7 Keys To Developing Volunteers Into Leaders by Dale Hudson

Enlisting a volunteer to serve on your team is just the beginning.  From there we should go on a journey with them to help them grow in their faith, ministry skills and leadership.

 Our calling is not to use volunteers to build the ministry.  Our calling is to use the ministry to build volunteers. [tweet this]

As you build volunteers into leaders, they will be empowered to lead other volunteers and expand the ministry.

Here are 7 keys to seeing this happen.

Key #1 – Help volunteers discover their gifts.  When you help volunteers operate in their areas of gifting, they will gain confidence and flourish.  In this post, I share the questions we ask our volunteers to help them find their sweet spot. (areas of gifting)

Key #2 – Give them clear goals.  If you want your volunteers to grow into leaders, give them clear goals that will take them there.  This includes knowing what the wins are for their current area of service and growth steps to more leadership responsibility.

Key #3 – Pour into them.  Be the person that places the tools in their hands that will help them become leaders.  This includes mentoring, providing feedback, leadership materials and other growth opportunities.

Key #4 – Inspire them.  Many people don’t think they have the ability to lead.  Help them see what they don’t see in themselves.

Key #5 – Call them up.  As you see potential and faithfulness in volunteers, talk with them individually about taking on more leadership.

Key #6 – Provide a leadership pathway.  Think of it as creating volunteer career pathways.  Here’s an example.  Someone starts out as a helper in a preschool room.  Their next step would be leading a preschool room.  The next step after that could be overseeing three preschool rooms.  Their next step could then be overseeing an entire area.  Make sure your volunteers know the pathways that are available for them.

Key #7 – Let them lead.  Micro-managers and control freaks don’t produce leaders.  If you aren’t willing to get out of the way and let volunteers lead, you will have volunteers, but not leaders, and the ministry will be capped.

You are a leader because someone saw potential in you, believed in you, poured into you and gave you the opportunity to lead.  Be that person for your volunteers.


Making Bigger Asks by Elle Campbell


One of the best things we can do to help a kid experience community is to give them a small group leader who knows them, loves them, and shows up consistently.

But if there’s one thing every church probably has in common, it’s this: no one has enough consistent small group leaders.

Maybe you don’t have very many leaders at all.
Or maybe you have a bunch of leaders, but they’re not very consistent.

So, how do we find more consistent small group leaders?
How do we inspire the leaders we’ve got to show up more often?
How do we turn inconsistent volunteers into fully engaged, can’t-get-enough, this-is-what-I’m-made-to-do SGLs?

There’s a lot to say about this topic. Someone should probably write a book about it. But when it comes to recruiting consistent SGLs, there’s one principle I think we need to talk about.

It’s won’t solve every problem.
It won’t make incredible SGLs materialize out of thin air.
But it’s a great place to start.
And it’s something every church leader can do . . . right now.

If we want consistent small group leaders…

We’ve got to ASK BIG.

When I first began volunteering at my church for the first time, I was not what I would consider a “consistent” small group leader.

I was seventeen, and I was charged with leading the 5th grade girls.

My job?

1. Show up.
2. Corral all 30 of the fifth grade girls (yes, I said 30).
3. Attempt to discuss the message.

It wasn’t exactly the most inspiring thing I’d ever done. I did it because I wanted to serve somewhere and the fifth graders were sort of cute . . . sometimes. I didn’t love it—at least, not at first. I showed up most of the time. But I often went home frustrated, wondering if I had made any difference at all in the 90 consecutive minutes I had just spent telling a million 10-year-olds to please chill out.

But a few months later, our church hired a new youth pastor who started to make some changes in our youth ministry. During one of our volunteer meetings, he said something that changed everything for me.

Here’s what he said . . .

“Small group leaders, you are the youth pastors of your small group.”

And I thought . . .

Wait . . . I’m a youth pastor? Why has no one told me this before? And does he know I’m in eleventh grade?

Then it started to sink in. I wasn’t just another volunteer. I was Lindsay’s leader. Angelina’s leader. Jessica’s leader. I was their pastor, and it was a big deal.

For the first time, I got it. And in the span of just a few sentences, I became a consistent SGL.

In the time I’ve spent working with kids, small group leaders, and church leaders, I’ve thought about this a lot. What was it about that moment that helped me finally get it? How did I move from being an inconsistent leader to an SGL who just couldn’t get enough?

I think it’s pretty simple.

I was asked to do something big.
And because the job was so big, I knew it mattered.
And I really wanted to do something that mattered.                   

Making Bigger Asks by Elle Campbell


When we’re really desperate for more small group leaders, there is a tendency to start asking for less. We need warm bodies in the room, so we talk about the job of an SGL as if it’s easy, simple, low-commitment. But there’s a problem with this.

You need people who want to make a difference.

And people who want to make a difference don’t want to do what’s easy or simple. They want to do something that matters.

So, if you want your small group leaders to be more engaged, take on more responsibility, and show up more consistently . . . you might want to start by making bigger asks.

Sure, not everyone will be willing to take on that big responsibility, and that’s okay. You don’t need everyone to be an SGL. You just need the right people. You need great SGLs who are ready for a big challenge because they understand how much their job matters.

So, ask big! There are people in your church just waiting for someone to offer them a challenge worth taking.


Ten Shifts We’ve Made Today by Tim Elmore


Think for a moment about the changes that have taken place over the last few generations. It sounds cliché, but we’re definitely living in a new day. As I observe the realities of our time, I notice people have the same needs we did 50 years ago — the only difference is that we’ve found new ways to meet them. Some good, some… well, not so good. At times we actually drift into a “new normal” without noticing. For instance:

  1. Workouts… are the new work.

Generations ago, no one needed to go to a gym to lift weights or run. Many worked manual labor jobs on a farm or a factory. Now, we need gym memberships to stay fit.

  1. Movies… are the new books.

While I know books still sell, many from the emerging generation would rather wait for the movie to come out. They watch 35 movies for every one book they read.

  1. Musicians… are the new philosophers.

In times past, men like Socrates, Plato or Augustine gave us our worldview. Today, it’s Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber or Kanye West. Hmm…not sure they’re qualified.

  1. Athletes… are the new heroes.

Instead of statesmen or military generals, we choose celebrities from a playing field or basketball court… you know, people who throw a ball really well. Makes sense.

  1. Starbucks… is the new front porch.

My friend, Len Sweet, said it first. We used to gather on a neighbor’s porch to share community and drink lemonade. Today, we meet at a coffeehouse for a latte.

  1. Texts… are the new letter or phone call.

We used to take time to write a letter or even make a phone call. Today, we don’t have time for that nonsense. We text or tweet. It’s short and sweet.

  1. Facebook… is the new social hook up.

There was a time you had to go to a school dance or a church social to meet a special friend. Today, we do it virtually from the solitude of our bedrooms.

  1. Netflix… is the new Blockbuster.

Today, you don’t have to drive to a store to rent a video. In fact, you’re antiquated if you do. Just get the movie On-Demand, on your TV set… and don’t leave the couch.

  1. Smartphones… are the new Rolodex. 

I remember using that little contact cardholder to look up numbers and network with people. Today, you have all those names and more on a portable device.

  1. Twitter… is the new headline news source.

We once read newspapers for the latest updates. Today, many don’t even visit websites. They see what tweets have come through to fill them in. Wow.

Some questions for you: Are we moving in a good direction or a bad one? Can you think of any other shifts that have taken place? What must we do to adapt to our new day but still build the timeless virtues into our students?


Why Deklin Can’t Decide and What You Can Do About It by Ron Powell


He seemed zombie-like;
Deklin was paralyzed in thought or…
…maybe not?

He appeared like he had experienced a complete shut down.

He was more with it when I taught him in Sunday school. When did he experience catastrophic brain injury?
Strangely, Kyle is not unique. In fact, his condition seems epidemic. No wonder MacDonalds has created combos that need no words… just numbers.

Here’s what MacDonalds knows about Deklin and his friends..

Fast food companies know more about teens than we give them credit for. They know that brain growth, not brain damage, is the problem. Anyone who has a teen in their home or works with teens, needs to be aware of these three changes that make some teens appear to be zombies. I also have a few hints about helping students decide.  Continue reading


It’s Time to Develop a Game Plan by Janet Denison

I went to church with my mom recently and thought the pastor did a beautiful job addressing the recent Supreme Court decision.  Ellis Orosco spoke of his time in high school, playing wide receiver on the football team.  Success in that position, he said, meant “keeping my eye on the ball.”   He compared the recent Supreme Court decision to a “bleacher fight” in the stadium as opposed to the “real game.”  Ellis told his congregation that “the game” was winning souls for Christ and those on the team needed to stay on the field if they wanted to win.  He told the congregation that recent news could cause the Church to “take their eye off of the ball” and possibly lead them to that fight under the bleachers. The congregation and I applauded Pastor Ellis’s focus. 

It’s time to get back into the game.  I often quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 when I’m speaking.  The verse: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  I usually say, “the key to that verse is found in the first three words – If MY people.”  The morality of our nation and the blessings of God are dependent upon the actions of God’s people, not those on the other team.

God’s “team” has been involved too often in the bleacher fights, instead of playing the game on the field.  It is easier to pick the smaller battles when we think we have already lost the big game anyway.  It was good to be reminded that regardless of the score, the team belongs on the field, doing their best to win the game – until the final buzzer sounds.

Our job today, tomorrow and every day that is to come, is to take the love of Christ and his gospel message to a lonely world that feels unloved by most.  Our testimony is important and the answer to the immorality in our culture will be found in proving that God’s word is always true.  God always blesses his people when they are blessable.  Those blessings are the powerful proof that God exists.  Our words should honor and glorify our great God, who hears our prayers, forgives our sin and heals our land. 

So, it is time to launch our own campaign in a world that needs to remember there is a God who loves everyone and has offered every sinner salvation through faith in his Son.  We will see our world begin to change when we see Christians leaving the bleacher fights and returning to the playing field.  But every team needs a game plan, a campaign.

The word campaign means “an organized course of action to achieve a particular goal.”  Campaign when used as a verb means “to work in an organized and active way toward a particular goal, typically a political or social one.”  Christians need to get organized again and develop a winning strategy.

The first strategy probably involves recognizing the flat-screen voices in our homes that teach messages opposed to God’s word.  Satan has always been subtle, entertaining, convincing and able to speak just enough truth to influence and convince. 

For example, my generation allowed programming into our home that showed and romanticized sex outside of marriage.  Most of the children grew up to have sex before marriage, even if raised as “church-goers” with Christian principles.  The television normalized the sin and children accepted what they saw in the programs they watched with their parents.  Now, sex outside of marriage is not only considered normal, it is actually endorsed.  Most of our young people believe they should live together so that they can know whether that person is whom they want to marry.  

The standard for sex outside of marriage changed in one generation.  The ads on our televisions, the programs that are available for my children to watch with their children will normalize homosexuality now and will teach our grandchildren to believe that people should have sex with whomever they want to, regardless of their gender.  

The score would indicate that we, as Christians, are so far behind we are going to lose the game.  Except for one thing; I’ve just described the bleacher fights – not the game.  Our Bibles are full of stories of people who were transformed by the love and salvation of faith.  In fact, that is every Christian’s story.  The book of Revelation assures Christians that we will be in the final game and when it is over, we will be crowned the champions.

The question today is this:  Are you fighting under the bleachers or are you playing the game on the field?


Teens in a Performance Driven Culture by Mark Gregston


We live in a performance driven culture. Remember when baseball and football were sports you played in the empty sandlot at the end of the street? Nowadays, parents spend thousands of dollars to make sure even their middle-school kids have all the right equipment and privatized training to be bigger, faster and stronger. A high school diploma used to be enough to ensure you a decent job. And if you went on to a trade school and learned a skill like welding or mechanics, you were guaranteed a solid career. Kids today are taking college visits in junior high! And to be competitive in our current job market a Masters degree is almost becoming a requirement!

And TV and the movies don’t help either. Often, what our kids pick up from the media is that to be loved and to lead a satisfying life they have to be rich, famous and constantly on the go. Not only is this idea wrong, it’s also unhealthy!

You can see the effect this performance driven culture has on teens when you step into the world of social media. Hop onto Facebook on a random Thursday, and you see friends and acquaintances reporting on what they’re doing, where they’ve been, who they’re hanging out with and what they know. Teens use photo-sharing apps like Instagram to display pictures of themselves with nice clothes, nice cars, nice vacations, and nice and notable friends. It’s a highly competitive digital world, in which our kids feel the pressure to “perform” as well, or better, than the other kids they see. For some teens, the number of comments or “likes” they get on their posts translates into how loved, appreciated and valued they feel.

Of course, moms and dads don’t want this performance attitude to permeate their own relationship with their kids. Ask any parent up front, and we’ll tell you that we want to show our children unconditional love. We don’t want our teens to feel they have to perform in order to win our affection. But sometimes the way we communicate with them says the exact opposite. When our teens exhibit bad behavior or don’t live up to our expectations, we may pull away from them, express our disappointment, or punish them by withholding time or attention. Yet, when our son or daughter excels or accomplishes something noteworthy, we heap praise, tell them how proud we are of them, and how much we care. This almost subconscious reinforcement that achievements bring love, and mistakes bring rejection, further drills into our teens this need to perform. And the more they operate in this mindset, the more struggles they will experience in life.

So what are some of the lies our teens are hearing that we need to combat?

Performance Driven Lies

In today’s culture, teens are hearing that people will only love them if they perform up to a certain high standard. Approval and accolades will be theirs when they are running on all cylinders. But should there be a drop in their performance, teens believe that others’ affections will correspondingly plummet. It’s one reason guys are conditioned not to show weakness, and to display the bravado of power and strength. It’s one reason young ladies develop eating disorders, or turn into mean girls and try to cut other people down. In a performance-driven world, teens are being conditioned to be tough guys and drama queens.

The second lie teens are buying into is that if they make a mistake, no one will love them. It’s what leads many teens to act dishonestly or in secret. They’re worried that if anyone finds out about who they really are, or what they’ve done, they’ll lose the relationship. Recently, I had a past student of Heartlight call me from college. He wanted to tell me he was sorry for a mistake he had made that semester. At first I was taken aback. I wondered why he was telling me this. He told me, “I didn’t want to lose your friendship over this.” Even a college-age kid believed that a bad decision means loss of relationship. I had to remind this young man that there was nothing he could do that would make me love him more and nothing he could to do to make me love him less.

Lastly, the lie of performance-driven culture says that we are valuable in our good years, but not valuable in our bad years. Teens think that if they’re behaving properly they have more worth to parents and family than when they are misbehaving. But I believe in the sanctity of life in all stages. An unborn baby is just as valuable and worthy of love as that bratty 14-year-old or that Rhodes Scholar student!

With so many lies, untruths and misrepresentations flying around, how can we combat these performance-driven myths? Let me share a few options.

Relationally Driven Truth

Communicate love in various ways when your teen does something bad. This is not a recommendation to gloss over the mistake, or forgo the due consequences. But in the midst of the punishment, verbalize your love to your child. Let him know that his behavior doesn’t negate your relationship with him. Give her a hug. Share an encouraging word. Be creative about how you relay your care and compassion to your son or daughter, even when they blow it.

Also, allow your teen to make mistakes without shaming him or her. I’m sure you’ve seen or read articles about parents punishing their children by having them hold signs proclaiming their guilt in front of busy streets, or posting pictures and humiliating them on social media. I understand the motivation behind those methods, but shaming kids is never a good solution. All it does is reinforce their own insecurity and push them deeper into performance-driven behavior. When our toddler falls off their tricycle, we don’t run up and point and let them know what a stupid mistake it was to keel over. No, as parents we come alongside, brush the child off, and put them back on the bike. We have to treat our teens the same way. When our son or daughter blows it, we don’t pile on the guilt and shame. We brush them off and encourage them to keep going and try again.

It can help for teens to hear about mom and dad’s mistakes. I know it might be uncomfortable, but be honest about the times you’ve blown it. Those stories let teens know that if mom and dad made mistakes, and still turned out all right, then maybe they don’t have to be perfect either. Some of the most powerful words you can tell your teen is “I’m sorry.” If you’ve never heard your teenager ask for forgiveness or admit when they were wrong, maybe it’s because they’ve never heard it from you!

Mom and dad; let your kids have their own opinions. You don’t have to be correcting your teen 24/7. Let some discussions simply be about communicating. There may be times when you have to share the truth with your kids, but most of the time conversations should revolve around getting to know your son or daughter as a person. Ask them what they enjoy, and why they enjoy it. Don’t tear them down. They are already facing pressure to like the “right” things from all of their peers; home should be a safe place for them to relax and be who they are.

Lastly, affirm your teen’s value regularly. Let your child know they have intrinsic worth. Value is inherent in who they are as God’s creations, not in what they do. Whether she can flip around on a balance beam, or would rather spend time scrap-booking, remind your teen that she is precious to you. Whether your son’s gift is throwing a football down the field, or belching the ABCs, let him know he is worth your time. Show your kids that you appreciate them for who they are, and you’ll destroy that performance-driven mentality and foster a healthy teenager.

Encourage your kids to be themselves. Show interest in them for who they are, not what they do. And don’t wait until your kids are adults to unveil your flaws, mistakes and inadequacies.  It will draw them to you and it will cause teens to relax.  Plus, they will see your successes and understand that it’s possible to have a good life even when they’ve messed up. Yes, there are consequences for behavior.  Yes, you need to set standards for your kids.  But when you allow them the opportunity to see into your own life and recognize that you don’t have to perform to be loved, you will give them the hope they need to keep striving for the best.


Small Groups ≠ Discipleship by Doug Franklin


When I ask youth workers what discipleship strategy they’re using, nine out of ten tell me, “Small groups.” But small groups are not a strategy. A discipleship strategy is a plan in which a mature believer walks with an immature believer through biblical truth, challenging the immature believer to live a new way. The goal is to grow newer believers to maturity so they can start walking with younger disciples. In other words, be a disciple, make a disciple.

So does this type of relational discipleship happen in your small groups? For small groups to foster discipleship, leaders must have the following:

1. Students who want to be discipled.
Just because a student shows up to small group, that doesn’t mean they want to grow in their relationship with Christ. I have seen how many students act in small groups. In many cases, I don’t think they have any idea why they are there. But you can’t be a disciple without wanting to be a disciple.

When was the last time a student came up to you and asked, “Can you help me be a disciple of Christ?” I will write more about this in the coming week, but we have a discipleship desire problem, and no one I know is addressing it. If your students don’t want to be disciples, why are you putting them in small groups? We must awaken our students to discipleship. They don’t know what it is, and they don’t know what it looks like. We need to rethink what we are teaching about being a follower of Christ.

2.  A core biblical teaching plan.
Youth ministry teaching plans seem to be driven by the wind. We talk about identity one week and purity the next. We throw in a few Old Testament character studies and Francis Chan’s latest book. While these are all good studies, somehow we forgot about salvation, justification, and sanctification. Many students are graduating out of youth ministry without ever learning the core truths of the gospel.

Put together a thorough Bible study plan for your small groups. Be honest with yourself—if you don’t know how to do this, ask someone to disciple you in this area for the next few months. This could make all the difference as your students enter college.

3. A disciple tracking system.
Your small group leaders need to know where your students are spiritually. Please note that I didn’t say, “Your small group leaders need to know if they have good kids in their group.” Tracking student spiritual growth is possible if you have a relationship with them and know what to look for. A disciple tracking system starts with you asking how God is working in and through students. The answer to these questions will give you a good idea of where students are on their spiritual journeys.

This is hard work. It takes a great deal of time, but that is what discipleship is all about. We have taken too many shortcuts for too long. We can do the hard work of real discipleship or we can continue to play at discipleship in our small groups.


Inside the mind of a teenager: A parent’s guide by Tanith Carey

The Teenage brain explained: A new book gives parents insight into the brain of the teenager and five ways to save the relationship with their children


There isn’t a parent with a teenager who hasn’t been told ‘You’re ruining my life’ or ‘I hate you’ at some point. But if that’s not bad enough, their behaviour can get even worse if we fail to understand the brain changes triggering these outbursts. A major new study, just published by Berlin’s Max Planck Institute, is the latest to find that teenagers go through the same rewiring between the age of 13 and 17 as they did when they were toddlers. Second time around however, when they match you for size and are using much more colourful language, it can be much harder to handle.

As a parenting author, looking at the bigger picture of children’s mental health, I know we can also end up losing our connection with our teens when they need us most. So if you want to know what NOT to do, here’s five sure-fire ways to salvaging your relationship with your teen, and make this period even more turbulent.

Continue reading


A Model For Coaches To Connect With Millennials by Tim Elmore


When Jim Tomsula took over as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, one of the first questions he got from journalists was about his stance on social media. His reply:

“I don’t like it at all. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t do it. I don’t use it.”

Within a month, however, Coach Tomsula had a change of heart because he wanted to be relevant to his new team. The Wall Street Journal posted an article about how the 49ers were making adjustments on their coaching style to connect with Millennial players. Fans are reacting with mixed reviews, but the changes are real. The team’s staff is inspired by the same challenge employers all over America are dealing with: hiring young professionals who feel more at home with an iPhone than a:

  • Chalkboard with X’s and O’s
  • Profit and Loss statement
  • Textbook full of math equations

Most Millennials are now in their twenties, a fact the 49ers team understands fully, as their average player age is 25.2 years old. These guys are young and want to text, tweet, and post an occasional picture on Instagram.

So what is the San Francisco franchise doing differently?

Another shift implemented involves sending electronic alerts that players can access on their tablet or smart phone (instead of the usual printed schedule). A few coaches were hesitant about this move at first. Missing a meeting is a serious offense, and a system that’s vulnerable to technological glitches could allow an athlete to miss one. After a few weeks, however, that concern has proven to be groundless. The technology is not only working, it’s the very language of Generation iY, who check their phones for a text faster than they would a piece of paper or even an email.

While the change has invited all kinds of “armchair quarterbacks” to claim the 49ers have given in to the wimpy, media-crazed youth culture, I want to offer a different angle. While I agree that young professionals will need to learn to sit still for longer than 30 minutes and break free from the tether of their smart phone, I think coaches should approach their jobs like a missionary.

The Coach as a Missionary 

Do you know any missionaries? If not, let me simply define them as pioneers who leave their comfort zone, enter a different culture, and learn the language and customs in order to reach people with their message. Missionaries must literally study the culture and learn its values so that they can add value to it.


All the missionaries I know who’ve brought about social change in a needy culture knew they must first learn before they can lead. The 49ers have determined to approach their jobs that way. They are trying to connect with a population that has different values, customs and language. So, those coaches are learning and earning the right to lead at the heart level. Let me offer four realities to consider:

  1. You are in a cross-culture relationship with your younger athletes.

As a coach, you will likely feel you’re connecting with a very different population as you lead your young athletes. Don’t fight it—face it. Find out who they are and what they value so you can lead them into a better future. Just like you must work harder to connect with someone from a foreign culture, so it is with these athletes.

  1. To reach them, understand their culture and customs.

Make learning your first order of business. As a coach, do you have a coachable spirit? Are you willing to flex on your methods in order to communicate with them? You don’t have become like them—simply learn about their world of visuals and connecting. Relevant coaches use what is cultural to say what is timeless.

  1. At that point, you can speak their language and earn their trust.

Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll naturally communicate that you’ve tried to step into their world. Again, your goal isn’t to imitate, but initiate. That’s the leader’s job. Over time, players will see you asking questions and speaking their language. This speaks volumes because true leadership operates on the basis of trust.

  1. Finally, you can bring about the changes that will benefit them.

I know a missionary who had to learn a village’s customs before he could even tell them he was there to dig wells and provide them with clean water. Once he did this, they became friends, not foes. One by one, you’ll ultimately win over your athletes to listen and follow your lead as you offer different perspectives and methods.

But we must start where they are, in order to lead them to where they must go.

According to the Times article, Coach Tomsula attends a weekly meeting to learn about new apps and technology that his players likely use. “The 49ers’ video department briefs him on how to use technology. This is all in an effort to not curtail the use of technology but ‘to make sure you can utilize it and make it a good thing.’”

As coaches and staff have learned more about the topic, they met to discuss potential changes. They have even made discoveries like:

  • Long, uninterrupted meetings are counterproductive. Make them shorter.
  • Communicating through paper is cumbersome. Engage digital channels of communication.
  • Long teachings about game plans can fail to get through the filter. Use visuals.
  • One-way lectures don’t work. Make meetings interactive.

My questions for you are:

  • Are you willing to learn before you lead your players?
  • How much change are you willing to adapt to in order to connect?
  • Will you work harder to reach your first-year players like a missionary?