A Three-Step Guide to Communicating Change

Drawing sketchIf you’re a leader, chances are you like to create change. Casting vision—dreaming of a better future—is simply a part of leading a team, organization, or local church.

The thing is, a lot of people don’t like change.

Or at least, they think they don’t like change.

To most people, change is scary. And if you’re leading an organization, there have likely been times when you’ve been frustrated by people who seem to cling to the past instead of dreaming of a better future. When we experience push back when we try to incite change, we often blame people for not wanting change.

Maybe that’s the wrong approach. Because in reality, it’s often our fault as leaders that people resist change, not those who seem to be opposing our ideas. Sure, there will always be people who are diametrically opposed to any change, just because that’s what they do. But that’s not how most people are. In fact, most people are actually open to change.

So why do you seem to get so much resistance when you suggest change?

To put it bluntly: you might be doing it wrong.

Chances are, when you’ve tried to enact change in an organization or a team, it was a good idea. You likely thought it out, sought input, spent time in prayer.

Then you announced the change. And you didn’t get the response you hoped for.

When a leader receives a lot of pushback about a proposed change (assuming it’s a good idea and a change for the better), here’s the reason that’s usually in play: The leader announced the what before the why.
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Confusing the What and the How

Rugged Leather Carpenters Work Bag With Worn Tools Isolated On BThe next time you’re talking with someone from your church or chatting with people between services, pose this question to them: “If someone were to ask you, ‘What does your church do?’ what would you say?” Chances are, the answers would range some, but you’d begin to see a pattern. Conducting worship services may be a common theme. Perhaps some would want to share about the ways your church serves people in your community. Some might get philosophical and offer an answer about loving one another or following Jesus.

Assuming those answers are true, they aren’t bad answers. But as you’ve guessed by now, I would’t be talking about this if I didn’t see something problematic with those answers.

The issue is this (stay with me on this one): When it comes to leading churches, we often confuse the what with the how. Let me explain.

WHAT has to do with purpose; HOW is the strategy and methods we use to get it done.

This is more than a mere parsing of words. It’s a crucial distinction that gets to the core of why your church exists. When you ask a carpenter what he does, the answer you get probably won’t be, “Sawing, hammering nails, and making accurate measurements.” A carpenter certainly does those things, but you’re more likely to hear something like, “I build homes” or “I remodel kitchens and bathrooms.” Because at the end of the day, a carpenter isn’t in it for the measuring and cutting. At our church, the what is Helping people meet and follow Jesus. The how includes many things, such as creating meaningful worship environments, small groups, and serving people in need. What your church does should rarely change. How you get it done is always open for discussion.Continue Reading

Three Questions to Ask Before Your Next Sermon, Message, or Small Group

Whether you’ve preached hundreds of sermons to thousands of people or you lead a small group of seventh grade boys, it’s easy to get in a rut when it comes to preaching, teaching, or leading a discussion. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re not having as much of an impact as you used to, or perhaps you’ve noticed that people aren’t really engaged or connecting when you’re speaking or trying to lead a discussion. Or maybe you haven’t noticed that all of your messages seem to sound just about the same (believe me, the people who are listening to you have noticed!). To keep things fresh, here are three questions to ask yourself as you prepare your next sermon, message, or small group discussion:

Have I learned anything?
Communicators–small group leaders, senior pastors, and everyone in between–are more likely to communicate with passion and clarity when they are learning as they prepare. If you can prepare a thirty-minute sermon without learning anything new that you can apply to your own life, you probably won’t have much in the way of life-altering truth to share with those you’re speaking to.

Do I believe it?
Before you get mad at me for accusing you of not trusting the Bible or breaking at least three articles in your church’s statement of faith, answer this question: Have you ever had to preach a sermon that your head believed was true, but that you just couldn’t get any passion for? Sure, your head might believe the content of what you’ve prepared to say, but you may not own it. Whether people can articulate it or not, they can tell when you don’t really believe what you’re saying. So own it. If there’s something you’re not sure of in a passage or that you struggle with, say that. Don’t pretend like everything you’re talking about is a neat and tidy set of obvious beliefs you figured out ages ago and have never wrestled with.

Does it matter?
Great theological thinking and funny stories don’t mean a thing if you don’t help your group or audience understand why what you have to say matters to their life. Look, I know you’re armed with a New Testament dictionary and some great Bible software. By all means, put it to good use (see the first question on this list). But if you’re not helping people be doers of the word and not just hearers, then you’re just creating really smart hypocrites who deceive themselves (see James 1:22). Let me just put it this way: if because of time you have to choose between explaining the Greek root of a word or giving a great application to your message, choose the latter. Every time.

Video of the Week: Dove Real Beauty Sketches

My wife pointed me towards this video this week, and I thought it was a really powerful discussion starter on who God created us to be, and how we often view ourselves. Check it out:

Free Easter Lessons and Devotions from youthministry360.com

My friends (and I really do mean friends…this isn’t a sponsored post, just something I think is worth passing along) at youthministry360 have just launched another round of free resources, just in time for Easter. They’re giving away three different Easter Bible study lessons, PLUS a set of 10-day Easter devotions for your students. It’s solid stuff that will help your teenagers prepare their hearts and minds for Easter. Easter is such a powerful time for Christ-followers. These tools will help you lead students to both reflect on and celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.

To download these free resources, head on over to the ym360 Easter Vault at https://youthministry360.com/blog/youthministry360-easter-vault.

And if for any reason you need help or have questions, their team is great about helping out. Really. This isn’t some big publishing house, they’re actual youth workers who love Jesus and love teenagers, and they want to help you in any way they can. Like if you took the church van on a trip and you need someone to wash it for you, they’ll make it happen. Just ask, and tell ’em Benjer sent you.

Great Free, Helpful Mapping Resource: Batchgeo.com

An important part of our youth ministry is our small groups. Our groups meet on Sundays or during the week in homes, and sometimes it can be difficult to know the best location for a group, or the best group for a student based on what grade the student is in and where they live. Batchgeo.com is a free online mapping tool that we use to easily map where students in our ministry live. It’s a piece of cake to use; just export (in Excel format) the names and addresses of the students you want to map, copy and paste, and the website does the rest. It’s a handy tool not just for small groups, but for mapping all of the families in your ministry, or perhaps the schools that your students attend. The free version works just fine for us, but if you want to get fancy, there is a pro option as well. Here’s what one of our maps looks like:

When you click on each red pin, it gives you the info (name, address, grade, gender, etc.) that you’ve provided in the Excel document. Pretty handy stuff!

Free Small Group Curriculum

Credit: Creative Commons (Brad Stabler)

One of the hardest parts of leading a small group ministry is equipping your leaders with quality curriculum they can use in their groups. There have been a few occasions where I’ve written my own series from scratch because I couldn’t find what I was looking for from publishers. Still, that was really time-consuming. Even if you’ve got leaders who would feel comfortable writing their own curriculum, it’s a time consuming process that most leaders don’t have the time to do every week.

There’s a lot of great curriculum out there for small groups, much of it tailored for youth ministry. Here’s a problem: much of it is really, really expensive, especially if you’re going to use it once then put it on the shelf. What do you do if you’ve got a tight budget, but you really want to put something in the hands of your small group leaders that will help them be confident they are leading solid, Christ-centered discussions in their groups? Here are a few FREE ideas of curriculum that won’t cost you a penny:

Campus Alpha: The Alpha Course is a program that teaches the basics of the Christian faith. They’ve got a free version aimed at young adults and college students, and we’ve used it with our high school students. There is a “Youth Alpha” course, but I found that the Campus Alpha program was just the right level for our high school students. Free registration is required, but once you register you get access to all the videos, discussion guides, and even a video training session for your leaders. This is an amazing resource, and honestly, I can’t believe they give it away for free.

Sermons: One thing some of our groups have done is to download sermons from engaging, biblical preachers. Most churches post their sermons on their website to be downloaded or streamed for free, and many provide discussion guides as well. If you’re looking to do a small group night or series on a particular topic, why not see if a solid preacher has preached on the topic? If you’re not sure where to start, I would recommend Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Perry Noble at NewSpring Church in South Carolina, and Craig Groeschel at LifeChurch.tv based out of Oklahoma.

Preposterous Small Group Videos: This is one that I haven’t used myself, but I love the idea and the generosity of David Dorn and Ryan Staples, who produce the videos. The videos look like great discussion starters, and they already have thirteen lessons produced.

“Freebie Friday” on Life in Student Ministry: Giving away “freebies” is pretty commonplace in the youth ministry online community these days, but I’m pretty sure that Tim Schmoyer (who runs the Life in Student Ministry site) was one of the first to do it on a regular basis, just because he wanted to provide helpful resources to youth workers. Many of the Freebie Fridays on his site have to do with small group lessons and series. You may have to tweak some of the lessons to fit the context of your group, but this is a great option if you want to do something that’s not “canned” but you don’t want to have to start from scratch.

What are some other FREE small group resources you’ve found?

13 Statements and Questions to Drive Your Youth Pastor into Early Retirement….

…or perhaps more aptly titled, “13 Statements and Questions to Drive Your Youth Pastor into Quitting and Taking a Job at Starbucks.”

The title was shamelessly lifted from a post on “13 Statements and Questions to Drive Your Pastor into Early Retirement,” and I figured a companion post on youth pastors ought not to be far behind:

1. “Why have all those unchurched kids been hanging around our church?”

2. “The budget’s just too tight this year…but we’re working on getting you on board full-time next year!”

3. “Why don’t we ever do a [insert name of popular program or event] like [insert the name of a larger church with a larger youth ministry down the street]?”

4. “When is your wife (or husband) going to get involved in the youth ministry with you?”

5. “My daughter is having trouble with [name of another girl in her small group]. Could you please move [that girl] to another small group?”

6. “But [name of former youth pastor] ALWAYS let us [insert irresponsible and unsafe act].”

7. “(High school guy who has dated and broken up with eight girls in your church): “I’ve been spending a lot of time in prayer, and I really think God is telling me to date [name of yet another girl in your church].”

8. “Thursday night is your anniversary dinner with your wife? Don’t worry, you can come late to the meeting when your dinner’s over.”

9. “All those teenagers from your youth group have been too much of a distraction for our other congregants during worship service. Couldn’t you start a worship service just for them in the youth room?”

10. “Do a Bible study at home with my daughter? No, she gets all the Bible she needs at church.”

11. “Sorry, we just can’t afford to send our son on the mission trip this year. Besides, it’s the same week as our annual summer trip to Italy.”

12. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about my daughter: I think she would make a better lead singer for the youth worship band than that girl you’ve got in there right now.”

13. “When are you going to become a real pastor?”

Too Good Not to Share: Reverend Fun

If you’ve never checked out Reverend Fun by Dennis Hengeveld, I recommend you head on over and read a few of the cartoons, especially the “Best Of” page. Sometimes Dennis really nails it, as he does with today’s offering: