Posted on 2 Comments

Gender Pay Gap in Youth Ministry Employment

Earlier this week we published Dan Navarra’s excellent Youth Pastor Compensation Survey report. And, rightly so, people in the comments of the report were curious is Dan’s research had discovered a gender pay gap. In other words, are full-time women in youth ministry paid less than men in the same role?

So I wanted to address this today– which also happens to be International Women’s Day.

Continue reading Gender Pay Gap in Youth Ministry Employment

Posted on Leave a comment

Leaders who are Different

There is no “one-size fits all” approach to leadership. There is an abundance of examples of rich diversity in nature marked by the sheer volume of unique species of plants, animals, fish, rock or foliage. And as diverse as creation is, leaders too are developed through different gifts, personalities, abilities and styles.

Here are four types of different leaders I’ve had the privilege of serving with:

1. The reluctant leader – I wrote about this at length here. A reluctant leader is someone who believes that they could be or should be doing something else. There are countless biblical examples of this leadership type. For this conversation, however, let’s refine our thoughts to the person of Moses.

Moses didn’t want to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  He didn’t want to carry the burden of leadership while wandering in the desert. Moses was called by God to lead even though he wanted to live into a different calling.

We sometimes will work with leaders like this. It’s important for us to affirm their calling, while encouraging them to engage emotionally in the leadership opportunity they’ve been given.

2. The timid leader – Gideon is a prime example of a timid leader. Timid leaders question both their calling and their ability, and yet timid leaders are often times the most powerful and profound leaders of an organization. They spend a great deal of effort connecting relationally with those whom they are charged with leading because they are willing to earn the right to lead through relational connection.

Timid leaders are catalysts for relational depth in your community.

3. The headstrong leader – These leaders are intense. They push through obstacles and often times run over people in the process. Peter was this kind of leader. At times their intensity can be misdiagnosed as arrogance. Headstrong leaders have a clear picture of where they are going and are determined to get there.

Headstrong leaders need boundaries or they will run over everything in their path. Be firm, remind them of vision and set them up to succeed by allowing them to help lead your organization and community forward.

4. Systematic leader – Systematic leaders choose their path wisely. They calculate the pros and cons of any given leadership situation and have often thought through a variety of different solutions to a problem while others may still be attempting to describe what they problem is. One biblical case study for this type of leader is Joshua. Joshua learned how to bring a vision to life by leading the people of Israel into the promised land.

Systematic leaders can help you make wise decisions that may bring a larger vision into focus and/or into reality over time.

The reality is that each of us is a blend of these different leadership types, but we may possess a natural tendency or dominance towards one or two of these profiles. Think about your team of leaders. Which ones fit into which profile? Are there other types of leaders you would add to this list? What type of leader are you, and how does this shape how you lead?

Posted on Leave a comment

What’s in a Name?

I remember the first moment when I found out I was going to be a dad. Mixed emotions of excitement, nervousness and joy flooded into my soul. The weight of responsibility of caring for and discipling a young child into adulthood became the focus of my thought power and energy leading up to the moment of birth (and beyond!). Of all the responsibilities associated with being a parent, none seemed as important as providing a great start for this new child by choosing the name they would live into.

My wife Bonny and I spent countless hours creating names for our children. We created a spreadsheet listing all the leading name candidates, researching their meaning and dreaming about what we hoped our children would live into in terms of values, character and aspirations for their future.

The day came where we met each of our three children and called them by name. In that moment everything seemed settled, new, hope-filled and amazing.

Fast forward a couple of years and these young little babies who are now young children are beginning to live into and own the name that they have been given. They respond to it when it’s called (for the most part…), they introduce themselves by it and they know how to write it. My kids are beginning to share who they are with others, starting with their name.

I often marvel at the power that names have in each of our lives. Working with teens I’ve seen firsthand the positive and negative effects of names or labels that have been placed on these kids by those who they trusted and cared about. How we speak to each other and what references or names we use matter. The grade 7 boy who is home-schooled is more than just a home-schooler. The grade 10 girl who has dated half the youth group is more than just the floozy. The student that lives in the rough part of town is more than an underprivileged kid.

The names we share with one another and we give to others matter. What names are you using to refer to the teens and families under your sphere of influence and care? Are they names that breathe life into their souls, or names that reinforce all the lies they may be tempted to believe about who they are? What’s in a name, and does a name really matter?

Posted on Leave a comment

Kingdom Diversity

This post also appears on Canadian Youth Worker here.

If you study the life of Jesus you will not only discover a God-man full of integrity and character. You may also discover that He likes to do things differently…a lot.

When I first started out in ministry as a volunteer and then young ministry leader, I was convinced that the way I was doing things was the best possible way to minister to teens and families. Call it arrogance, call it being naive, or simply call it being blind. Many years later as a seasoned ministry leader I’m learning to appreciate the richness that diversity has to offer.

Diversity is an interesting word. To some it means embracing a laissez-faire attitude towards life and leadership, while to others it means uncovering and celebrating the different personalities, character and dreams that people possess. For me, diversity is a value; one that liberates a leader from a narrow frame of modus operandi.

Back to Jesus.

If you study the miracles that Jesus performed during His time on earth, you will discover that each one is uniquely different and yet completely amazing. He spits into mud and rubs it onto the eyes of a blind man restoring his sight, He changes water into wine through a simple exercise of refilling empty wine barrels, He speaks to a dead man inviting him to step back into life, and he prays over a small lunch in order to feed a gathered crowd of over 5000 people. And these are just a few of the miracles Jesus performed!

If you take a deeper look into the people that Jesus interacted with, you will again discover this theme and value of diversity. Jesus took the time to notice and to befriend anyone who was willing to be known by Him.

If Jesus embraced and lived this value of diversity, shouldn’t our families, churches and ministry communities do the same? Is there room for diversity in your current ministry context, or are you asking everyone to be like everybody else?

Here are a few questions that I’m asking in my life and in my ministry to help me refine the value of diversity:

1. Do I create space where people with different stories, personalities, abilities and learning styles can connect?
2. Do I take the time to celebrate someones uniqueness as well as to look for something that we might have in common?
3. Do I encourage other ministry leaders who do ministry different than I do to keep leading into their uniqueness, or do I suggest that they should copy what I do?
4. Do I possess a balance between creativity and imitation in my pursuit of embracing diversity as a value?

So what about you…how have you seen the value of diversity impact the lives of people? Are there additional questions you’d add to this list to help refine the pursuit of diversity as a value?

Posted on 2 Comments

Texting causes creeping informality

Texting-on-Cell-PhonesI saw an article in the Seattle Times this morning that made me immediately think about Youth Ministry. In the article teachers speak to the positive sides of students using blogs, texting and collaborative online tools.  In the opinion of teachers students got high marks for how the organize their thoughts, use style and tone and put together their papers.

But the article points out problems too.  “Creeping Informality” is slowly taking over. Teachers recognize it when it students begin to abbreviate words and use text slang style in their written assignments.   This informality has begun to erode the positive side of the texting movement as students are beginning to show signs of inability to process information outside of bite size chunks and longer projects are a major struggle.

This article made me think about how I interact with people and communicate.   I text a lot.  It’s my primary tool for staying connected to my family ministry team and to a number of students.  It’s an easy way of passing on information quickly and having a discussion but it isn’t the best way.  I find so many times that I have to write out how I am “feeling” as I text that so that the receiver of the message can know how to best read what I’m saying.  And informal conversation like this can get us into trouble as we are way more likely to fire off something quick that we don’t really think through before sending.

Creeping Informality has plaged  the Youth Ministry world for years.  I’m a fairly informal dresser (said while wearing a camp t-shirt and sweats) and often find myself just a little bit too underdressed for situations.  I like to put my feet on my desk too because I find I just think better leaning back.   But I think all of us realize that we need to be careful about how informal we are.  Texting your senior pastor when there is a major youth ministry crises is probably not the best route to go.  Sending a passive aggressive e-mail to a parent is both wrong and likely going to just push off the problem so it’ll blow up in your face later.

So here’s just a couple of quick thoughts to push us all:

1. How much do you use text to deal with issues you are uncomfortable talking about face to face?

2. Do you feel that you have been too informal in conversations with co-workers, parents or students?

3. How has being overly informal in what you wear hurt you?

4. Are there ways we can help students engage faith study in longer chunks breaking them free of their bite sized texting thoughts?

There you go. I’m thinking through these questions too.

Posted on Leave a comment

Teachable Moments: Where is the line?

OK, I’ve coached high school sports, I see what he’s doing here. I get it and I applaud the coach for doing something that the student will always remember. Certainly, on this trip the coach has clearly communicated that he’s in charge!

But this video also begs the question: What is the difference between a teachable moment and public humiliation?

For some reason this doesn’t seem like it’s over the line. But it feels really close!

Posted on 1 Comment

Regrets are a waste of time

I’m digging Rachel Blom’s blog, Youth Leaders Academy. She’s a great writer with tons of practical wisdom for youth workers worldwide. (Yep, she represents Germany!)

Here’s a little taste of Rachel’s New Year’s post on regret.

Yet spending too much time on regrets is useless, because regrets are a big waste of time. It won’t help you to regret the things that you didn’t do or the stupid things that you did, because you can’t change the past. I know that sounds like the biggest cliché ever, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s also true. You can’t change the past, so regretting the past won’t help you. Here’s what will help you as you look back and are confronted with where you fell short:

1. Remorse

Regret won’t help you, but remorse will. Confess your sins and shortcomings to God and where necessary to others. Make amends wherever possible with people you may have hurt. If you had planned to spend more time with your family for instance but failed to actually do so, admit your failure in this area to your spouse and kids. It will go a long way in mending things.

Don’t ever forget that God is a God of second, third and even hundred-and-thirty-fourth chances…No matter how many times you have failed, He will always welcome you with open arms!

Head over to Youth Leaders Academy and check out the rest of this post.

Posted on 1 Comment

Awareness Test


Watch the above video before reading any further.

Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.



“It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for.” This principle seems to be true both for moonwalking bears and for us in youth ministry. When we’re so focused on certain tasks, people, events, numbers, etc., we can actually miss what’s most important.

It happens all the time.

When I’m focused on how many students attended my mid-week program, but miss the conversation the Spirit was leading me to have with that one hurting student who just needed someone to listen.

When I’m giving more of my time and energy to planning a summer camp with my students than I am with a summer vacation for my own family.

When I’m reading the Bible only to glean some information to teach, rather than to encounter the heart of God and refresh my own soul.

When people constantly surround me—students, volunteers, fellow pastors and staff—but I’m navigating through life feeling fairly alone and isolated.

Awareness only comes when there’s time to slow down, to pay attention, to really notice what is happening right in front of me. It comes when all the swirling activity—counting the flying basketball passes—fades into the background and I can truly hear the voice of the Savior, who beckons and strengthens and comforts and exhorts. It requires others’ involvement in my life, those who can point out the obvious areas that I’m missing.

In this Christmas season of busyness, let us not miss what Christ is doing in our ministry, in our family, and in our own souls. Let us become people with eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand, so that we might experience the healing touch of Christ.