is completed, I look through my Agendas List and see if there is anything that I need to raise with people that is not listed, I look at my Someday/Maybe list and see whether there is an items that needs to move into my Project or Next Actions list, I look at my Waiting For list and see what I am waiting for from others and whether I need to do anything about it, and I look at my Prayer list and make sure it is up to date.

7. Review Email: I look through my email to see what action needs to be taken, I look at the Waiting For items and see what is lurking in my to Read folder. I keep my email up to date on a daily basis so it is never a major feature in my Weekly Review!

8. Preview Week: I briefly look ahead at my week to ensure I have enough down time and family time scheduled and I identify what are my weekly priorities and things I have to get done in the week.

9. Review Habits: I think through my effectiveness in handing my time and projects and I evaluate my work and rest balance and the state of my daily devotions.

10. Review Learning: I go through books that I am reading and check on progress and flag books that I need to be reading, I also burn a new CD of podcasts to listen to in my car and I look through the articles in my Read folder on my laptop.

11. Review Entertainment: I think through the movies, books, and TV shows that I want to consume in the coming week. I also look out for areas of imbalance where I am consuming too much in any of these areas.

12. Review Diet: I briefly think through whether my current diet is ensurng that I get enough fibre, vegetables and fruit, not overdoing my sugar intake and getting the vitamins I need to stay sharp and focussed.

13. Review Character: I spend some time checking on the fruit of the Spirit in my life (including love, patience, kindness, joy, etc), I evaluate my practise of spiritual gifts, and I evaluate whether I am being Christlike in my speech, attitudes and behaviours.

14. Review System: I spend a bit of time looking at the big picture of my GTD system – to check that I have all the lists  that I need and I make a note of areas that I need to improve in.

15. Enjoy Reward: This is the best part – I make myself a cup cuppachino as a reward.

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