Learn Something From the Nerd

Anyone who knows me well understands this one escapable fact about my character: I am the textbook definition of a nerd. Don’t believe me? Well, the Webster definition of nerd is “an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.” Let’s run through the list here:

  • Unstylish – Check. Trust me on this one.
  • Unattractive – Well….I married the only girl who ever dated me seriously so…check!
  • Socially Inept – I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at this…and then I go to a networking lunch at work. Yeah. Check.
  • Slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits – I once did Chemistry homework at Youth Congress. WIth one of my good friends. And we both had FUN doing it. Check.

Now I admit that this becomes problematic at times in Student Ministry. For example, I volunteered to help with icebreakers at Youth Camp last year. One of the icebreakers I chose was…a Bible Quizzing match. Yeah…my phone number isn’t the one people are looking for when they need fresh game ideas. I also make our Music Director cringe every time I sing into the microphone. I can’t tell you if I match, but I can quote half of the book of Acts. Nerd, nerd, nerd.

But…for all you super-cool, icebreaker-leading, stage-designing, theme-developing, matching-clothes-wearing Student Pastors out there, mind if I give you a little piece of advice? We nerds have one thing right. We may a brown belt with our black shoes, but there’s one area where we seldom fail.

We plan.

I know for all of you free spirits out there that’s a difficult concept. Say it with me: Plan. Puh-L-ahn.

That means “to arrange the parts of: to devise or project the realization or achievement of.”

Yes, I’m going to need you to speak “Nerdese” with me here for a minute. Go with me on this one. I promise I won’t make it too painful.

All joking aside, hopefully we all understand the value of careful planning. It’s been my experience, though, that many don’t. Most of us have a GOAL in mind. If I ask a Student Pastor “Where do you want to be in 5 years,” he/she can generally tell me. When I ask “How are you going to get there?” however, the response is often less definitive. “Well, I’ll just kinda follow the Holy Ghost and take it from there.” Awesome. The Spirit ought to be the ultimate authority in our Student Ministry decision-making process. I would contend, though, that the Spirit likes to plan. After all, Revelation 13:8 tells us that Jesus had a plan to save humanity before the world was even crafted. So here are some things I do to plan. You may just learn something from the nerd here:

  • Ask yourself (and your team, if you have one) “Where do I want my Student Ministry to be in 5 years?” Brainstorm. Throw everything out there that you can. After that, take what makes sense and keep it. Throw out what doesn’t. Categorize what is left. For example, if I know I want to have a weekly discipleship class, a follow-up program and a new converts curriculum, I may lump all that over “Build a Student On-boarding Program.”
  • Once you have your 5 year plan, extract from that what you will do immediately and put that in your 1-3 year plan. This will keep you from burning yourself and your students out by trying to implement too many changes at once. For example, if in your 5 year plan you want to “Build a Student On-Boarding Program,” your 1-3 year plan could include “Develop and Perfect a Follow-Up Process.”
  • Hold an annual planning meeting. Depending on the size of your youth program, this can range anywhere from 3 hours to 2 days (we have a youth group of 60; we typically take 6 hours total for this meeting over two days). This will allow you and your team (or you and your Pastor, if you don’t have a team) to outline specifically what will be done in each area of your ministry the following year. This includes elements of your 1-3 year plan, but it also includes planning for what your ministry is already doing. For example, you may put basic plans in place for a Youth Week, or NAYC, or what months you will be doing a community service project, etc. We hold ours in September so that we can have the detailed planning for January’s events done before the holidays come. If you’re a larger youth group, try to include some kind of fellowship or team building activity here; that’s a long time to be in a room with people without planning for some fun!
  • Hold a monthly calendar meeting. This meeting (again, depending on the size of your program) should be anywhere from 30-60 minutes. It allows you to do preliminary planning for events 3 months out, intermediate planning for events 2 months out, and detailed planning for next month’s events.
  • Hold periodic “stand-up” meetings. Just like it sounds, this is a quick meeting where everyone stands (if you make them stand, you keep the meeting brief). A great time to do this is immediately following a church service. Have everyone huddle together and quickly run through your team’s assignments for the week. Ask for progress, and if they haven’t made any progress on an assignment, find out what you can do to help or to clarify the assignment. Once you get used to these, they shouldn’t take any more than 5 minutes.

Hopefully you find something in here that makes sense to you. If you truly are a free spirit, I know meeting this much probably scares you. However, when you walk into your Youth space and every detail has been covered long before you get there, it frees you up to truly minister, and do that “led of the Spirit” thing that you are wanting to achieve.

Anyone out there do this differently? The Nerd would like some fresh ideas!

2 thoughts on “Learn Something From the Nerd

  1. Pingback: Planning for Success in Student Ministry: The 5-Year Plan | Mashed Potatoes

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