The infancy of my faith was greatly influenced by youth ministry. I am indebted to youth pastors, youth workers, chaperones, and youth ministry as a whole.
This is one of the many reasons my lifelong indebtedness to youth ministry has me continuing to pour into this generation, as long as He will allow me.
Our season of youth ministry was one of the most fruitful and rewarding times of our ministry. We still look back very fondly over the young people, volunteers, events, and parents. Thankfully, our connections are still strong, and stronger in some cases.
There are a number of things that I gleaned while involved in youth ministry and I wanted to share a few of them with you.
I wholeheartedly believe that your youth ministry should be parent friendly. I hope to write about this specifically in the near future. However, I wanted to share a few things with youth workers out there.
First, I have been where you’ve been and now I am on the other side of this with one of our children doing well in our local youth ministry. Our second child will be in youth ministry in the not too distant future. #TimeFlies
There are a few things that your parents need from you.
Communication. Communication. Communication.
Each week a number of parents are entrusting the people they treasure more than life into your care. You cannot over communicate! Communication is a key!
If you want to earn the trust of your parents. Communicate. Communicate clearly. Communicate often. Communicate consistently.
Parents want to know what you are teaching their kids. What are you talking about in your small group gatherings? How are you sharing that with Mom and Dad.
When counseling with teenagers, be sure to communicate unfiltered feedback to their parents. If you think the kids will not trust you because of this, I tend to disagree. I would give teenagers (and still do) a disclosure that I would discuss whatever they were sharing with me with their parents and explain why. I never had one instance where it impaired our conversation or connection. As a matter of fact, it was an opportunity that served as a launching pad to facilitate a stronger connection between them and their parents. It also helped build trust with our parents.
When an event is taking place communicate as much as possible.
Here are a few things you should consider communicating via all available communication platforms (i.e., social media, email, text messaging, website, orientations, etc.).
Event Type (social, worship experience, fellowship centric, etc.):
Chaperones (parents want to know who is working with their kids):
Cost (if applicable):
Are there ways parents can get involved? If so, communicate those opportunities for involvement.
Communicate Your Vision
What is the vision that the local church has for the ministry? Communicate that to your parents. How can they help support it?
There’s no quicker way to win the hearts of your parents by sharing with them what you envision God doing in their lives of their children. Share with them your heartbeat. Allow them to see your heartbeat for their kids and watch them begin to give you their loyalty and support.
Oftentimes, student pastors have grand visions and effective programs, however, the parents are unaware.
I encourage you to read 1 Timothy 5. It will become crystal clear that the most effective training ground for spiritual development is the home, as you read this particular passage. There are countless others that support this, however, this is one of my favorites.
As parents learn your vision they will be able to join you and your team, hand in hand, and press toward the mark!
As a parent of a tween (at the time of this journal entry), this season can be unnerving; a season in which we lack confidence, seek guidance, and are doing everything we can to make sure that we get it right.
There’s no specific book that gives explicit instructions on how to raise our specific children, however, there are a number of tools that can be incredibly helpful.
Share with your parents devotional ideas, books, blogs, and seminars that will be helpful in their particular season of parenting a teenager, and remind them to allow the Word to be their guide through it all.
When you change your paradigm to one of family friendly ministry, you will quickly understand that when the family succeeds, you win too. Remember, the church is made up of families.
Cheer Your Parents On!
As I mentioned earlier, parenting, regardless of the season, is difficult. However, parenting a teen is even more difficult.
Simply put… When your parents bring their children to youth ministry events, don’t forget to express your appreciation to them and affirm their decision to make attending these events a priority.
When their kids do something well, please share that. As a matter of fact, not only share that with their parents, make sure you share that with the student in particular.
There will be moments of doubt, however, when you come alongside a mom or dad to affirm that they’re going to make it by His grace, that encouragement will fuel the will of God in their family.
What are some things that you’ve found to be helpful in youth ministry? Let’s collaborate, as we go beyond. #GoBeyondReason
My journey into full-time ministry was anything but strategically planned, at least by my hands. However, in hindsight (which always provides greater clarity) I can clearly see the providential hand of God carefully directing each step.
The last 8 (almost 9) years have been some of the most rewarding, challenging, and revealing years of my life. I recently crossed paths with a ministerial acquaintance and as we caught up on the happenings of our lives, he said something that has left an indelible impression upon me. He said, “Akil, ministry is brutiful.” It took me a brief moment to discern that he didn’t stumble over his words, rather he knew full well what he was saying.
You know what?!? Vocational ministry is brutiful and I absolutely love being a part of this life changing process. It has its moments of beauty and brutality, many of which you can experience in a matter of a few hours, depending upon how life unfolds in your local context. As a matter of fact, I intend to write about the brutalities of ministry in the near future, however, that’s for another journal entry. #StayTuned
There is no place I’d rather be than immersed in the work of the Lord! My family and I are passionate about the Kingdom of God!
In spite of being borderline workaholics for the Lord, we are strongly committed to unity, peace and joy in our relationships, our marriage, and with our children. Family first – forever!
We believe the fulfilled life really is all wrapped up in loving God, living by His word, loving people, and living a character-driven life; remembering that God is sovereign and his agenda is always better than ours!”
I think the #1 reason for loving your work, no matter where that work takes place, whether paid work or unpaid work, is centered on the “why” behind the work. Even when I was bi-vocational and had a corporate banking career, I found both to very fulfilling and rewarding.
I wanted to take a moment and share a number of things that I love about this journey! So, without further adieu… What do I love about ministry? Let me count the ways! Obviously, the list goes on and on, however, these were the first things that quickly came to mind. 😉
1. Working vocationally for Jesus is a gift I treasure daily. With that being said, we all have varying callings, purposes, etc. Regardless of your vocation, Jesus is your employer and all of work is worship unto Him. #TreasureTheOpportunityHeHasgivenYou
2. People. I love the people I work with (locally and nationally) and the people I serve in our local church community. Every now again, I have the opportunity to travel and meet new people. This is the icing on the cake.
3. Witnessing Revival. To experience first hand what God is doing around the world is one of the most inspiring and formative experiences for me personally to date. There’s nothing more stretching than to see God move outside of my cultural familiarity.
4. Family. I am able to engage my family in almost every aspect of my work life. Yes, this is a challenge, because the lines can become blurred, however, it has been flat out awesome to watch them develop a heart for His kingdom in a variety of ways.
5. The challenge to grow.
6. The opportunity to learn. I’ve learned that I must turn my failures into insightful and productive learning experiences.
7. The opportunity to create.
8. The opportunity to collaborate. Teamwork really does make the dream work.
9. Serving on a leadership team.
10. Change. No one likes change. We all like routine. Yet, change is inevitable. Nothing remains static. Growth and progress necessitate change.
11. New interns. The spice of life!
12. We take time to pray at work.
13. The opportunity to exercise my gifts and strengths.
14. Accountability. Having strong leaders that I am accountable to, who invest in me spiritually, and develop me as a leader.
15. Pursuing unity with others “… for there the Lord commands the blessing…”
16. Game-changing partnerships.
17. The Bible is my roadmap to EVERY destination.
18. Being accessible to others.
19. The God surprises. Never a dull moment.
20. Changing the world, one person at a time!
… And so many more reasons!
What is it that YOU love about what you do? What is the “why” behind what you do day in and day out? I look forward to hearing from you. #GoBeyondReason
If you have yet to look at your smartphone (or tablet for that matter) as your digital swiss army knife – NOW is the time. Today you can access any document at any given time, create and complete to-do-lists, manage your finances, etc. Of course, I could go on and on, but I won’t.
The APP market is saturated and sometimes we get caught up with the ’new’ shiny app, however, there are some essentials that will greatly enhance your productivity. Keep in mind, that the way use your smartphone and APP will vary from the next – because our needs vary. So don’t get caught up in keeping up with the techie leader, stay in your lane and enjoy the increased productivity that you’re about to experience with these recommended APPs.
Evernote: I am an Evernote junkie! One who takes several hits daily. As a matter of fact, most of my writing, document generation, collaboration, task management, and paperless pursuits are housed in Evernote. I use Evernote everywhere – on my laptop, smartphone, and tablet. It syncs across all platforms, so no matter where I am, I can stay in the flow of thought processes and information. One of my favorite things about Evernote is it feeds my romance with a paperless environment. Something else that’s really cool – Evernote is in beta stages with a Google Drive integration. #EvernoteTouchdown
Let Evernote change the way you organize your personal and professional projects. Dive in: take notes, create to-do lists, and save things you find online into Evernote. We’ll sync everything between your phone, tablet, and computer automatically.
Dropbox: Okay, the only way you are not familiar with Dropbox or an alternative is because you enjoy living under a rock. Maybe you didn’t like that joke, however, I know you will enjoy Dropbox. It is an essential to every leader’s collection.
Dropbox is the place for your photos, docs, videos, and other files. Files you keep in Dropbox are safely backed up and you can get to them from all your devices. It’s easy to send large files to anyone, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.
- Access your files on any device, even if you’re offline
- Create and edit Microsoft Office files from your iPhone or iPad
- Share links to your largest files without using email attachments
Bitly: There are a number of reasons why I chose Bitly over their url shortening competitors. Their analytics, ease of use, and what you can do with their free package.
Unleash the power of the link with the Bitly app.
– Save shortlinks into your Bitly account
– Share to Twitter, Facebook, SMS and email in one step
– Check how your shortlinks are performing with detailed stats revealing click counts, link activity, geographic location and who else shared this link
– Discover what your Facebook and Twitter friends are sharing
– Organize and share your shortlinks with bundles
Mint: With a 13-year background in corporate finance, I am a strong proponent of financial peace. As a matter of fact, there’s no stress like financial stress. Developing a budget, tracking expenditures, and telling your money where to go is critical to successful financial money management. Mint can help you accomplish all of this, plus manage your credit score as well.
Mint allows you to manage your finances effectively by integrating all of your financial accounts together. You add in your credit cards, bank accounts, student loans, etc. and it will track your expenses, savings, and help you manage your money. Now, the reason I chose this one instead of a more business-guided financial system such as Quickbooks is because Mint is meant specifically for personal finance and helps you keep that section of your life on track. Business finances are a whole different animal, but we won’t tackle that in this post!
From Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, QuickBooks, Mint Bills, and Quicken: The free Mint app helps you spend smarter and save more. Easily pull all your accounts, cards and investments into one place so you can track your spending, create a budget, receive bill reminders, and get customized tips for reducing fees and saving money.
Slack: Out of all the APPs that I am recommending to you, this one is one of my superstars! If you are in an environment of collaboration, teamwork, and communication (which hopefully we all are) this is a must!
This APP has tempted me to say goodbye to email. While that’s not happening anytime soon, Slack has woven itself into the daily operations of our staff. It is fabulous for project management and THE solution for team communication. You have to admit that receiving a barrage of text messages, emails, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs, etc., from your colleagues can make it difficult to keep up with the various threads of communication and the files associated with it. Slack remedies that, and does that quite well.
All your team communication in one place. A new way to get more done, spend less time in meetings, and reduce email. That’s Slack.
- Real time messaging and file sharing for one-to-one and group conversations
- Powerful search and archiving, so you can find information easily
- Hundreds of integrations with apps and services including Dropbox, Asana, Google Drive, Twitter, Zendesk and more
- Instantly syncs across all devices
- Configurable notifications for desktop, mobile, and email
- Scientifically proven (or at least rumored) to make your working life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive
Scannable: Bye-bye paper! Doesn’t that sound irresistibly inviting? Well, with Scannable (created by the makers of Evernote) you can do that. Need I say more?
BONUS: You will be thrilled over the accuracy and clarity of its scanning ability. Once again, another #EvernoteTouchdown
Scannable moves paper forward. Scan contracts, receipts, business cards, and any paper that comes your way. Save or share documents instantly and move on.
Automatically capture high-quality scans anywhere
– Scan fast: Point your camera at documents, expense receipts, or whiteboards. Scannable immediately captures them.
– Save time: Scannable automatically rotates, crops, and adjusts images so your scans are clear and easy to read.
– Share or save: Send documents to colleagues via email or text, or export them as PDF and JPG files to Evernote and other apps.
Deal with paper professionally
– Turn business cards into contacts: Pull information from business cards and LinkedIn, add profile photos, and save it all to your contacts list.
– Go paperless: Scannable works seamlessly with the ScanSnap Evernote Edition Scanner to get multi-page documents where they need to go.
– A scanner for everyone: With Scannable, your whole team can control a ScanSnap Evernote Edition Scanner from their own devices and send paper on its way.
Scannable is free to download and use.
Ginger: I love to write, however, my wife edits most of my content. Why? Because, I am not a grammar ninja like she is. So, for my routine day in day out communications I use Ginger. The great thing about this APP is you can use it on any platform (laptop, browser, smartphone, and tablet).
Ginger’s writing app offers you a better way to write in English. Get everything you need to quickly compose high-quality text that amplifies your message, everywhere you write.
Tap into Ginger’s powerful editing tools to quickly review your text for any grammar, spelling and punctuation issues with the world’s leading proofreader.
Skitch: See something that sparks an idea? Use Skitch to snap it, mark it up with simple tools, and send it on in an instant. Your bold ideas stand out even brighter with Skitch.
People everywhere use Skitch to help them visually share their thoughts with others. Here are a few ways you can use it, too:
Mark up photos of silly, cool, or inspiring things you see and share them via social, email, SMS, and more.
Annotate photos of your backyard to plan out your vegetable garden.
Share a diagram of the earth’s layers and have students label it with you
Capture a map, mark it up, and share it with your friends to show them where you’ll be.
Open a PDF and highlight changes to skip the lengthy, confusing email chains and give clear feedback.
Slydial: We all have a number of phone calls that we have to return. Sometimes that list can be daunting, especially the time the conversations will take. Allow me to introduce Slydial. Slydial connects you directly to someone’s voicemail, allowing you to leave a message when you just don’t have time to talk. And now with its group messaging feature, you can send a voice mail to up to ten people at once! So, what are you waiting for? Return their phone call and schedule when you have time to talk.
More heartfelt than a text, but less involved than a phone call, Slydial strikes the perfect balance, allowing you to stay connected in a busy world.
When do you Slydial?
Use Slydial to sing happy birthday when you’re in a hurry, or explain a report that’s too complicated to email. Increase your efficiency and sincerity at the same time, and find a better way to communicate.
Slydial is also a clever tool to take the edge off life’s awkward moments. Use it to manage delicate situations and get your point across when a phone conversation isn’t ideal. Take advantage of Slydial:
-When you are short on time.
-When you don’t want bother someone.
-When a text message just won’t cut it.
-When you want to avoid an awkward conversation .
*Slydial calls can be placed from a U.S. phone to U.S. mobile phones only.
Gboard: I was really excited when SwiftKey was available for the iPhone user, however, I was so disappointed with its efficiency and accuracy, I eventually deleted the app. When I learned that Google released Gboard, I was all in from the start (those that know me, know that I am an Google geek). Gboard is a new keyboard from Google for your iPhone. It has all the things you would expect from a great keyboard — GIFs, emojis, and Glide Typing — plus Google Search built in. No more app switching; just search and send, right from your keyboard.
Search and send anything from Google:
- Nearby stores and restaurants
- Videos and images
- Weather forecasts
- News and articles
- Sports scores
- And anything else you’d search on Google
GIFs — Search GIFs for the best reaction
Emoji Search— Find the perfect emoji, faster
Glide Typing — Type faster by sliding your finger from letter to letter.
Buffer: Pastor, if you haven’t already begun to leverage various social media platforms, start now! You should begin to integrate social media into your communication plan for yourself and your church. Don’t separate social media from your existing communication plan. Do the opposite. Facilitate the perfect marriage between your existing communications and social media.
Buffer can help you do that!
Share to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn – all from one place, on your schedule.
Any link, text, picture or video you want to share, just add it to your Buffer. Your updates will automatically be scheduled and spaced out throughout the day to post to your favorite social networks. Plus, you can custom schedule or “post now” right inside the app.
Say you find 5 great articles and 2 funny photos you want to share. If you post them all in a row, you might flood your friends and followers who are online – and totally miss those who aren’t. Instead, add these posts to your Buffer, and you’ll have great social updates for the next few days.
Why you’ll love Buffer:
- Share to multiple Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest boards from one place.
- Get analytics for each update you share: Clicks, Retweets, Repins, Likes, Shares, Mentions and more.
- Schedule your posts automatically so you never have to worry about setting a time and date. Just hit “Buffer”.
- Schedule your posts using a Custom Time to schedule for specific events or campaigns.
- Share from all of your favourite apps using our iOS extension. Including scheduling native retweets from Safari, Tweetbot, Twitter & more!
Buffer is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Web and other phones and tablets.
1Password remembers all your passwords and other sensitive information so you don’t have to. Keep your digital life secure, always available, and safe behind the one password that only you know. In a world where we have become increasingly vulnerable to digital theft, encrypting your information with strong passwords is essential. This will take out the need to memorize those unique, or what I like to call ‘difficult’ passwords.
Use 1Password to generate strong and unique passwords, save them securely, and fill them on websites and in participating apps with just a few taps. 1Password is your digital vault for all kinds of information associated with modern life, from addresses and credit card numbers to locker combinations and one-time passwords.
The free version of 1Password enables you to:
◆ Store usernames and passwords, credit card information, addresses, and notes in plain text
◆ Log in to websites without having to remember or type any of your passwords
◆ Fill passwords, credit card information, and addresses quickly
◆ Mark items as favorites for easy access
◆ Search all of your items to find what you need fast
◆ Sync your 1Password vault across mobile devices and computers
Bitmoji is your own personal emoji – that you can use right from your keyboard!
Need I say more?!?
- Create an expressive cartoon avatar
- Choose from a growing library of moods and stickers – featuring YOU!
- Use it in iMessage, WhatsApp and more
If you’re one of the millions of people with a Bitstrips avatar: Just download and sign into the app with Facebook – your unique collection of Bitmoji is already waiting for you!
Sleep Cycle: Today’s culture is obsessed with productivity, however, many of us are woefully productive because of our lack of sleep and rest. I will write about this sometime in the near future, however, we are less engaged and have worse memory when are not well rested.
Sleep Cycle is a super cool app that has intelligent alarm clock that analyzes your sleep and wakes you in the lightest sleep phase – the natural way to wake up feeling rested and relaxed.
As you sleep you go through different phases, ranging from deep sleep to light sleep. The phase you are in when your alarm goes off is critical for how tired you will feel when you wake up.
Since you move differently in bed during the different phases, Sleep Cycle can use the microphone or accelerometer in your iPhone to monitor your movements and determine which sleep phase you are in.
Sleep Cycle wakes you when you are in your lightest sleep phase.
Sleep Cycle was developed using proven sleep science and years of research and development.
Momento: Journaling is a part of who I am and I believe a powerful tool not only for reflection but growth. Journaling itself is the ultimate practice of perspective.
Introducing the all new Momento — the smart private diary/journal app that helps you capture and collect memories to explore, relive and share your life story.
Momento not only helps you privately capture moments in just a few taps — notes, photos, videos, people, places and tags — but it also automatically collects your daily activities, posts and photos from the social networks, apps and devices you use everyday! This is why I recommend Momento because of its social media feature. It does have its limitations, as they do not have an APP for tablets, computers, or via the web. According to their blog their working on these features for future releases. #StayTuned
Notion: Email is a great tool! Creating an email that people will read is another story. We’ve all been the recipient of emails that aren’t that important, however, they clog our inbox and waste our time. Notion remedies this dilemma. It’s the best way to love email again. It learns from your behavior to make your most important emails stand out. The rest are grouped together for fast clean up. Notifications are specific to you, outstanding questions are highlighted, and insights into your network are richer than ever before.
Are there any APPs that you’d like to see on this list? If so, share them with us. #GoBeyondReason #MoreProductivity
Risk! All of us are innately enamored and captured over the notion of abandoning all for the sake of a particular cause. The allure of conquering the unknown or fulfilling a dream is so intoxicating, that subsequent feelings of soaring ensue because we all want to accomplish our dream!
Surely, there are a number of things that can provoke risk taking, however, none impel risk taking like another four letter word. That word is love!
Where love is present, you’ll feel safe. If you know that you are loved, you will risk losing everything you own, because you are loved!
It is a leadership truth, that you will not grow, if you will not change. You will not change, unless you risk something. You will never risk, if you don’t feel loved (affirmed) or safe.
I have a friend, who had two opportunities available to him. In both instances, the position on the pastoral staff was the same. However, he decided to pursue the opportunity where affirmation and love, were obvious. In his words, he knew he would need a lot of attaboys.
Let me translate. He realized that his dreams needed to be in an environment of love (affirmation). This has stretched him greatly, over the last three years. The growth in his life, is almost immeasurable, however, he would’ve never taken certain risks along the way, had he not felt safe (loved).
Make sure that your ecosystem is one of love. If it isn’t, perhaps, it is time for a change.
“Churches where words of kindness and encouragement are plentiful have the aroma of life. I have walked into congregations and felt the health and joy that exist because of their culture of blessing. The opposite is also true.
Congregations and staffs that are filled with criticism, backbiting, and gossip have the stench of death. Wise leaders use their words to build up others and strategically create a culture of affirmation in the church. Although we may be tempted to be critical and negative, the antidote for this behavior is learning to bless.” – Kevin Harney, Leadership From The Inside Out
Isn’t it interesting that love takes place, when someone risks vulnerability?!?
Care to share some of your experiences?