This morning I finished up our 6th grade boys lock in at the church. It was an awesome (and exhausting) night of junk food, video games, crazy games and great memories. And even though I am basically comatose at this point after getting near to no sleep here are some quick thoughts:
1) Lock-ins’ are powerful. I know that holding a lock in is super hard, very tiring and takes years off of your life…BUT, a good lock-in is the kind of memory maker that sticks with students. They may not remember a word you taught during their junior high years, but they will remember the relationships that we’re developed at a lock in!
2) When it comes to lock-ins, smaller is better. A couple of years ago I started trying out a new idea, where instead of holding a huge lock-in for the entire youth group, I’ve encouraged our jr. High small group leaders to hold “mini lock-ins” with their small groups once a school year. Here are the advantages: less stress, intentional focus on relationship building, easily manageable, etc. PLUS these events bring our small groups closer together super quickly based off of all the shared memories!
3) Use your lock-in to test out your volunteers. Nothing will make a volunteer show their true colors like being locked in a building all night with smelly, energetic teenagers. Last night at our lock-in I had a new volunteer join me to see how he would handle all the controlled chaos/lack of sleep. He did a great job and I got to see how he reacted in a variety of different situations. Now I’m not saying that you should freak out every new volunteer by forcing them to go to your I overnighter’s…but…it is a perfect way to gage how much one of your volunteers likes teenagers!
And then again…it’s an overnighter. With that in mind, here’s a classic from my friend Jake Rutenbar:
Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend time with one of my favorite people in the entire world, John Selbak. John is a long time friend (almost 10 years now) and one of my most important ministry mentors. Later on this week I will be posting an interview with John about his life/ministry and his thoughts on leadership and the church.
Today I want to take a moment to share 3 BIG REASONS why placing good mentors in your life will impact your youth ministry in powerful ways.
1) YOU DON’T KNOW IT ALL! Sometimes it can be hard for those of us who are in leadership roles to admit that we don’t have all the answers. But one of the marks of a great leader is having the ability to say “what am i not seeing?”. One of the huge blessings of having an older/wiser person speaking into your life is that they can help you avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that they have already experienced themselves. My parents always used to say “trust me…I’ve been there. I know what I’m talking about!”. You and I can save ourselves the trouble of certain failures (not all…but some) by learning the lessons from those who have walked in our ministry shoes before. In the book of Proverbs it says:
“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” (Proverbs 15:22 NLT)
2) IF YOU ARE A LEADER, YOU NEED TO KEEP LEARNING! The truth is that as soon as you stop learning, you have stopped leading. Things in youth ministry are constantly changing. Youth culture is evolving at a very fast rate and we need to continue to grow/learn/engage culture as much as we can so that we can acquire the skills/knowledge necessary to reach students in the most effective ways. And one of the best ways to know where things are going is to understand where they have been in the past. Having mentors in our lives is like having a library of experience and knowledge right in front of us at our disposal! I believe having a strong ministry mentor is just as important as attending youth conferences/trainings/seminary. The Bible says:
“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” (Proverbs 19:20 NLT)
3) YOU NEED TRUSTWORTHY PEOPLE TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH! For those of us in youth ministry, we need to allow certain people in our lives to hold us accountable. There are times when we are going to mess up and make mistakes (trust me, you will make mistakes!). And when those times occur, you need to have someone honest enough and strong enough in your life that can sit you down and say “Hey! Knock it off. You screwed up and you need to make a change!”. As youth workers we need sounding boards. We need to have people strategically placed in our inner circle who know our hearts/hurts/hangups/failures/successes, who can speak the truth in love to each of us and motivate us to grow closer to Jesus. The writer of Hebrews writes:
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return in drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT)
Remember you weren’t meant to do life alone. We are better together!