A How to Script for Tough Talks with Students and Leaders

This post was originally published in January 2011. I dug up this post for a friend and thought it may be helpful to others. I’ve updated it a bit for a repost.

A couple of months ago, even in my own life, I experienced a tough talk with someone who is very dear to me.  I’m sure it was very painful for them to sit down with me and share some difficult insights, and it truly was a humbling experience, but it was much needed in helping me flourish.  I share this with you to encourage you to not shy away from tough talks.  The work that Christ has been doing in me to sanctify me and grow me came out of that tough talk.  I needed a push to keep growing and God used this person to do it.  I am forever thankful that they made time to care about me that much to talk with me, then help me see how valuable I am, and then to help me gain perspective.  They didn’t beat me up with a conversation.  They truly were there to equip me. Read below for what have learned personally and how I use this in the lives of students and leaders:

Today I was reading Read Ephesians 4:12.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
“Equipping” is the translation of a Greek word used in New Testament times for mending nets, setting a bone, and realizing a purpose. It means to “put right”.

As girls ministers (parents, student workers), we have all sorts of conversations with girls and leaders. Sometimes you walk away from a conversation encouraging a girl to pursue God or to be all that God is calling her to be. Sometimes you get to help her with some faith questions. (It’s always fun when they ask about “the nephilim” in Genesis 6.) Then there are the times when you may have to confront an area of immaturity. These are not easy conversations to have. I had to have a couple of those conversations this week. And I was reminded today that I am called to those conversations too. I’m called to equip as if I were a doctor and I saw a broken bone. I would not ignore it. I would not just give pain medicine. I would need to align the bones and set it in a cast so that it mends and grows stronger. Do not be afraid of those conversations where a student may need you to speak into their life regarding various immaturities. And just like a doctor would be careful with the broken bone, we too must take special care with these students we are entering into equipping conversations with.

A long time ago, I had a group of girls that determined whenever I would say “Can we talk for a second”, that this meant they were getting ready to be disciplined. I realized it was true and something they were doing may have triggered my “equipping” mode and I didn’t set up the conversation for maximum influence. There are some things we can do to prepare for a healthy conversation with a student, just like a doctor would prepare for surgery.

1. Set up a time to talk with the girl for a later time. Sometime in the heat of the moment, we may see something that needs to be addressed and we respond right there and then. However, if we’re honest, equipping the student at that moment may not be our initial motivation and oftentimes we miss out on a unique opportunity to truly set up the optimum time to talk with that student.

2. Pray through what it is that you are getting ready to share with the student.

3. Remove the personal hurt feelings out of the conversation. You may have been hurt by the student, but remember they are a teenager. Their prefrontal cortex won’t be fully wired until they are 25. As you address the situation, your feelings expressing hurt may bring guilt and shame on a student that will erase any type of equipping. This is a delicate area which only highlights your need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading of what to say and what not to say.

4. Look for ways to build the student up. Your truthful encouraging words can be just like a cast in surrounding the “wound” and supporting the healing. Remember to speak His truth into the situation.

5. Write out a basic framework of where you are wanting to go with the equipping time. Example:

Heather, I’ve been observing this sarcasm in you during our student leader meetings. You are truly a hilarious person, but I wanted to talk with you about what is happening around you with our group when you begin being sarcastic during our meetings.

—share some examples of how unity has been affected.

—ask what she thinks sarcasm is intended to do? Share with her what scripture says about sarcasm.

—talk about ways to turn the sarcasm into encouragement.

—What would happen if her words were used to build people up and not tear them down?

—Share how you have seen God using her, and how working together on this area could really make a difference in the unity of our student ministry.

—Make a plan to eliminate sarcasm from the wednesday night meeting.

—PRAY.

Here are some areas where you may see ways to “equip” or “set right” or “mend” or “help realize a purpose”:

A student appears to have an agenda for wanting to be involved in a leadership component.

A student flakes out on their responsibilities or commitments with the student ministry.

A girl treats her church family one way, and completely disrespects her biological family.

A student hasn’t seen the way they can use their gifts to connect with service or worship.

A student has been saying unkind remarks on other’s instagrams or social media.

A student has been over posting selfies and appears consumed with what others think about them online.

What are some other ways you have seen reason to step in and equip?

How does this added understanding of the word “equip” help you in your role as a volunteer, mom, or girls minister?

When He prompts your heart for a bone-setting, net-mending, or purpose realizing conversation, know that He is not leaving you alone in that talk. After-all, He goes by the name “Immanuel” not just at Christmas time. “God with us”, is with us 365 days a year.

Learning to finish well

Serving on the girls ministry team at Lifeway and being in ministry at the same place for 13+ years affords me some great opportunities to encourage those who have just found themselves in the brand spanking new position of girls minister.
It’s always fun for me to get to sit down with a new girls minister and finally get to the part where they are willing to share their struggles. Sometimes, the honeymoon period is still in play and everything seems perfect. But a few months in, usually the newness wears off and the reality of the job sets in. Now, I don’t want everyone to have a bad situation. I just want people to realize that girls ministry is hard. It’s really rewarding, AND it is hard.
Today, I had a conversation with a friend who has served at a location for less than a year. She confided in me some of her struggles. I told her I’d pray and then I found myself texting these words:
“it’s never always awesome anywhere”.
Now that’s a horribly constructed sentence, but it captures my point perfectly.

No matter where you serve, it will not be 100% awesome all the time. And guess what…it’s not 100% awesome at the other girl’s minister’s church down the road or across the state or across the country. Everyone has something that is not awesome going on. In fact, even I know what it’s like to serve in a season of not awesome. And for those seasons, The Lord has reminded me of two words. FINISH WELL

You may be saying, “FINISH WELL? But I just started.”
I had no idea that I would be at my current church for the years that I am serving. But I think I would have quit a long time ago had I not remembered “the end” in the midst of my “not awesome” season.
I wanted to be see my very last day as a day where I could walk away and know that I had finished well what God had called me to. And as I considered what it would look like in the future, I had to consider what it would look like for the present day I was living.
And some days I wanted to quit so bad, that I made a contract with God. I would say…”okay, I’m working as a girls minister until this date and then I want to reconsider the arrangement.”

It’s funny how God would send just the right encouragement on those days that helped me renegotiate a contract extension to keep being the girls minister.

There are several passages in scripture that speak to how we are to finish well. One that I have been focusing on recently has been this one:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24

friend…wherever you are in ministry, if you are reading this know that you can finish well today..finish well this week…finish well this month…finish well this year…if you remember that your course and the ministry is not given to you by the church or by your boss or by yourself…it is given to you by the Lord Jesus. You serve Him.

I’m guessing sometime in your time as a girls minister, you will have a boss you may not jive with. It’s okay…
You ultimately serve Jesus so keep serving Him well. And pray pray pray for your heart to not grow bitter towards the one you may not be jiving with.

I know that for me personally, the sanctification process that has happened in my heart as God has combined my position with others through the years that I may not have jived with has been more than I could ever have imagined. And I hated those moments and yet I am the person I am today because I went through those moments.

I realized that He is finishing me well. He uses people that are like sand paper to rub off those areas that need to be grinded down and refined. It hurts while you are going through it but it really strengthens your relationship with Christ if you begin to surrender those relationships to Him.

So…as we move through these tough ministry days, remember: “it’s never always awesome anywhere” so take each day and ask The Lord to remind you to finish well on that day. And when you wake up the next day…guess what—finish well. And just like your shampoo instructions: RINSE and REPEAT:)

Praying for you friend. In the trenches together.

Why Gen Z isn’t dreaming the American Dream like generations before them

Generation Z grew up in a world where they literally can discover news on twitter before they ever see it on the actual News. They live in a world where terrorism is not just in the middle east but it hits their home turf and the enemy seems faceless.  They live in dystopia, and it stresses them out.  Why are they like this?They have seen the traditional methods that generations before them tried and have seen them fail.  They don’t trust anyone but themselves.  So when you don’t show up…they are ready to step up.  They almost anticipate you not showing up.

The below photo has lyrics from G-Eazy.  It has some profanity in the song, and I don’t typically quote profane lyrics, but the first part of the lyrics are so descriptive of the generation it was written from.Sounds pretty sad doesn’t it?  Their hope is in them.  So how do we move a generation whose hope is misplaced?

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We pray for The Only sure Hope to make Himself known to them. We live lives that give evidence of surrender to Christ in a world for them that yells for them to be their own god.

I’ve been wrestling with this for awhile…but won’t you join me in praying for Gen Z? They are an amazing group of individuals.  If they were to latch on to the truth that He is their only Hope and surrender their lives to Him…I get chills thinking about what this generation unleashed would do as kingdom builders.

Pray for a GEN Z girl you may know by name this week.  Feel free to write her initial down below in the comments and your prayer for her.

Pray: God I pray for _______that she will begin to see that she can “do all things” but only “through Christ who strengthens” her.

 

Get to know Generation Z: The largest Generation and most unresearched group on the planet.

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When you’ve been in girls ministry at one place for 14 years, you get to see trends and observe shifts from generation to generation.  I feel pretty well equipped in how to minister to Millennials. After all, we’ve been receiving information and research on this generation in such large masses that there is a term called, Millennial Fatigue, that is setting in.  But it hit me this year that something had changed.  The way students were responding and leading began to seem different.  My yearly girls retreat lead team meeting was completely sabotaged and it nearly caused me to get out of Girls Ministry altogether.  I began to think, I’m too old do to this.  And then thankfully, I began to have my heart awakened to this new Generation that had been in our ministry for several years, but no one had mentioned their arrival.  See in many ways, they may look like Millennials.  Many have siblings that are Millennials. But make no mistake…Generation Z are not Millennials.  And as I’ve become aware of their presence on our planet, it has re-energized my passion and calling to work with Students.  When you don’t know who you are ministering to, you miss the target.

While different researchers will divide Generations by different lines, the year I am going with is with those who were born in 1995 to 2010.  There is already a growing amount of research being built on Generation Alpha which is anyone born after 2010.  But what about Generation Z?  Millennials have been the most researched Generation to this day, and then Generation Z sort of crept in behind them.  Student Ministry classrooms and specialists still seem to be giving resources and research that is specific to Millennials, but we have our ministries flooded with Generation Z.

This Generation is filled with an independent, industrial, and entrepreneurial DNA that will have them most-likely leap frogging Millennials for jobs.  I have seen their ability for leadership and it is outstanding.  I watched first hand as I gave them the target for our Girls Retreat and told them what I needed them to do, and then I left them briefly to go get them some snacks.  When I came back, they did not stay in the groups I had put them in. They became a large collaborative group of thinkers.  And then they told me they wanted to go a different direction with our retreat.  I walked away from that planning session defeated and overwhelmed because I had set it up just like I had for all the Millennial leadership teams I had empowered before.  However, this was a Generation Z team.  Our next planning meeting went much better.  I learned more about how to set up the items they could not control and allow them to set preferences.  I learned the value of co-collaborating with them and not just letting them color in the lines.  Our retreat ended up being an amazingly messy and rewarding adventure.  There is so much more that I’m learning about Generation Z so I have put together a short Info PDF to give readership some handles to hold on to.  In order to get this exclusive content, all you have to do is sign up for our email subscription and it’s all yours!  If you have already signed up, I will be releasing it to you this week.

Here is a sneak peak of some of the things:

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So what does that mean as we minister to Generation Z? It means that we need to communicate with them in their language. Especially as we are teaching them about Jesus. When I was working with Lifeway on developing the Girls Biblestudy to Faithful One, using Scripture Doodles and pictures to help girls take notes was one thing that I was seeing in the lives of the girls I was ministering to. This is the language of Generation Z. We need to incorporate this alongside of our teaching and hang out time with these students.

What about you? Are you seeing the differences between Millennials and the students you have in your ministry or in your homes?

What the Church Can Learn from a Barbie Commercial

This is one of my favorite commercials right now.  I never would have thought this was a commercial for Barbie, but they masterfully have sold how playing with their product will help girls dream of being anything they want to be.  Now, we know it’s a Barbie doll.  Girls are most likely not pretending to be vets or professors. That Ken doll most likely shows up in their dramatic play and they start planning balls and weddings pretty quickly. But I digress.

My question is, what can we as the church learn from this commercial?  How are we as the church equipping girls in particular to dream in such a way that they hear the Holy Spirit calling them to use their lives in impossible ways for His Kingdom?  Barbie says that it’s through playing with their dolls that girls begin to see the possibilities.  How are girls getting to see the possibilities of God sized work in the church today?  Are we giving them chances to see and imagine and surrender their everyday lives to His everyday purposes?

Titus 2 tells us to encourage the younger women…and then it goes on to list some very specific things we are to train or encourage them to do.  One of the questions I am getting asked most frequently by millennial young adult women is about how they are to serve in the church.  We have had some very difficult conversations. What I don’t want to do is to get into a debate about what girls can and can’t do in the church.  So I focus not on the “You can’ts” but the “You are’s”. What I have come to understand is that it’s one thing to talk to girls about how God works but it’s an entirely different thing to call out within a specific girl that God is at work and how.

One of the most pivotal times for me as a girl was when I was in 6th grade. Looking back, I mark that year as the year God called me into ministry. My family was involved in starting a church plant on the west side of our town and there were a handful of families that were meeting in a home to pray for the subdivisions and families we would begin to be neighbors to.

The head of our deacons was a man named Rick, and he was father to some of my friends at the time.  All of us were sitting in an older couples living room discussing the church plant and getting into the nuts and bolts of church governance.  I remember Rick looked right at me and said, “Amy-Jo, what do you think about the direction of our church governance?”  I was a shy 6th grader.

I had said nothing. I don’t even remember what I said at that moment, but years later I remember that Rick and the whole church listened.  They gave me a voice.  They took time to listen to children, students, girls, boys…all of us.  At that moment, I knew the church was a family.

I am a charter member of that church and I am thankful that I was taught the importance of coming together as a family to listen to one another, to pray with one another and to call out within one another how God is at work. And to celebrate the unique gifting of each other.  That is one of the reasons I am called to the church today. So as you pour into the lives of girls in the church…how can you help them see how God is at work…and the possibilities that God could and is working in and through their unique giftings?

YOUR HOMEWORK:

Who is a girl that you can think of right now that you could encourage in her specific giftings? Pray for her and pray for opportunities to “call out” how you see Christ at work in and through her.

How is your church encouraging girls to build the kingdom? There are lost people that need to come into contact with girls who know that not only Christ is alive…but Christ has redeemed them and they are called to spread the gospel.

3 reasons you need a Ieader covenant

I wish we all could say that girls ministry is full of roses and smells pretty all the time, but we live in a broken world and know that’s not the case.

One of the reasons I have needed a leader covenant has been because of a few incidences where leaders or volunteers challenged the process or simply just went rogue. If you are a girls minister or supervising the ministry of girls in your church, you may encounter a type of leadership that challenges the authority the church has given you to minister to the girls in the church.  We’ll address this in the first section, but also there are other reasons for having a leader covenant.

  1. CLEAR EXPECTATIONS AND BOUNDARIES:  Sometimes this leadership may appear rogue to you when in reality, the leader may not know they have done anything outside the boundaries of their role.  This is one great reason to have a leader covenant.  It creates clearly defined boundaries and expectations that are agreed upon by both you and the leadership.
  2. REMINDER THAT THEY ARE NOT THE LONE RANGER: When you have leaders sign a covenant, it’s a great opportunity to remind them that they are not alone in this journey to minister to students but that they are a part of something bigger.  That responsibility has ramifications that go beyond their group.  That also means that with community comes resource and networking.  It’s a reminder that they are each week as they minister to a group of students, they are co-laboring with others.  This is helpful when decisions have to be made that may impact the way their individual group may prefer to do something.
  3. PROVIDES PROTECTION FOR LEADERS, STUDENTS, AND THE CHURCH: Student ministry is a great place to serve.  There are those moments in ministry that can define you for good and unfortunately for bad.  Do not ever let yourself think that you are not susceptible to bad things happening in your ministry.  You have to ensure that you do whatever it takes to protect those that God has entrusted to your care, to those that are leading in your ministry, and to the church itself.  One of the best ways to do this is to have a covenant that allows for you to have a talksheet that covers everything from doctrinal views, to how to handle crisis counseling, to how to engage with students on social media.

If you need help with a covenant, please let me know.  In addition, I’m always interested in what others have included in their covenants as well. Shoot me some responses below.

 

3 Conversation tips to keep them talking

It’s the start of a new year so I am guessing your church is experiencing lots of new visitors and first time guests to sign up for your small groups or weekly activities.  If you are a new girls minister or girls ministry volunteer, you may be overwhelmed with those first time impressions.  I get it!  It’s crazy scary for most people to initiate a conversation with a complete stranger, let alone a complete stranger that’s a teenager.  My first weeks on the job, there was a hallway that I nicknamed the gauntlet because groups of girls lined the hallway leading to the main teaching room I needed to get to.  It was petrifying because none of those girls naturally talked to the new girl.  If I could just get through it…I survived!  I learned some interesting conversational skills that I want to pass along.

1. Remember this truth:  Everyone wants to be known.  

I know that is true for myself, and true for you. It’s also true for that middle school girl that is hovering in the corner shooting the death glare at you.  She has up every line of defense possible and it may make you think she hates your guts, but most likely she is protecting her thin fragile shell of confidence with the outer shell that is oozing: “just try to start a conversation with me”.  So how do you approach her? How do you approach anyone?  It will look different for each student.  Begin to recognize that you have a bunch of SAFES that have shown up in your ministry.  You don’t know what the combination lock is, but each safe is full of treasure and mystery.  Your job is not to make that “safe” know you. Your job is to help that “safe” know they are safe. They are loved. and they belong.  So let’s keep going with this “safe” illustration.  There is a movie called The Italian Job that features people who have to steal something from a safe.  In order to pick the lock, they need to listen for certain clicks to know how to unlock the safe.  They don’t force the lock.  They don’t try the combination that works with them.  Each safe is different. So as you go into a conversation with a student…LISTEN.  Don’t try to be thinking how you can share YOUR story to keep the conversation going.  Just listen to them.  Don’t ask the same questions.  They are ready for those.  Initial questions like:  What is your name?  What school do you go to?  are fine.  But try to get to deeper questions if the environment lends itself.  Even some silly questions are ok. Some “safes” open up immediately. Other “safes” take time.  It’s okay.  Just keep listening.

 

2. Don’t overshare.  Don’t forget that you are still an adult. 

This is important to remember that you are the adult in the conversation. Sometimes we may want to exchange that role to get on the same level in order to gain some cool points.  This is a bad decision.  Once you try to be a peer, you are not able to flip the switch to leader.   So don’t make comments like…we’re not that much different in age.  You are not a student.  Remember that.  You can still have fun with them and be goofy. I’ve been known to be crazy with students, but not to the point where I exchanged my role as adult or leader in the situation.

 

3. Listen more than you talk.  Be a connector.

I know when I start rambling that it’s because I’m scared of the silence.  I will share more about myself and unintentionally shift the focus to me.  It’s a insecurity tactic and unfortunately it then puts the student in the role of listener.  You can share some about yourself to make them feel more comfortable, but it’s not a counseling session for you.  Ask yourself:

Why am I sharing this?  Is it because I want to be liked by this student or am I sharing this in order connect this student?

How can I share this in order for this to connect through to a deeper conversation?

Is there anyone else I can bring into the conversation to help connect them?

Remember, you are not trying to be the most popular leader in the student ministry. Not everyone will like you.  Your job is to get students connected to Christ and to one another as well as having an adult other than their parent who can walk alongside them and echo the biblical truths they should be hearing at their home.  So think of yourself as a “pipeline” instead of a “straw”.  A straw goes from the container to the person on the other end.  A pipeline, connects pipes to other places and other pipes.

 

Are you living for a seat at the table? Get a different seat assignment!

“We want you to have a seat at the table”. Have you heard this talked about in ministry? It’s really being used in business jargon alot these days and I’ve seen countless books that address this for the underdogs or marginalized workers.  I have heard this phrase recently. It has baffled me really. Of course there are questions that naturally arise. Where is this “table”? And then naturally I’m inclined to ask: Is there food? Who else is at the table? How do I get invited? Why would I want a seat at this table?

In some research I found, the term refers to access to a power structure, a voice of influence, or equal treatment. How is this any different than trying to sit with the cool kids? Here is what I have learned in my 13+ years of church ministry.

1. There’s always another table at another level from where you are sitting.

2. I’ve found that often times, people who have made it to “the table” forget to get up and get work done.

So for my friends who are serving in ministry and you think you have no seat at the table, take a seat for a second—I’ve got great news for you.
There’s a better table!
There are over 76 verses in the bible regarding the word table. It should come of no surprise that the disciples themselves had an argument about the power table. Jesus has something to say to them and this spoke to me as well:

LUKE 22:24-26 (MSG) Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.

27–30 “Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You’d rather eat and be served, right? But I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people.

Friends, no matter where you are in leadership, as a Christ follower our “table” already has been set with our name place. We don’t have to strive to get there. In fact, we don’t deserve a seat at this table, but Christ made a way for us to come to the table—not as a guest with no voice—but with royal authority to eat and drink at the table of God.  But notice—it’s not to sit there for power, but to be strengthened in order to go and serve God’s people.

And as Christ is talking to His disciples, He reminds them of the posture and seat He has taken—it is that of the servant.  He literally turned the table over and dropped the mic on this power struggle.  So what does this mean for us today?

Fight the urge for advancement or working your way up the ladder.  That’s for a corporate setting—that’s not for the church.  SERVE THE CHURCH!  I find the most joy and blessing when I give my life away in ministry and not in trying to appease people in order to get a seat at someone’s earthly table.

Know that you have been given a seat at the table and it is from Christ Himself.  Do not get caught up in intertwining your gifts, calling, and passions in pursuing the next level.  Simply keep pursuing that which you were designed to do for Him.  When I begin to loose steam and think I’m supposed to quit, I begin to hear more clearly the things that drain me and the things that fuel me.  It’s when I am with teen girls and young adult women and those who are passionate about leading and loving them that I hear a “Holy Yes” and know I’m supposed to keep moving in that direction.  Don’t let those things get lost in ministry.  If you do, you’ll find yourself at someone’s table serving someone other that Christ.

 

The Best Girls Ministry Retreat Budget Template Ever!

I truly detest creating budgets! That was until I created this awesome template.  This little template has made budgeting super easy on all the events I lead.  I can quickly determine how our current registration impacts things we want to do.  I can determine if a speaker charges the max amount, how that impacts the rest of my budget.  I can quickly determine incidentals like unforeseen plane tickets charges or extra meals charges and see how that impacts the budget.  I LOVE this template and so I am sharing it with you today.  I hope it is helpful.  You will need a google account to utilize this. See below the screenshot for instructions.

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HERE IS HOW TO GET SET UP WITH THE BEST GIRLS MINISTRY BUDGET TEMPLATE EVER!:

Set up is easy, following the instructions below should take just a few minutes.

Log into your Google Account
Head to the tool here, and then to ‘File’ > ‘Make a Copy’

Then you should be able to use and input your own information.

VOILA!

You’re welcome!