Tag Archives: Wednesday night
Several years ago I was looking for wisdom on how to restructure our ministry to be prepared to handle ministering to hundreds of teenagers, I took my wife, pastor, and at that time our lone volunteer to Indian Springs Baptist Church in Bryant Arkansas the ministry that Mark Cox now heads up. I learned a lot during that visit and rather than tell you how I handle adults I asked Mark to share how he does it:
I didn’t get into youth ministry because I’m organized.
God called me.
He equipped me to start.
He’s been equipping me ever since.
That means I wasn’t a genius right out of college.
Have you ever taken a spiritual gift inventory multiple times over the course of a couple years and seen different responses each time?
I have. The crazy thing is that as I grow, I can see God changing my desires and gifts. For example, I’m not a natural speaker. The first ten talks I gave should’ve been video taped and kept on hand for entertainment purposes. Seriously, you’d laugh. Things have changed over the years as I learn what works and what doesn’t in that arena, as well as many others.
This change is especially happening in me in the area of organization. Let me pause for a moment to issue a quick disclaimer. I’m not what most people would call organized. If my youth workers are reading this, they’re most likely laughing to themselves, knowing that this is definitely not where my gifts lie. And I would agree! But since I started in full-time ministry five years ago, I’ve really grown in this area.
One of the key areas that demand organization in youth ministry is volunteer staffing. It’s probably not a surprise to you that youth ministry happens largely on the backs of committed volunteers that make the thing happen week in and week out.
One of the major pitfalls of youth pastors is to recruit volunteers into standing around on Wednesday nights. The excitement usually dies after about a month, when the volunteer usually ends up feeling like they aren’t really helping with anything. And in most cases, they’re not. But it’s not their fault. It is the job of the youth pastor to invite volunteers into the youth ministry for two main purposes:
- To provide an environment for teenagers in which they can experience God in a real way.
- To give the volunteer a vehicle for spiritual growth in their own life (serving = growth)
Sadly, a bunch of volunteers end up dropping out because they don’t feel like they’re making a difference (read: they’re not growing). If we’re not leading adults into an organized vehicle for serving, they will drop out.
Our strategy for staffing volunteers goes a little something like this (before I go on, you should know this article isn’t about recruiting volunteers; it’s about what you do with them once you get them).
- Only do what only you can do. I stole this line from Andy Stanley because it’s genius. If you’re the one person in your church that can communicate God’s love to teenagers, why are you spending all your time running a vacuum or picking up the pizza? Invest most of your time into preparing excellent messages! Before you start recruiting volunteers, you need to know what you’re great at. Start with the three things that you’re great at. These are the things that make you super-valuable to your church. These things are why you got hired. Focus on these things and have volunteers help you with the rest.
- Define the needs of your student ministry. What do you offer to your students each week? Do you serve food? Do you play games? Does your room need to be clean? Each of these areas need to be covered. Decide from the beginning that you’re not going to get involved in these areas, other than providing leadership and resources to those who will.
- Save yourself time by delegating authority. This is simple, but dangerous. Some of your volunteers have gifts in the area of leadership. Put the volunteers that you would trust with your children over the other volunteers. To do this, separate the major areas of service into departments, and staff each one of them with a volunteer leader. For example, our student ministry contains five major areas (Inside Operations, Outside Operations, Crowd Control, Service Programming, and Counseling. Everything that we do is broken down under these five areas of service. For instance, the café that we open each week falls under the leadership of Inside Operations. The parking lot attendants fall under the leadership of Outside Operations. I don’t ever need to be worried about having enough counselors at the end of a talk, because my Counseling Director has that taken care of. In order to do this, it takes two strong elements: leadership and organization. If you want to expect people to be strong in their area of leadership each week, it takes continual direction. Also, instead of offering the eternally-coveted “stand outside and make sure no one dies, is making out, or making pipe bombs in the parking lot” task, you give your volunteers authority. You can usually make this change pretty simply. It’s all about the words you use to achieve the same result. Instead of asking someone to watch the students in the parking lot (boring), invite them to ensure that each and every student is able to enjoy their experience while they’re outside. That takes care of a lot of simple tasks (welcoming, keeping it safe, hanging with them). The difference isn’t in the tasks that need to be taken care of. It’s all in inviting someone into a greater responsibility than just a watchman. After all, are you in youth ministry because you like to supervise kids? I’m guessing not.
- After you’re done coaching your volunteers, coach them some more. This is hard for me to talk about because it’s a personal weakness of mine. It’s natural for me to think that the initial direction was enough to inspire people to commit to excellence for an entire year of weekly service. This just isn’t the case. Everyone needs to be reminded why they serve, and what’s expected of them. The easiest way to do this is to creatively show them the effect they have on what happens. As I said before, it’s inevitable for volunteers to fall into the “I’m not making a difference” trap. Murphy’s Law applies to everyone. Fight this! One of my volunteers once told me something that changed the way I looked at youth workers for the rest of my life. She said, “Mark, you just need to treat us like we’re 3rd graders.” I immediately reassured her that I had too much respect for them to do that. She then helped me to understand that everyone needs reminders; even the most committed youth workers. Think about all the things a 3rd grade teacher has to remind her students of. How many times do they need to be reminded that they have homework to do, or to turn in permission slips? Exactly.
It’s all pretty simple once you recognize a couple important goals:
- What am I really good at?
- What are the things that I would ruin if I got involved?
- What services do we want to offer our students each week?
- How many people is it going to take to pull all of this off each week?
The beautiful thing about learning how to organize your volunteers in the environments is that it frees you up to focus on what you do best – the thing you got into youth ministry for, to see teenagers’ lives changed!
You can download Mark’s Volunteer application: YW Application (Final)
And the Remix Job Descriptions here: Remix Positions Packet
-Mark Cox is one of the premier youth pastors in the state of Arkansas and his passionate and sincere heart is still serving the people at Indian Springs Baptist Church in Bryant Arkansas. To get more from Mark check out his blog www.thinknextnow.com, and be sure to get his insights via twitter, and catch up with him on facebook.
So we’ve all been there in front of the room of teenagers trying to remind them of the deadline for Summer Camp or the cost of bowling, and we all know the difficulty in actually relaying the information. I’ve seen it done a variety of ways and I’ve even done it multiple ways myself. I have however found that in my opinion the video announcements have been the most effective. Why? Because for some reason we’re trained to watch whats on the screen as if its more important than the people around us. I say let’s take advantage of this poor culture shift and at minimum relay your important information. Like when the “Listening to other people class” begins.
I’ve always called our video announcements the News (FBC NEWS, Underground NEWS, etc.) but feel free to call it whatever “Update” “Info” whatever sounds catchy to you. In my nearly six years here at Parkers Chapel I’ve done the news three distinct yet similar ways, and I wanted to share them with you to give you an example of what I’m talking about.
When I first started back in the fall 2004 and into through the 2005 school year and summer I found student volunteers to use as news anchors.
Advantages: I believe that this way is probably the most effective way to get your teens to pay attention. They are more likely to listen to their classmate than you or something else.
Disadvantages: You totally have to compete with the competitive lives of your students. Which makes it extremely difficult to get both of your anchors there at the same time. Also, it relies on the fact that you have some charismatic teens to deliver your announcements. Its also another one of the those areas where you should hold your students to a higher level of accountability spiritually if your going to frequently have them in front of their peers.
Note* I have found that the best way to deal with the scheduling is to plan out your announcements several weeks in advance have your students bring multiple outfits and then film for an hour or two and do several months worth of announcements. You might miss the impromptu announcement but you’ll nail the majority which is better than not having news at all one week cause you couldn’t work out the scheduling.
Bonus: This video contains another great way to captivate your teens, show them footage of themselves. The fear factor montage was shot at our weekly games and then we simply plugged it in the video.
For the majority of 2006 & 2007 I was pressed for time and scheduling with my news anchors after moving between several I became desperate to find actors with schedules that were wide open in fact they didn’t even have to be breathing or move for that matter. I have some random toys on my shelves in my office so I grabbed Smokey the Bear & Yoda and shot a few different angles of them on my desk with some blue construction paper behind them and then went in and added voices. Please forgive the sound, its sloppy I know.
Advantages: The obvious advantage here is that after the initial filming unless you just have a desire to change the background you don’t have to ever film again which brings the time it takes to produce an announcement clip way down. Obvious plus, who couldn’t use more time. As well it lets you wait until the night before or morning of to finalize your video giving you the most up to date announcements (None slide through).
Disadvantages: Your dialog has to be pretty captivating. Since there is no actual people on the screen to watch you’ll most likely need a gimmick of some sort (Our students loved Yoda’s backward speech and bluntness towards the bear). The other obvious disadvantage is if you don’t do or are uncomfortable doing voices. In my opinion as is witnessed here, they don’t have to be good. In fact they might actually be funnier if they aren’t so grab a Hulk Hogan pillow or a troll doll (you might wanna put some pants on it) and give it a shot.
Note* Initially we had a mini plot-line between the bear & Yoda where they didn’t like each other and I found random videos like the bear getting on the top of a power pole touches the transformer and is blown off (search youtube a definite must see), or a street performer dressed as Yoda singing Britney Spears (Again Youtube should have it otherwise google it). Also, at the end you’ll notice that Yoda mentions a student (little Austin Collins) and we threw up a pic from Kindergarten). That started as Yoda showing off his ability to use the force, and he made a red dot appear and then disappear and then all of sudden he says Alan Mooney and the picture of one of our seniors popped up. Everyone laughed so hard that the next week I made him bring up Alan Mooney again, and then little Alan Mooney which was his kindergarten picture that I got out of a kids year book. This brought on even more laughter and the next week in anticipation of the end after Yoda says may the force be with you he’d say little so and so and throw up their picture to the surprise of the student and delight of the rest. A perfect example of the gimmick or hook that I mentioned in the Disadvantages section.
Bonus: The special feature is another way to keep their focus. This was around the time that Napoleon Dynamite was big so these Utah State Fair videos were a great example of clean funny stuff. Youtube is a great resource for this. Search for Super Bowl ads, crazy videos, people falling down is always great. Find something you think is funny and around 1 – 2 minutes.
For the later part of 2007 and most 2008 when we did the news I went back to using students (junior highers that were easier to schedule), but in the winter of 2009 I found LT. LT is a freeware program from crowd control games I thoroughly enjoy him.
Advantages: All the simplicity of Yoda & Smokey with the bonus of a moving gimmick built in. LT is very simple to operate, he has multiple one button reactions for example pressing #1 makes him smile goofy, #2 makes him look surprised like he’s saying “OOOOOOHHHH”
Disadvantages: The major disadvantage for using LT as your spokesperson is that he’s designed to be used live. What that means is you most likely will need another program in order to capture his movements and make him available for editing. I use a simple program called Snagit which ran me about $50.00 so while LT is free to use him, this way may not be.
Note* I have found that he has much more possibilities because of being designed to use him live. For instance he could Emcee a conference or awards night or DNOW or whatever you wanted to use him for, plus live he could call out a student thats not paying attention and freak everyone out. However you use him he is worth the download.
Bonus: LT has three preset backgrounds and four shirts as well as the black screen background and the green screen. So if your editing software has green screen capabilities then you can make LT be anywhere.
Well that wraps up this lengthy yet informative post on the art of video announcements. I suggest you try out whatever method will work best for you and get filming! Trust me announcements will neve be the same.
When I first moved to my current church we had no space to meet in on Wednesday nights. AWANA needed our one place that was ours, in fact AWANA pretty much needed the entire facility. Now I will preface this article by telling you that I was the first full-time youth pastor in the church’s 15 year existence, so needless to say there weren’t tons of students flooding our way. Which does help explain the lack of designated youth space, but nevertheless the problem was there.
The only place not being used by AWANA’s during the Wednesday night hour was the fellowship hall (a large tile room that is capable of seating 175, not ideal if you have 12 and don’t want to feel pathetic), unless it rained then they needed that too. Ok, so side note here. When your trying to create an exciting atmosphere for teenagers you have to try and make the space feel like just enough that you’d have had room if they brought a friend, but not so much that it feels like no ones there. 12 students in that size fellowship hall was definitely not giving off that feel. So I decided to make a sanctuary. That’s right I became my own building contractor, only it was more like arts and crafts on a giant scale.
A few summers earlier I watched my friend Dustin Sams control a large warehouse type space at the summer camp we attended. He did it using large sheets of black plastic, hanging from the ceiling to create makeshift walls. That idea seemed to work well and we needed to shrink the size of the room we were dealing with, so I bought some black plastic (I’ve found that the painters plastic drop cloth works well, you can get that at any WAL-MART in the painting section for less that ten bucks a roll) and went at it.
We went for the whole room covered look, so I tacked it up on the two walls of the corner we chose to meet in and also hung them from the ceiling to create the other two walls. You can eliminate work if you want to and just hang the back walls. I also, hung a piece in the back center of our sanctuary parallel with the stage to allow students to enter into the room from either side. So the back plastic walls looked similar to this:
\ — /
Like I said, I hung plastic on the existing walls so I had to measure and cut each piece to fit in its unique position. What made this even more difficult is that our plastic sanctuary had to be removed before each Sunday morning, this being the case I had to number them starting from the front corner, that way when I went to set it back up the following week I didn’t have to guess which piece was which. For hanging the plastic I bought paper hole reinforcers (you can get in the office supply section for a couple bucks), and little hooks that have the screw-like threads on the other end and got up on a ladder and screwed those into the ceiling and then punched a hole in the plastic stuck the reinforcer on the hole and hung it on the hook. Make sure you get hooks big enough to support the weight or you’ll be climbing up and down that ladder a thousand times to re-hang that plastic. (If you have a drop down tile ceiling get those black office clips instead of the hooks, they work great for clipping your plastic to the existing framework. Or even worse you’ll be apologizing to a student if the wall collapses on them during worship. All in all if you need to create a space out of nothing this trash bag sanctuary is a great option for a very cheap budget.
My wife and I have not had cable at our home for our entire married life. As a result we have one channel which happens to NBC. I only tell you this so that if my references are on shows you’d in no way watch, you’ll understand why I do.
When it comes to games, I like to try and take them to the next level at least in the presentation of them, and in order to that I like to go to the experts. I’ve found that great ideas in titles and often in types of games or humorous ideas can be found on the network talk shows. I have three that come on before 10pm on our channel. Ellen, Rachael Ray, and the Jay Leno show. I’ll give you an example of one that we did. Ellen had a game awhile back that was called
“You Want me to do WHAT?” (“What?” was said really high)
We took that idea and had a month long segment during our summer services called “That adult can do WHAT?” we used the same voice inflection on “WHAT?” and had a photo slide with the title on it. We had a desire for our students to get to know the names of our adult leaders, and we thought rather than make a student play the game we’d challenge an adult to compete in a random challenge.
Each week we surprised one of our volunteers and had them compete against the clock. We made an adult put “depends” on stuffed animals, dress a raw chicken in a build-a-bear outift, carry jell-o eggs on a spoon through an obstacle course. Simple, cheap-o, fun to watch games with the added benefit of getting our adult volunteers up in front of our students. So next week when your struggling to come up with a game for Wednesday, relax turn on the TV and see what the experts are doing. Put your own spin on it and try it out. Trust me if you’ve got a title and a name for your game it’ll feel like a bigger deal, even if your just rocking Gorilla, Man, Gun.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT IN APPROVAL OF EVERYTHING THEY DO ON THESE PROGRAMS, I’M MAINLY REFFERING TO THEIR PRESENTATION. PLEASE USE YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT ON WHAT YOU USE, STEAL THE GAME NOT NECESSARILY THE CONTENT.
That’s been my teaching philosophy for the past 7 years. I was in my office frantically trying to figure out what message I was going to share that would highlight my creativity and provoke an emotional response from a student one Wednesday afternoon, you know an hour or two before the service kicked off, and I had an encounter with God. He basically told me, “Matt quit trying to push your stories of my Son and teach His.” I am happy to report that I shifted, and as a result God began changing lives. First of all know that its not our responsibility to convert someone, just to share with someone. I started in the book of John cause its my favorite gospel, now I feel like I should pause here and let you know that our weekly Wednesday night service is our seeker/evangelistic service so its purpose is to lead teens into a realtionship with Jesus, and I went at it verse by verse story by story and I told those students all about the life of Jesus. And it worked!!! We saw the number of students who were coming to Jesus increase to nearly eight times what it had been the previous year. Jesus tells us “that when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto myself.” Let me tell you if you will make it all about Him (whether you walk through the gospel or not), He will deliver. I mean thats why Jesus came in the first place was to change lives. So my strategy let Him. Takes the pressure off, I seriously recommend it.