What I Learned About Ministry At The Starbucks Reserve Roastery 

If you want to improve the way you reach teenagers it’s important to look at successful models. However, sometimes that means going beyond the church and looking in the corporate world.

When non-coffee drinkers recommend you go to a coffee house you go. The Starbucks Reserved Roastery in downtown Seattle is unlike any place I’ve ever visited. It’s a coffee lovers dream and for those of us in ministry, you can learn a lot. What the Starbucks Reserved Roastery taught me about ministry is:

Build A Crowd With Clear Communication

Last Thursday night Sonic opened up a restaurant by my church.  Sonic Restaurants are nothing new to the Maryland area; however, this was a big deal.  The lines were long, and the place was packed.  For them to build a crowd was no problem. When it comes to the corporate world most companies have a professional marketing, and communication strategy.

When it comes to church ministry marketing getting the word out and building a crowd isn’t as easy.  Your resources are limited, and you do not always have the personnel to help you get the word out quickly and effectively.  In fact youth ministry marketing can be a little messy.  To overcome the obstacles and build a crowd in your ministry you need to:

Fold Inspiration Into Your Meetings

I used to hate Tuesdays.  It was one of those days where staff sat in one room for a meeting that lasted for hours. It had been a useful meeting when the team was only 5 people; however, as the staff grew so did the length of the meeting.  Eventually people didn’t want to be there (including myself) and that became obvious.  Instead of leaving full of inspiration, we left drained.  Fortunately, we did a face lift on meetings and made sure that each came with:

  • A SENSE OF PURPOSE
  • CLEAR AND ORGANIZED AGENDA

While not all meetings are designed to be fun, they should have an element of inspiration.  The end of your meetings should be a commission. You are sending your people out to go and GET THE JOB DONE.  Unfortunately people have preconceived notions that meetings are boring; therefore, fold in that inspiration by:

  • Provoke The Passion – In order to move your team forward you need to help them care. You need to do more than present a problem.  You need to paint a picture. Build inspiration by laying out the impact of your mission. Cast a vision and grow their heart by casting into their lives a vision.
  • Lay Out The Facts – Not everyone is motivated by emotion, some people receive inspiration from numbers and stats. Create a clear and accurate account of the data. Provide enough data for people to see how you can accomplish what you need to do and watch them move forward.
  • Give Direction – Even if you have their heart strings and filled them with reason, you need a plan to set them forward. Many times we spend a meeting heavy with facts and story, but lack the answer to, “Now what?” Never conclude a meeting or a message without an action plan.

Improve your meetings by preparing ahead of time. Practice your delivery and gain feedback from trusted sources.  Remember it’s not just about getting together, it’s about creating a path, listing out clear facts and growing their hearts.

How do you fold inspiration into your meetings?  What’s your biggest meeting hangup?

GUEST POST: Do Parents Read Your Emails?

Courtesy of espensorvik/Creative Commons License

There are few things more frustrating than talking with an uninformed parent even though you’ve tried to give them information over and over and over again.

It happened to me last week.

We’d been pushing a large event for the better part of a month, Sunday came around, and things went very well. Then on Monday, I got a call from a parent, upset because she didn’t know about it.

I bit my tongue (nearly all the way through), and listened to her, but I knew that I’d emailed her at least three times in the past month about it. Turns out she hadn’t read a single one of those emails. There are many reasons why your email communication might be ineffective. Here are just a few of them.

You Don’t Have a Current Email Address: 

31% of people change their primary email address every year. If your email list is a few years old, how good could it possibly be? If you’re going to use email frequently, you need to find a way to confirm addresses at least once a year.

You (Or Your Church) Sends Unimportant Emails: 
The average person sends and receives 140 emails per day and can’t possibly process all of them. Email users learn to ignore unimportant messages, and if your church sends too many of those, they’ll learn to ignore all of them, unimportant or not.

Your Subject Line Is Bad:
Remember, people don’t open and read all of their emails. Your subject line needs to be persuasive. Here are a few examples:
  • BAD: Camp Information
  • GOOD: Sign Up for Camp this Week and Save $49
  • BAD: Youth Newsletter for 3/12/11
  • GOOD: [Youth Newsletter] We’re Going to Costa Rica!
  • BAD: Youth Group this Weekend
  • GOOD: Youth Meets at MY HOUSE this Sunday at 6:00

You’re Sending Emails At a Bad Time:  
This is my thorn. I typically work at home in the evening after I put kids to bed. The problem here is that if I send an email at 10 p.m. to someone’s work address, they might not check email until the next morning when my message has come in along with three dozen other overnight messages. Use a scheduled send program like Outlook or Boomerang for Gmail to deliver emails at appropriate times.
Did I miss anything? What do you do to make sure your emails get read?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like effective communication. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

Clearly Describe Your Ministry

Courtesy of David Locke/Creative Commons

A few months ago I had a youth minister from a local church visit me to discuss student ministry.    He wanted to know more about the ministry, what it is we did and how we did it.  I basically told my entire story, every detail and I probably repeated myself several times.  At the end he seemed very enthused; however, confused.  I hadn’t properly defined what it is my ministry was designed to do.  Instead of getting straight to the point I made the mistake of trying to explain everything.

There are people who are going to inquire about your ministry.  They are the parents looking for a spiritual home for their teens, an adult looking to get involved or a teen wanting to check it out.  If you can’t define for them what your ministry is designed to do, you’ll lose them.  In a world where there is so much constant and quick communication it’s necessary for you to know what you want to say and how to say it as directly as possible.  To do this you need to:

  • Have An Elevator Speech – An elevator speech is a memorable and well crafted description of why your ministry exists.  While you could go in detail about the event or what you will be discussing that week, people just want to know what it is you do.  An elevator speech packages it nicely so that you aren’t wasting people’s time and getting straight to the point. (For more on the elevator speech go here
  • Let Them Ask Questions – You might feel as if you need to answer a person’s question before they even ask them.  The problem with giving too much information is it might confuse your original point.  Don’t be afraid to make room for questioning, this allows the other person to process what you’ve said by digging deeper into the definition. 
  • Invite Them To The Experience – Sometimes words can only do so much, in the end they need to witness it for themselves.  When a parent, teen or an adult is interested in what you provide for teens the simplest way is to show them.  Invite them as a guest and then offer to sit down with them to answer any questions after the program concludes.

Sometimes we’ve been in the trenches so long that we assume everyone has experienced what we have.  When you have this mentality it’s easy to grow frustrated, that’s why it’s important to define what it is you do.  When you can describe to others your ministry and job clearly, you will not only gain support but insight on how you can better grow.

How do you make sure people have a clear picture of your ministry?