Starting Out

The 3 Things That Must DEFINE Your Ministry Atmosphere

There's no place like home.

Whether you're a nomad living in a yurt on the steppes of central Asia, a college student making the best of your dorm room, or a youth pastor living in a cardboard box (because we're all broke), there is nothing like the feeling of coming home.
Does the place in which you lead feel like a home to your followers?

This is a yurt...in case you didn't know. 

This is a yurt...in case you didn't know. 

It was over 5 years ago when I was on the receiving end of a phone interview with my current Lead Pastor when he asked me the million dollar question:
"What will be the 3 defining factors of your ministry if you are hired to be our Student Ministries Pastor?"

Immediately I got all spiritual. The first things that came to my mind were first-time salvations, water baptisms, Holy Spirit baptisms, numbers, and discipleship groups. As I was about to open my mouth and blow his mind with my spirituality, God checked my heart. Shouldn't all those things I first thought of be a "given," and not the defining factors in a ministry? Isn't it a given that a church ministry should experience all those things? The answer is yes, they are givens, and yet so many leaders define the success of their ministries by these factors alone and miss out on the opportunity to create the atmospheres that allow these things to happen in greater measures. So what are the atmospheres I'm talking about? The kind of atmospheres that don't bring your people into an organization, but a home.

Each week, when we welcome students into The Element, our student ministry, we use phrases like, "regardless of the family you're a part of or the home you come from, tonight, we are your family and this place is your home. Welcome home. You belong here."
That said, these are the three factors I ended up detailing to my soon-to-be boss:

  1. Stability

  2. This one is big. Your ministry may be the most stable place many of your people are a part of each week. Their homes, workplaces, and relationships may not be stable, but your ministry and your model of leadership MUST be stable. A leader must conscientiously create this environment every week; even to the point that it becomes a culture. Stability is like reinforcing a ship before the storms of life hit.
    No one will get on a ship that looks like it's about to sink.Give your people security by creating a culture of stability.

  3. Validity

  4. Sometimes, a person can go through their entire week and not feel validated by another person. People need to be valued in your ministry, and more than that, they need to hear that you value them. A person cannot grow if they do not know who they are. By validating them as the people God created them to be, they will begin to believe what God says about them through His Word and will in turn grow in the process.

  5. Consistency

    If there's anything that wins the day, it's consistency. Consistency creates the safe structure necessary to grow in an environment that looks and feels like a healthy home. When your people show up to your church, your ministry event, or to a 1-on-1 appointment with you, do they feel comfortable because you have been a consistent factor in their lives, or do they feel on edge and distrusting? A consistent home is a place where trust and openness rule the day.

Now at the risk of sounding all warm and fuzzy, please understand, many of you don't visit certain friends because of their home environment, you may not return to a store because the employees were unfriendly, and you might not return to a church you're visiting because of how you were ignored. That's why stability, consistency, and validity are so important to your role as a leader and should be defining factors in everything you create.

In what ways does one of the  "defining factors" above appeal to you when you walk into a church or ministry atmosphere?

Level Up

"We're about to go to a WHOLE.NUTHA.LEVEL." 

For the last few years, this has been the mantra of many leaders who want to see their ministries grow in ways they have never seen before...especially amongst youth and young adult pastors.

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I mean, who doesn't want to take their lives to a new level? Whether it’s in our profession, finances, physique, or spiritual walk; we all feel uncomfortable with being comfortable.
If our lives were an Indiana Jones movie, then the holy grail would, in reality, be the “next level." To chase the ever-mystical next level makes men out of mice and princes out of paupers.

So why, when we achieve that next level, do we feel so unsettled and dissatisfied?

It’s because we have made the next level all about ourselves. We can, at times, lose sight of the reason we pursued the next level in the first place: to be better leaders.
When one becomes inward focused our outward focus inevitably suffers. It’s a beast I wrestle with every time I feel the hunger for something greater. It's the tension between pursuing the calling that God has for you and making sure that the pursuit stays true to God's desires and not your own.

So how do we get to that next level, and more importantly, how do we get there with our integrity intact?

One thing that must be understood, above all, is that the price associated with going to the next level is worth paying, regardless of the level of frustration that will inevitably accompany it. Here's how it's done:

  1. God will only allow you to go to the next level when He sees that you have been faithful to the previous one.

  2. The next level is brought about in God's timing, not your own.

  3. The next level cannot be reached by your own strength. It is only something God can accomplish.

  4. You will be uncomfortably stretched, even beyond anything you have been used to in the past. This will change you, from your personality to your habits, and will make you into the person you need to be in order to function at the next level. It is not much fun, but there will be a peace that comes with the stretching because you know that it’s God who is doing it.

  5. There are things that you can talk about with those close to you as you go through the process of getting to the next level, but there will be some things you will have to dig for alone with God in your secret place of prayer.

  6. You will need to hear the voice of God in the process. Chances are that no one has been where you are going and so it will be impossible to imitate how they have done it.

Your private times of prayer are going to be of the utmost importance. You will receive some things from God in an hour; other things in two hours. However, there are some things reserved for those willing to go past that. The gold is deep in the ground and few are willing to dig for it. You will go way beyond yourself, but know this, that there is no better place to be.

Share with us below which of these 6 principles stand out the most to you and why. Or share some things that help you get to the next level in your own life.

The 3 Things God Told Me to DO When I Started in Ministry

"I got this."

Those were the three fatal words that I used to oversell myself to the man who would eventually become my current Lead Pastor and boss. He was giving me a tour around their large student ministry center while I was being interviewed for the Student Ministries Pastor position at our church. I was fresh out of Bible college and had a lot of talent, but when the size of that building and the magnitude of the task of building that youth group was presented, reality slapped me harder than a prom date making all the wrong moves.

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The painful truth was that I didn't have it. Not only was the building big, but the student ministry was dying and awaiting the final nail to be driven into its coffin. It made me want to go ask for my money back from my Bible College. They didn't teach us how to handle this stuff. So I did what any self-respecting, wanna-be pastor would do...I went to God. I told Him that I had already committed to the task He had given me and that I was willing to give it my best shot, but I needed a road map and directions for my first few steps. He answered me, and in the coming weeks, He gave me three principles that have since guided my process as I navigate this movement of a ministry we now have. Here's what He said:

  1. Do whats right in front of your face.

    There will always be pressure to get everything done at once; to give attention to the urgent and the important, but let's be real, everything is urgent and important. Do the thing God has put in front of you. You'll know what it is because it will haunt you, bother you, run through your head several times a day. When we give attention to what God puts in front of us, He will more than often take care of everything on the periphery.

  2. Feed what God is already growing.

    There are so many times when we feel the pressure to plant our own programs and grow our own agendas. We look at how others are doing it and feel the urge to do it, too. The thing is, if God is growing something in your ministry, chances are it's because He wants it there. When you feed it instead of fight it, God honors you and your efforts and blesses the desires of your hearts. The difficulty here is seeing past your own wants and recognizing that God just might be doing something better.

  3. Walk on water...like Peter.

    I'm not this great man of faith when it comes to launching new things. In fact, statistics show that 99% of the time, I worry that it will fail. And yet, when God calls me to do something beyond myself, He doesn't seem to pay any attention to my fears or the storms I perceive that may surround my task. The same went for Peter. When Jesus asked Peter to come out to him on the wind and the waves, He didn't ask Peter to know how to walk on water, He just asked Him to get out of the boat. When God calls you to something great, He's not asking you to now how it's all going to work, or come together, or even to know if it will succeed at the end. All that God is asking of you is that you get good at getting out of the boat every time He asks and He'll take care of the rest.

Every time I start something new, be it a program, a ministry, or a personal task, I keep these three things in front of me and they have helped me navigate some of the most difficult undertakings of my life.

Share with us below which of these 3 principles speaks to you most & why.