Being a Student Pastor in a Money World

A Money World

Let’s be honest (and this may be a new concept to some people) but the world of a student pastor can be quite the juggling experience.  My next 3 posts will be all about the world of the student pastor and the things he or she juggles.  From a student ministry budget, to social media, to just plain business, all these can wreak havoc on the life and effectiveness of a student pastor.

So let’s start with what may be one of the more stressful areas in church life…the student ministry budget.

Here’s my example…My first church was an awesome country church in a small town in West Tennessee.  My memories of the people of that church swell with joy.  My memories of my student ministry budget however, lead me to tears.  Understandably by budget was small, but as we grew our budget did not.  I can clearly remember going into a deacon’s meeting to make a request to purchase pencils for a Wednesday night…PENCILS!!

So how are we supposed to grow and keep up with that growth with a budget (in our minds) that may not meet those needs.  Well…what do you spend your budget on?  Where does it go?  If you’re like me, a majority of you budget goes towards events like camps and disciple nows, as well as mission trips.  So how are we supposed to make our other ministry opportunities excellent if your budget is tied up in those major events.

Allow me to encourage you for just a second, less expensive doesn’t mean less excellent. That is determined by how you approach everything you plan. You can do excellent even if it’s free.

Let me stop for just a moment and be a little transparent…my office administrator will laugh the moment she reads this blog…she knows this is my struggle.  So let’s looks at some areas of the student ministry budget and see where we can still be effective with less money.

 

Wednesday Nights

I don’t know what your “main event” is for the week in your specific ministry, but I’m going to assume your direct your students to one focal gathering for your students.  Ours is our midweek worship service for students and we want to constantly make what we do on Wednesday nights better and the struggle is how we can effectively use our budget to enhance our midweek worship experience.

This is just a list of things that make up our Wednesday nights and where we spend our money.

Series Design: If we spend money on our message series design it may be on fonts or subscriptions to to sites where we can download images for backgrounds.  There are websites where you can download fonts for free (just make sure they are relevant and current).

Stage Design: Hello Pinterest!  Pinterest is FILLED with ideas that can help spark the creative juices in your mind.  Pinterest isn’t there for you to steal other ideas, but to learn and inspire you create something awesome for your ministry.

Games: If you have students who love games, may I suggest Jimmy Fallon or Hollywood game night.  There are great examples of free or cheap games you can incorporate into your specific ministries.

Other Events

Like it or not you have to do more stuff with your students other than Summer camp, disciple now, and a mission trip.  So how can you do these things without breaking the back?

Well, remember when you were a kid and you had to play outside with your friends?  What were some of the things you did them? We used to play whiffle ball, kickball, basketball, and football.  Why not play some of those games?  Those are extremely inexpensive.

You could also do something like a Messy Game night, go bowling, or have a pool party at someone’s house.  Then have another pool party and just call it a Luau…that’s sneaky…and cheap.

Communication/Broadcasting

Getting the word out can be expensive sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be.  Your students are on social media…well, most of them are.  If your student ministry is in the social media world too, then getting the word out can be absolutely free. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc..

Email is free too, it just takes time to gather everyone’s information.

If printed information is a must, then I would encourage you to go to places like Next Day Flyers. This is an inexpensive place for you to get a large amount of printed material (post cards, flyers, posters, etc.) at a not so expensive price.

 

Student Ministry can be expensive, and some events are simply going to cost money for you and your students, but I want to encourage you to be creative.  Just because you are finding ways to cut the cost in some areas, it doesn’t mean that you have to expect less from those events or experiences.  Make a list of what you do in your ministry…where can you use your budget more creatively and effectively?

What are some things you have done to cut costs for your students?

 

JM

Dear Student Pastor: Part 2

Fight the urge to be something you’re not.

We now live in the land of skinny jeans and flannel and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In fact I love flannel…not so much skinny jeans (because I’m not skinny).  I think if I were skinny I would still wear Levis 508s (if they’re on sale) because I just like them. I’ve actually been waiting on fashion to catch up with me. Well that’s not true, because I’ve never really been that fashionable, just ask my wife.  She met me when I was wearing pleated khaki’s and big shirts from Abercrombie and she still married me (she has no one to blame but herself).

The fact is this…I’ve always tried to be who I am no matter what.  Students still make fun of what I wear (that probably won’t change), but that doesn’t really bother me because I’m still being true to who God is making me to be and I’m positive students see that.  I hope they see that I am trying my best to be authentic in a world filled with masks.

Dear student pastor…don’t try to be something you’re not just to fit in with the culture of your students…It won’t make them listen to you more!  If you’re a khaki’s and polo kind of guy…rock it.  If you are really an Instagram full of coffee and Bibles kind of guy, then go be caffeinated and well read with the best of ’em.  But don’t go do these things in order to impress your students, all-the-while allowing inauthenticity to run rampant.

Student ministries are filled with students not striving for authenticity in their relationships with others or with God, and I can’t help but believe that a lot of that is our fault, because we aren’t being true to who God is creating us to be.

It’s ok to be you.  It’s ok to listen to Petra in your office.  It’s ok to not fit in a culture that is not your culture.  It’s not ok to be someone you’re not while trying to lead students to an authentic relationship with Christ.

After 15 years in this game, I’ve learned that students love people who are real with them. And they’re ok with us being nerds and weird, because they’re just as weird in they’re own way.

Enjoy being you with your students today!

JM

Dear Student Pastor (Part 1)

I’ll admit it…it’s getting more difficult every day to pastor students today.  I think it’s this growing difficulty that is causing student pastors to change their mentality of ministry or even in some cases it’s caused pastors to change who they are.  Believe me, I know those urges, but I think it’s something that we have wrestle with if we’re going to continue to lean into the lives of students.

My next few posts will be specifically to student pastors as encouragement to not just lead, but to lead strong.  In order to do this, there are some things we have to overcome.

FIGHT THE URGE: To Tippy-Toe Around Certain Topics In Order to Not Upset Students or Parents.

I think it’s important for to remember what we have been called to do.  The world of a student is complicated and we are supposed to partner with parents and lean into the lives of their student(s) with the love of Christ.  But for some reason, we have equated leaning into the lives of students with encouraging, but not challenging.

The last thing we want to do is upset someone.  We don’t want them to be mad at us, and to some degree, we don’t want them mad at God; so we speak to them and craft messages that may be excellent and biblical, but we avoid topics that may challenge a lifestyle and/or decisions they are making.  We avoid topics like homosexuality and abortion with students because we think they can hear that on Sundays from the pulpit. We would rather speak on topics like missions and how to live a radical life, and avoid topics that may cause heartburn.  If this is your mentality you are mis-understanding the task at hand, because avoiding (or ignoring) hard topics could very well lead to tolerance and acceptance of sin.  Let’s be transparent for a second, how many of you have students who have friends who struggle with Same Sex Attraction (SSA) and instead of speaking truth into their lives with love and truth, they avoid the topic and show acceptance of both the sin and the lifestyle?

How will students know how to lovingly lean into the lives of those struggling with SSA, or even someone who is thinking about having an abortion, if you haven’t been speaking the truth of the Scripture into their lives.  It’s not an “every-once-in-a-while” conversation, because these topics are shaping culture.  We must speak truth while encouraging students to reshape the culture they live in by that same truth which has so radically changed our own lives.  This is the truth that breathes life into the dead.

It’s not a bad thing to be bold.  It’s not a bad thing to speak truth.  It’s not a bad thing to speak truth into a culture that is confused as to what truth really is.

Some topics aren’t as controversial: Sports, time management, the stuff we listen to, the things we tweet. Challenge students on some of these topics and see what happens. I promise you’ll get some huffing and puffing and maybe even an unfollow or two on Twitter. But if you don’t challenge them, who will?

Dear Student Pastor, don’t tippy-toe…walk normal and speak loudly!

JM

What are some topics we avoid as to not offend students and parents?

It’s a map, not a menu…

MapNotAMenu3

At Wallace, we’ve adopted this statement as our approach to being intentional to discipleship…and I love it.  Often times, we offer a HUGE selection of classes for people to choose from, but to what end?  Is it discipleship in order to say we “do discipleship,” or is it an opportunity for people to jump on board and be encouraged as they travel on this journey towards Jesus.

Intentionality is key! There has to be a purpose for what we are doing.  For far too long we have simply been “doing,” but we haven’t been going anywhere, and we haven’t been helping people go with us.  With our new Map Not a Menu structure, our goal is to provide a way for people to walk together with a purpose of growing and helping others grow.  If we continue to do what we’ve been doing, we will continue to spin the wheels of our stationary bike.

Hopefully, starting this fall, Wallace will be offering opportunities to GO and GROW with an end in mind!  I’m looking forward to what God has in store!

JM

Glorious Ruins…

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I came across what can only be described as a tree graveyard on Hunting Island in South Carolina.  Dead trees covered the beach, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  There is beauty in death!  Well, at least there is beauty in our spiritual death.  It is only then that we can have life.  It is only then we truly find life.

As I walked I was reminded of this song…it speaks of this kind of beauty!

Glorious Ruins (Hillsong)

When the mountains fall
And the tempest roars You are with me
When creation folds
Still my soul will soar on Your mercy

I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace

Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign

And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings
I will love You forever
And forever I’ll sing

When the world caves in
Still my hope will cling to Your promise
Where my courage ends
Let my heart find strength in Your presence

 

JM

Helping students live sent where they are…

Sentlogo

One of the more nerve-racking experiences for a student (and adults for that matter) is sharing their faith with others.  I wish I was exempt from this feeling, but I’m not…neither am I exempt from sharing my faith simply because I’m afraid of what others will think of me.  As someone who leans into the lives of students for a living, I believe I am supposed to help them, encourage them, and show them how we can help with the task of sharing the Gospel with those around us less terrifying.

I’m not about to offer a discipleship strategy or a message series on how to share the Gospel, but I do have a few ideas on ways we can encourage our students to make much of Jesus and share their faith with their friends without the use of “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts (pet peeve…Jesus didn’t raise from the dead to be your homeboy…He did that to be your only hope for salvation).

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram…This is the world of a teenager and it is literally at their fingertips.  It doesn’t take long to scroll down someone’s timeline to see what is important to them.  Just look at their “instas” or read some of their retweets and you’ll pretty much know what’s going on in their lives.  They’re an open book and they don’t even know it.

What if we helped students use these social media outlets as tools to invite their friends to church or promote what’s going to happen on a Wednesday night in your student ministry…or even share the Gospel.  Create a special hashtag to promote a series or an event and encourage your students to tweet with that hashtag…for example:

Christ  died, Christ rose, He’s coming again!  #noONEgreater

It may be my naivety, but I believe we can use social media to make much of Jesus.

**Warning:  This will work better if you avoid all the Facebook drama

GIVE YOUR STUDENTS SOMETHING TANGIBLE

Invite Cards:  Do you have a special series coming up or an event, create a card and put it in the hands of students.  Believe it or not, a few of them will actually hand them out.  Handing out these cards may possibly begin a spiritual conversation where students can share the Gospel.

The LifeBook:  This is a great FREE resource that students can take to school and hand to their friends and talk with them about the hope they have in Christ.  It gives a brief synopsis of the Old Testament and then entire Gospel of John.  It also includes answers that students may ask pertaining to different passages.

INVITE…INVITE…INVITE…

Sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder.  Encourage your students to continually invite people to your worship gatherings or events.  I am not encouraging students to invite their friends to come and see anything, but do want them to invite their friends to come and know Jesus.

I’ve always been told, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  If this is the case then I want students squeaking all over the place.  The likelihood of guests just showing up are slim…your chances are better if they are invited.

REMIND THEM THEY ARE SENT

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are a sent people, and the best way to be sent is to live sent.  When we believe in Christ, the commission of Christ is grafted into our spiritual DNA.  It’s more that what we are supposed to do, it’s who we are supposed to be.  If we are going to encourage students to live sent, then it’s up to us to help them overcome the anxiety that may come with sharing that salvation comes through Jesus alone in a world that believes there’s more than one way to get anywhere.

Train your students…help your students…send your students.

How are you encouraging and helping students live sent where you are?

 

JM

 

No one really asks what I’m listening to…

…but I’m going to share it with you anyway.  Why?  Because I believe my life and my ministry need really good music.

 

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Ben Rector: The Walking In Between

I can not listen to this album enough.  Whether I’m at the house reading, studying in my office, or riding in the car, at some point I will be listening to this album.  “Life is not the mountain tops, it’s the walking in between, I like you walkin’ next to me.” Thank you Ben!  I don’t know you, but I would assume we would be pretty good friends.

 

andy_mineo_neverland

Andy Mineo: NeverLand

Anyone who can put FUBU and Chewbacca in the same prose has a gift.  Maybe you’ve never heard of Andy or maybe you’re a part of the underground 116 movement, either way this would be a great album for your playlist.  It’s a staple for us while we wait in the drop off line at school.  Not sure what Yeye’s teacher thinks when she walks in saying, “Say I won’t rock FUBU sucka!”

I would include more, but for the past two weeks, this is all I’ve listened to.  Seriously…that’s it.  Well, except for the NEEDTOBREATHE iTunes radio station (which still includes Ben Rector).

Seriously Ben, I’m in Nashville quite a bit…yes, I like coffee…yes, I like to talk…have you’re people call my people!

What can you not stop listening to?

JM