Doing Student Ministry in a Shared Space

chairstackNot all student ministries have their own space to meet. If you’re a student pastor that serves in a ministry that has their own space this post is not for you. Instead, this is a post for those of us who meet in a shared space. In my current position, our student ministries, both middle school and high school, meet in a shared space. Our facility has a room called the “Big Room” (we didn’t get too creative obviously) that is specificity designed for our Sunday worship services. However, it is also designed to be easily used for other events and things including our mid-week student ministry gatherings.

Not only in my current ministry, but in many of the ministries I have served in previously were ministries that met in shared spaces. Because of this I have learned a thing or two about doing student ministry in a shared space. It’s not just about making the space appropriate for your students, it’s also about respecting other ministries and doing what you can with what you have been given. Here are three important things to remember when doing student ministry in a shared space.

1. Make your stuff portable. I have met a lot of student pastors that don’t purchase or use certain things in their ministries because they meet in a shared space. Don’t let meeting in a shared space keep you from getting stuff that makes your student ministry effective and attractive. All you need to do is make sure your stuff is portable. For example, we have a ping-pong table, flat screen TV with a Wii, check in station, and more that is all portable. When we are not using the space, all our stuff it is all in a storage area. I have also been involved in ministries that have had portables stages, sound equipment, and other media/tech stuff. Meeting in a shared space doesn’t mean you can’t have certain things (big or small) that help make your ministry attractive and effective, it just means you need to think “portable.”

2. Make sure to do a good job cleaning up. One of the best things you can do as a student pastor who uses a shared space is to make sure you clean up after your ministry uses that space. Don’t be the student guy who leaves a mess hoping the facilities guy will clean it up. Don’t hold back when your using the space. Use it to the best of your abilities and make a rocking space for your students. However, put in the same amount of energy cleaning up as you do making the space “your own.” Coach up your leaders (and student leaders) in this area. Have them help you clean up after your program is over. Whatever you do, excel in this area. Your pastor will appreciate it, the facilities guy will appreciate it, and God will appreciate it as strive to be a good steward of the space He has allowed you to do ministry.

3. Compromise with other ministries. For me this is the hardest part about doing student ministry in a shared space. It’s tough at times to not be able to do certain things because it might interfere or mess with the space too much, which will affect other ministries. But remember other ministries are having to do the same for you. For example, our student ministry meets in the same space we have our Sunday worship services. There is a ton of expensive things in that room. From multiple projectors, audio equipment, and stage lights, there are a lot of things in that room that can be broken and will cost our church a ton of money to fix or replace. Because of that, there are certain games I’d love to do with our students (especially the middle school students) that I can’t do. At first I didn’t like that, but after talking to other leaders in other ministries that use that space and oversee much of that equipment that is in that room, I have come to be ok with compromise. I’ve also learned the things you usually have to compromise on with a shared space are not the most important things. It’s usually things like games and how the area is set up. All good stuff that is important to effective student ministry, but they are not deal breakers. Effective student ministry can still be done. The important things like community and Biblical teaching can be done no matter what the space is like and no matter what you can or cannot do. Learn to compromise with the other ministries that may use that space.

These are just some simple things I have learned with doing student ministry in a shared space. I am planning to do a follow-up post with pictures of our shared space and how tweak it to make it fit our student ministry. Look for that post soon.

What Do You Do When You Lose a Volunteer?

Man_walking_away_pe0058192Volunteers are important for local church ministry. Without volunteers ministry would not happen within a church. Sure we have paid staff members, but they can’t do everything. A good ministry within the local church is only as good as the volunteer team that makes it happen. When it comes to effective student ministry volunteers are key. So what do we do when we loose a volunteer? What do we do when a volunteer decides to step down and it leaves a hole in our ministry? A hole that needs replaced. Here are a few thoughts on what to do when you loose a volunteer in your ministry.

I’m writing to student pastors as I normally do here on my blog, but the thoughts and ideas are applicable to anyone in local church ministry that leads a team of volunteers.

Encourage the volunteer. When a volunteer steps out of your ministry, don’t get mad at them. Don’t make them feel guilty and let things become awkward between you and them. Encourage them and thank them for what they have been doing in your ministry. Share with them the impact they made on the students they worked with. Most of the time, although not all the time, a volunteer will step out of your ministry for a good reason. It may be they are burned out and need a break. They may have important things going on within their family that needs their full attention. They may be simply over committed. Make sure you encourage them and don’t burn any bridges. You never know when God will bring them back to your ministry.

Don’t rush to feel their spot, be patient. When you loose a volunteer the first thing your going to want to do is fill their spot. This isn’t a bad thing because their spot needs to be filled, especially if they were in an important role working directly with students. But be patient. The worst thing you can do is throw someone in their spot that if not gifted for it or doesn’t have a passion for that area. Pray and let God direct you in filling their spot with the right person.

Inform the other volunteers. Don’t make a huge deal about it, but inform the other volunteers in your ministry. You don’t want nasty rumors of assumptions to start so share with your volunteers that “so and so” step out of their volunteer role and make sure to respect the person and the reasons for them stepping out of your ministry. If they left for the right reasons this should not be a big deal, but in case they left for a confidential reason, keep that between you and them. Just share with the other volunteers “so and so” is not a volunteer anymore.

Share with the students directly involved with that volunteer. No need to make an upfront annoucnemnt to all the students. Simply share with the students who were directly involved with that volunteer. For example, if that volunteer was a small group leader, share with their small group that their leader has stepped out of his position and make sure they understand the situation (if that is appropriate).

Loosing a volunteer is tough. I recently just lost a great volunteer in our student ministry. It’s going to happen and it’s not the end of the world. Make sure to handle it with care and know God is in control of the situation.

Guest Post: 15 Things to Consider When Joining the Staff at a Large Church

Realize you’re on a team. Upgrade your interpersonal skills. You will need to learn how to deal with disagreements and conflict in a healthy manner. Read up on this stuff and don’t assume that you’re great at it.

Learn your place. Be quiet in staff meetings. Spend the first 6 months – 1 year listening. Do not go into ministry thinking that previous programs or successes will transfer to a larger church. Each church has their own personality. Keep quiet about past successes. No one wants to hear about what awesome thing you did last year. They want you to lead in your current condition. This transfers over to staff meetings too. Spend time listening.

Develop a thicker skin. Get ready for input from your team leaders. Be ready for performance reviews. If you do not have thick skin, then get ready for your feelings to be hurt. In larger situations, you’ll have more people who evaluate your ministry and give constructive criticism. Just because a leader sees an area that needs improvement doesn’t mean that they don’t like you. They aren’t out to get you either.

Know you’re place. Communicate directly with your supervisor. If he/she says no, don’t go above his head. Respect the chain of command. Be ready to explain your ideas. Know how what you want to do fits into your current system. Larger churches do not like to do something just for the sake of doing it. Your leader WILL tell you no at some point. When that happens about an idea that you’re passionate about, do not go over their head. This will destroy trust and make you look like a brat.

Be ready to plan ahead. Larger churches like stability. That means you need to start planning out programs and events 6 months – 1 year in advance. Long gone are the days where you can plan a month or two out. You’ll need to know what you’re preaching on, what your small groups are learning, and any events that you’re planning (as well as prices of those events) well in advance. The further you plan out the better you’ll look and less parents will complain.

Get ready for detailed budget planning. Save your receipts and be ready to deal with a financial team. The financial team will have certain requirements of you. You’ll need to keep receipts, put them into budget categories, and prepare statements. Spend wisely and record with a passion.

Get to know the entire staff. Make time to make friends. Staff interaction is VERY important. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you need to be social with the rest of the team. Those friendships will be important. If you keep to yourself, you’ll look arrogant.

Build a strong volunteer base. Your job is now about building and equipping leaders to do ministry. Delegate. Train. Let go. If you make yourself essential in any area other than leadership, you’ve failed.

Learn the DNA of the church. Don’t create your own mission/vision statements. Adapt the church’s mission and vision for students. This is my personal opinion, but the last thing you want is to segregate yourself from the larger church. Show your leaders and your team that you walk in step with the vision and mission of the leadership.

Familiarize yourself with other ministries. Be ready to answer general questions about ministries you don’t lead. It never fails, someone someplace will ask you about another ministry. Be prepared to give an answer and then direct the person appropriately. If you do not take the time to know what everyone else on your team is doing, you’ll appear as if you don’t care.

Get ready for Executive Pastors. These men and women oversee the administrative duties of the Senior Pastor. They are important people to know and have good relationships with.

Learn to create systems for handling issues instead of dealing them as they come up. Be ready for hotel situations, volunteer expectations, payment plans, benevolence requests, etc. You need to think through this stuff. You need to project and be consistent.

Look at yourself as a “senior pastor” of the youth group instead of a youth pastor. Doing ministry in a larger group context means you won’t have your hands on everything. You’ll also need to learn how to counsel students and parents.

Become an expert at communication. Send bi-monthly volunteer emails (mailchimp.com), get a professional texting service (tatango.com), and publish 3 month calendar (with events, prices, and info).

Be careful what and how you post. Do not post ANYTHING on Facebook/Twitter about politics, arguments, the church, ministry staff, or anything that should stay in your head. Do not respond on Facebook/Twitter to anything students say or do that is questionable. That’s something you should handle in private.

This guest post was written by Nick Farr. Nick is a co-manger of YouthMin.org and website that connects everyday youth pastors. He’s also an Associate Pastor at East Ridge Church. He has been doing freelance graphic/web design for 17 years and provides services at a reasonable price for churches at http://www.nickfarr.me . I asked Nick to write this post because I just came on staff at Christ Community Chapel, a large, multi-site church in Northeast Ohio. I hope this post helps others coming on staff at large churches.