Leadership From Within

There I was, standing before a group of 40 something Middle School students on a Wednesday night wondering how I got myself into this mess…there was me, and there was them, and together, we were it.

The reality was that I had come to a place where over the previous three years I had recruited leadership for our Wednesday night children’s ministry, some of the best leaders our Church had, but I never thought ahead to the point that one day, that ministry would feed into my own, which was only at 10-15 students on a good night. The leaders in the children’s ministry loved on kids and taught them with excitement and energy. Then it seemed like it happened all at once, I was alone with a lot of middle school students and I never saw it coming.

There was a leadership void in our Wednesday night middle school ministry. I could not fill it by myself, nor was I willing to pull leaders from our children’s ministry to help me, because they had created what I now see as a good problem in our middle school ministry.

I was forced to consider the resources God had put at First Baptist Church and I realized one of the greatest resources was the High School students who had come up through the children’s and middle school ministries. A plan began to develop that I ran by my pastor. He was supportive and I took the idea and ran, only finding out a year or so later that he was thinking during our conversation that there was no way the idea would work.

I created a system of leadership on Wednesday nights that created opportunities for students to serve as leaders within our student ministry. In the early stages, and in its simplest form, a created three levels of leadership that were incorporated into our new Wednesday night structure:

  1. Small Group Leader – 11th or 12th grade student that serves in a small group by leading the conversation over the Bible story I teach. They are also responsible for apprenticing the Assistant Leader. (“Apprenticing” has become a part of our leadership language and it comes from the book Exponential by Dave and Jon Ferguson)
  2. Assistant Leader – A 9th or 10th grade student that serves in a small group by setting up the room, and occasionally leading the small group under the supervision of the Leader. They are also responsible for apprenticing the Junior Leader.
  3. Junior Leader – A middle school student that serves in a small group by taking attendance and getting information from new students in their small groups.

The system continues to grow and now I have students that lead in ways they are comfortable with: Big Group Games Leader, Music Leader, Sound Tech, Big Room Setup, and I even have three adults now that serve by building relationships with students and serving food.

The question I continue to ask our team is, “How do we develop our student ministry leadership culture?” and that is a much better place to start than, “There I was, standing before a group of 40 something Middle School students on a Wednesday night wondering how I got myself into this mess…”

Tique Hamilton serves at FBC Sweetwater. He seeks to experience God in the ordinary. He loves good coffee and conversation with those who drink it correctly.

4 Steps To Planning A Mystery Trip

One of my favorite events in our Student Ministry is the Mystery Trip.  We take a fun, short trip (usually 2 nights/3 days) during Spring Break (but it could be whenever it works best for your ministry).  We tell the parents where we are going and what we will be doing, but it is literally a mystery to the students.  Here are a few simple steps to help you plan a Mystery Trip.

1. Know The Purpose

The point of the Mystery Trip is to get students away from their regular routines, have some fun and do things they might not otherwise have the opportunity to do. Hanging out, building relationships and making memories are the goals. 

The mystery aspect makes it a highly anticipated event that appeals to teenagers and their friends. They look forward to the shared bonding experiences.

2.  Count The Cost

I believe in the value of a fun trip like this, so our student ministry budget covers the lodging and then we pass along the cost of tickets, admission fees etc. to the students.  We try to keep the cost around $50-60 per student and so the fun activities should add up close to that amount. 

You can keep costs down by staying in inexpensive hotels, looking for group discounts on activities/attractions and it never hurts to plan some free (or nearly free) things to do.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be a great trip.

3.  Keep It Balanced

It is hard to please everyone in a group.  Find balance between outdoor and indoor activities, long and short duration, active and leisure, large group and small group activities, educational/historical and just plain fun etc. 

I usually plan 3 or 4 activities (not too many, not too few) that will keep students interested, having fun and always wondering what’s next.  I tell them that not every activity will be their favorite, but that we can make everything fun by doing it together.

4.  Shh…It’s A Mystery!

You can tell students what to pack for the trip without telling them where we are going. Give parents the detailed information about the trip; they certainly need to know where you are taking their sons and daughters.  Then parents can better help their student pack because they know exactly what the group will be doing. 

Make sure the adult sponsors and parents keep a tight lid on the mysteries.  Students may act like they want to know, but deep down they love the mystery of not knowing.  

After leading more than 10 Mystery Trips, it is hard for me to rank all the activities we have done, but a few of my all-time favorites include:  touring Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) in Arlington the first year it opened, hiking the iconic Lighthouse Trail at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, flying kites in Zilker Park in Austin and visiting the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco.

Outside of Student Ministry Lori Dockrey can usually be found rooting for her beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders, currently competing in the Sweet 16.

3 Tips to Help Raise Money for Camp

Over the last 15 years in paid ministry, I have picked up a few tips along the way to help with raising money. I have only served in churches where the youth ministry was expected to raise money to help offset camp and mission trip costs, so here are some tips gleaned along the way.

  1. Context is King - Every church where I have served has had different responses to different events. Some of my favorite events early on were Ice Cream "Freeze-Offs", where recently the response hasn't been so great. Ultimately, find what works in your context. Just because someone had a good experience with it at a different church or town, does not guarantee it will work everywhere.
  2. Offset Costs Where Possible - Recently, I have found having kids sign up to bring the different supplies helps save a significant amount of money. For example, we will do a "Taco Pile-On" lunch in a few weeks. Early on, I would have bought the necessary toppings out of the youth budget. Starting a few years ago, however, I realized if I had kids bring the toppings, then our out of pocket expense would be zero, which meant every dollar received was profit.
  3. Balance On-Site with Off-Site - Depending on the church policies, if you're able to raise off site, try to find a good balance between events held at church and events held elsewhere. Make the most of town events. In my current context, our town hosts a city wide garage sale day where our town doubles in size for a day. In the past we have held our own garage sale (with donated items), sold breakfast burritos, and sold burger deals. Each one has been successful in it's own right.

Ultimately, raising money is something you get better at as you go along, especially with evaluation. Hang in there and we hope you'll join us for camp!

If you found this helpful, share it with a friend!


Wes Henson is Leadership Director for Horizon and blogs regularly at www.threequestionleadership.com.

Welcome to the Horizon Blog!

You are heroes!

Youth ministers are our heroes.  We believe that the role of youth minister is the most difficult on church staff.  With that in mind our goal is to listen, advocate and encourage student ministers.  These values run deep through our philosophy of camp, leadership and resources.  

As we enjoy this journey together, let us know how we can help you shape your students to shape the world.