Retreat Week Day 4: Team Retreat B

Day 4: Team Retreat (As a Leader)

Purpose: To deepen relationships and prepare our team to effectively minister.

Yesterday I shared about two team retreats I’ve been on in the past few months on which I was a participant. Today i want to share two other retreats I was on, which I was leading.

Adult Volunteer Leadership Team

In early September (I wish we could have done it earlier) we took our student ministries volunteers away for 24 hours to regroup after the summer and gear up for the new school year. We loaded up at 6pm (so our leaders didn’t have to miss work on Friday), drove about 45-minutes, then stopped for dinner. We went to a fun burger joint called American Roadside. After dinner we drove out to Montauk at the end of the south fork of Long Island. We got settled into our rooms, then gathered together for a brief time of sharing followed by board games until almost 2am. There was a lot of laughing happening, especially when one of our volunteers cracked open the game Pretty Princesses.

The next morning, after breakfast, we had a devotional and a time of sharing. After that we had a time of getting into small groups to pray for each other. This time of sharing and praying for each other was much-needed by our team as was evidenced by the fact that we went quite a bit longer than we had planned. This could be seen as a negative thing, as it took away from the time that I was hoping to do some leadership training, but I chose to let it go because one of the things I have really come to value through the years is the importance of having good, strong relationships between team members. More than having skills to work with students, our team needs to model loving relationships. Jesus understood this. We never really read of Him giving his disciples leadership principles (although we can certainly mine them from His teachings). What He did do was spend time just living life with His disciples, and He told them that people would know they were on His team “if they have love for one another” (John 13:35).

After a short break was did a fun, interactive, challenging activity which required everyone to work to ether. Once they accomplished the task, we debriefed the teamwork exercise and talked about how it related to working together in youth ministry. Before checking out of our lodging, we talked through the student ministry calendar for the new school year. We then had a very nice lunch together and visited the bluffs and the Montauk lighthouse before driving home.

Student Leadership Team
In October we went away for 24 hours with our 2013-2014 student leaders. Another time I will tell you about how I handled our retreat speaker having her flight canceled on the day of the retreat, but for now, I’ll just share what we did on the retreat.

Friday night followed the same pattern as above. On Saturday morning we had devotions followed by two interactive training sessions. We then had each one of the student leader come into the center of the circle one at a time, and we prayed over them. We prayed for them to respond to God and be the leaders He’s called them to be this year. After cleaning and packing up, we drove into town, had lunch together, and visited the bluffs and the Montauk lighthouse before driving home.

As a leader of leaders I love these kinds of retreats. Creating opportunities to get away together gives us a chance to get to know one another better. The car rides are ideal for conversations and relationship-building. I actually prefer to get away for longer than just 24 hours for leadership team retreats (and will continue to work towards that end), but my experience has been that once we move to multiple nights away our attendance decreases as the demands of finding house-sitters, baby-sitters, pet-sitters, etc. increases – regardless of how far in advance the retreats are announced.

My Fall Office

This is my office today as I am finishing up my message prep for Sunday. I love fall!

10 Years Ago The World Lost An Amazing Man …

I remember sitting in my office 10 years ago reading the devastating news that one of the pioneers of youth ministry, Mike Yaconelli had died. I never had the chance to meet Mike, but his books, videos, and teachings really influenced me. I loved hearing stories about him from my dad who was likewise impacted by Yac during his years in youth ministry.

Here are 5 videos of vintage Mike Yaconelli:

Video 1 – Showing Kids You Love Them
Video 2 – Dealing with Struggles in Life
Video 3 – Building Sand Castles
Video 4 – Involving Parents
Video 5 – The Best of Mike Yaconelli

Receive Inspirational Quotes from Mike Yaconelli by following @YaconelliDaily on Twitter.

Retreat Week Day 3: Team Retreat A

Day 3: Team Retreats (As a Participant)

Purpose: To receive training, strengthen team relationships, and help with planning.

In the past 6 months I have been on four different team retreats. Tomorrow I will address the two retreats I led. Today I want to share about the retreats that I attended as a participant.

The first one was our church staff retreat. Back in the spring our entire staff flew to Wisconsin and enjoyed three days in a beautiful log cabin on a lazy river. It was a great opportunity (especially for me as the newest guy on the staff) to get to know one another outside of the office. It was also a time of our senior pastor to cast vision for our church and encourage us in our ministries. We also spent several sessions brainstorming and strategizing ways to effectively reach our community and disciple the people God leads to our church.

The second one was the IT3 Summit. Each spring Group Publishing puts on the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. What I love about this conference is that it’s a conference for youth workers by youth workers. In the fall preceding the conference, I have the privilege of gathering with 50-75 youth workers from around the country for what Group calls “Breathing.” For three days we have times where we inhale (receive ministry through experiential learning and interaction) and exhale (share our thoughts and plan the upcoming conference).

I personally find these kinds of retreats invigorating. Being away with other people who are passionate about Jesus and ministry really inspires me, and being in the think tank gets my creative juices flowing. I love the relationships that are established and the collaboration that happens.

Retreat Week Day 2: Marriage Retreat

Day 2: Marriage Retreat

Purpose: To get away and allow space for God to strengthen our partnership.

Sometimes you have to get creative to build retreat into your life. Last month Adriana and I were scheduled to go to Colorado for a few days of meetings to plan the Simply Youth Ministry Conference with our friends at Group Publishing. Always looking for excuses to get away together, we cleared our calendars a few days before our meetings and planned a little marriage retreat. Once again, nature played an important part in retreat, and we were blessed by a friend and were able to span 3 days fishing, 4-wheeling, talking, and enjoying the sights and sounds of the Rocky Mountains. Being away from the normal stuff of life allowed us to deepen our friendship and talk about things that sometimes get overlooked in the flow of everyday life. This time of heart-to-heart sharing and experiencing things together refreshed us, strengthened our relationship, and gave us fuel for moving forward together as partners in life and ministry.

Retreat Week Day 1: Personal Retreat

This week I am going to share about various kinds of retreats that I seek to participate on an annual (if not more frequent) basis. Some pertain to personal and familial health and growth, and others are ministry-specific.

Day 1: Personal Retreat

Purpose: To get away and allow space for God to minister to my interior person.

A few weeks ago, after a long (and candidly, physically and emotionally draining summer), I recognized I needed a Southwest moment. I needed to get away. So, on a Tuesday morning Adriana drove me out to the eastern end of Long Island and dropped me off at a friend’s cottage with my bike, some groceries, and a backpack with nothing more than a couple of changes of clothes, my Bible, The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle (a book of prayers), The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and my journal. No computer!

I spent three days simply relaxing, praying, reading, journaling, and enjoying nature. I went kayaking in the bay, collected sea shells, watched an Osprey catch and eat a fish, biked, and went swimming. I truly felt God’s presence as I quieted my heart and listened to His still, small voice. He spoke words of life into my heart and brought much-needed healing and restoration to my soul.

Leading a healthy family and a healthy ministry starts with a healthy individual. A healthy me is centered in God. A healthy me means embracing spiritual disciplines – including the practice of solitude – which keep me connected to Christ. When I create space in my life to get away and be alone with God He heals my heart and forms (and re-forms) me for His service.

How about you? When was the last time you had some dedicated alone-time with God? I’m not talking about daily quiet time (although valuable and important). I’m talking about getting away for an afternoon, a day, a few days – simply to breathe in God’s presence.

What are the challenges to practicing personal retreat?

What can you do to build the rhythm of personal retreat into your life?

New Service Times At Shelter Rock Manhasset

Due to increasing attendance, starting this Sunday at the Shelter Rock Church Manhasset campus ONLY we are moving to 3 services. The new service times will be 9am, 10:30am, and 12pm. In Syosset the times remain 9:30am and 11:15am. Hope to see you at one of our campuses soon. Be sure to invite your friends. (Student Ministries will continue to meet during the 2nd service at each location.)

Daughters and Tiaras

Today was a very long, full day of ministry. After working several hours in the office I was pretty much on the go until 9:30pm tonight. BUT, I didn’t want to overlook my most important ministry – my own daughters! So, before heading to another town to watch a student in her final field hockey game, I had my daughters hop in the van and come along with me. I knew that the girls had to get back for their weekly small groups, and I had to get back for a meeting with a couple I am marrying in a few weeks, but I wanted to have a bit of quality time with my girls.

If you know me at all, you know that I regularly do Daddy-Daughter Dates with my each of my daughters. So, the other day, when I was greeted by the words “Daddy-Daughter Date Night October 23rd” in an e-mail from Chili’s, I jumped all over it. As it happened, it was very close to the high school where the field hockey game was, and I realized we could make it work in the midst of our busy running around. All the girls knew is that I was going to get them dinner. They didn’t know that they were going to be greeted by people with “Daddy Daughter Date” written on their shirts, receive goodie bags, tiaras (Yep! Tiaras!), and a framed picture from our dinner. What I love is that this simple thing offered by Chili’s encouraged family (specifically fathers to be fathers – so needed today!) and gave us another moment to remember. Thanks for valuing and encouraging family, Chili’s! I appreciated the opportunity to make my princesses feel special. I tip my hat to you!

10 Tips for Being a Relational Youth Worker

On Sunday afternoon, we had one bi-monthly Adult Youth Leader Lunch. It was a BYOM (Bring Your Own Meat) afair. Steak. Chicken. Shrimp. Hot Dogs. O yeah, and veggie burgers. So I guess it was also a BYOMM (Bring Your Own Meatless Meat) lunch. With garden salad, potato salad, pasta, and guacamole for sides, let’s just say we all ate well today. After lunch and casual conversations, we had coffee, pumpkin and pecan pie with whipped cream for dessert and gathered together for a time of leadership training. Craig Muller, the director of Long Island Youth For Christ was our guest, and he shared out of his wealth of experience some tips for being a relational youth worker.

  1. Show Up. This is job description #1 for youth workers. Craig shared about Tommy who always showed up to cheer for him at his basketball games while he was in high school. Tommy even traveled to away games – sometimes hours away, just to support Craig and his friends. It’s about being there consistently, not just when it’s convenient. Obviously we can’t be at everything, all the time, but try to get out to a game or a concert or a math meet (those mathletes are intense!) and support students on their turf. Whatever you do, be a person of your word. If you say you’re going to be there, be there. When you keep your word and show up when you say you will, it communicates that you are trustworthy. 
  2. Be Present. This goes beyond just showing up. This means getting involved, being engaged. In a youth group setting, this means you’re not sitting in the back with all of the adults while the kids are doing their thing. You are sitting with students. You are doing things with them. 
  3. Talk to Students. Be good listeners. Ask good questions. You don’t have to like what students like. Ask them to describe/explain stuff to you. Ask: How did you get into it? What’s it like? Or say: Do it and I’ll video record you. (Kids love that!) At school kids sit there and listen to people talk at them all day. When they get home, for most kids it’s “be quiet” or “get lost” (go play video games or spend time online). One look at social media will tell you kids are trying to have a voice. We can be the ones to give them the opportunity to be expressive.
  4. Be Patient. If you are a normal adult who wants to help young people, you know the temptation is to be a fixer. When kids say something wrong, we want to correct them. When they are acting wrong, we want to stop them. Certainly there is a place for this, but the important thing is to not  come across as a know-it-all … because we DON’T know it all. When a student says something inaccurate, rather than immediately correct them, engage them. Say something like, “Tell me more about that.” Or, “Can you share with me what has influenced you to see it that way?”  
  5. Play. The best way to break down walls is to play. I know it’s hard – especially as we get older, but you’ve got to. I (Kevin) recently spoke at a student retreat that Craig was leading. I was blown away when I saw virtually every kid participating in every activity and game. All too often the scene at other youth ministries (ours included) is a handful of kids who just don’t participate; no matter what we do. I asked Craig how they got kids to be so engaged. His response was, “I think a big part of it is, we play the games with the students. We just make it a thing for all of our leaders: You are playing the games!”
  6. Make Excuses. Our programs and events are simply excuses. Excuse for what? Excuses to hang out with students. Ultimately, they are excuses to talk to them about Jesus. Projects – things that I need to do around the house – can quickly become excuses to call up a student and say, “Hey, I’ve got something I need to do. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll do it together.” When there’s a game on TV, it’s an excuse to invite kids over to hang out. “Even when kids are messing up,” says Craig, “I see that as an excuse – an opportunity to talk.” Come with me. Spending time with students helps “build a bridge of trust that can hold the weight of truth” [that we want students to encounter in Jesus].
  7. Respect Kids First. Students should absolutely respect adults and leaders. But sometimes we demand respect without giving respect. I love to joke around with students, but we need to be careful that we aren’t teasing and pointing stuff out and making jokes in a way that tears down the bridge of trust we are seeking to establish with students. We need to respect their opinions. We need to let kids speak. As mentioned before, it is hard not to correct, but we need to show respect even if don’t agree. We can’t make them kids believe anything anyways. 
  8. Be a Good Example. Don’t compromise. You don’t have to be like students to be liked by them. Be yourself. One of my (Kevin) definitions of a good youth worker is simply: Live your life for Jesus, and take kids along for the ride.
  9. Build Time. Plan some times without a plan. No message. No worship. Just time to hang out. And not just time at church or wherever you meet. Have times that communicate not just “come to our programs” but “come to my home.” In other words, invite kids into your life. Also, have times that communicate not just “come to us” but, “I’ll come to you.” As mentioned above, go to their turf and spend time doing stuff that they like to do, not simply always inviting them to do stuff you like to do.   
  10. Trust God. This one goes hand-in-hand with being patient, and is a reminder to all of us that sometimes God is working on something in a student that we haven’t even thought about yet. “Sometimes, for example” Craig says, “I’m thinking that getting a kid to stop smoking is the most important thing they need to be working on. But maybe what I’m after isn’t what God is after in them at that time. I have to realize that God might be after something else first – something like how she is relating with her parents. I’ve had to learn to trust God rather than get frustrated. And when I learn to trust God I can relax when a student seemingly isn’t listening to me. I’d rather be with a kid who’s not listening to me than not be with a kid who’s not listening to me.”