How To: Prioritize Work

Recently of one of the people, I coach asked me the following question and I thought I would share my response and a weekly template you can try out on your own.

Written by Jesse Criss

Series Intro: There is a ton of things that happen in ministry that are just never really thought at Bible School. Being a Pastor involves a lot of on the ground training. This series is designed to help you with those “How To…” moments

Recently of one of the people, I coach asked me the following question and I thought I would share my response. Not because I’m so wise but because the question forced me to recognize a mistake I’ve been making in my leadership over the last few years.

Question: How do you know what parts of your job to prioritize?

I once had a friend tell me the first and most important thing to check off your to-do list each week should be the things that are seen as primary for your supervisor, boss or sr leadership. Because that is what they will be checking for first and foremost. However, when you get done what is most important first you get to move on to what you want to probably do. However, over time it will give you the credibility and freedom to be able to chase after what you feel is important because you will have a reputation for getting things done.

This was the mistake I often made over the last few years. I’m a person who always has a few projects on the go. I’m trying something new, writing out dreams, crafting a five-year plan etc…and because they were important to me they tended to take priority in my workday. However, they were not always important to my team, boss or sr leadership.

Here is the order of priority I wish someone had given me, and it’s what I passed on to the person I’m coaching.

  1. Mission Critical – These are the things that MUST be done this week for ministry to happen. Without them, someone will probably want to fire you. Example: Write the sermon you need for Youth Group before Youth Group. 
  2. Boss Priorities – These are the expectations of your leadership. They may not be daily things but they will probably be regular things. They may line up with MissionCritical stuff but not necessarily. Example: Filling out/submitting your timesheet on time
  3. Team Priorities – Is there anything your work/ministry team is waiting on you to complete so they can move forward in their job. Example: Booking the park for the kick-off event so that team member whos running games knows how much space they have to play on. 
  4. Leader/Student Priorities – Has a student/leader asked you to do something for them this week, or do you need to get back someone about a question they had. Example: Sending a leader the spiritual gifts test (Sorry Heather) they asked for so they can follow up with a student. 
  5. Personal Priorities – This is the stuff you want to get done. They may fall into some of the same categories as above but I would make the distinction that these are probably passion projects. Things that make you love what you do every day. Example: Creating space to dream about the future of your ministry, or inventing a new game/event for youth that you will eventually do. It’s important but it’s not mission-critical. 

The reality is the first three things on this list are probably weekly routine stuff that you just need to get done. If your responsible for all your administration then getting that stuff done (unless you’re like me) is the LAST thing you want to do. However, the last two priorities are often very life-giving. They directly full our passions and are often a bit more exciting.

The reality is once the first three priorities are out of the way you can get to the stuff that drives your passion and energizes you if the middle to end of the day when most of us are fighting the tendency to leave early.

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If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.

How To: Networking

This is a guide for all those people who know they have to network but don’t really like doing it.

Written by Jesse Criss and Edited by Michelle Murray-Schlitt

Series Intro: There is a ton of things that happen in ministry that are just never really thought at Bible School. Being a Pastor involves a lot of on the ground training. This series is designed to help you with those “How To…” moments

DOWNLOAD PDF: How To Guide Networking

Recently I had the opportunity to go to the Orange Conference in Atlanta and it was fantastic. I love big conferences because not only are they an amazing time away with my teammates, I also get to do something that I love… networking. However, when I got back I was talking with a friend who is on their way to a large conference for their work and he was dreading the networking he would have to do. He said things like:

  1. There is always a line
  2. I just don’t know what to say
  3. They don’t really want to talk to me
  4. Why does this even matter

As we talked it became clear that he DID NOT LIKE networking and yet he knows the value that comes from networking. So, for my friend I have decided to write this guide about “How to Network when you don’t like networking”. To get us started let’s first define what I mean by “networking”


The Webster’s dictionary defines networking as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”. This very textbook answer implies the passing of information or services for the purpose of cultivating productivity. Basically, you network with an individual to make a positive productivity point in your relationship or business. To break it down one more level, networking is about making connections that have benefits. 

Now the question of what kind of benefits is where some of the debate has been around networking. Is it all business? Does it need to be a positive increase to both parties? How do relationships fit into all of this? These are great questions but I think they distract from the simplicity that I actually think networking is all about. I would define networking as follows.

Networking is the building of relational touch points where there can be an exchange of information, or services. However, without the relational foundation the lasting impact of the network can be in question. 

This shifts networking from purely a business activity to one of connection and deeper understanding. I have always found that the more personal relational moments I can have with a person I’m networking with the better quality the connection has. For example, one of my closest friends and mentors Randy has been in my life since I 13 years old. He was a camp speaker and over the years I would take time to chat with him, remind him of the people we knew in common and share stories. One day we ended up in a meeting room together for a project we were both working on and all those little moments over time led to a stronger connection. That connection led to me asking him to be my mentor through one of the hardest seasons of my life. But it all started because I stayed after chapel once at camp to introduce myself to the speaker. 


Now that we have a working definition about what Networking is let’s deal with 3 of the 4 comments my friend made to me about networking. These comments are not unique to him, in fact this is often what I hear about networking opportunities and they are in some way’s valid. However, I think they are only half of the picture. All three statements can be true BUT that doesn’t mean that networking shouldn’t happen. 

  • There is always a line: Yes, sometimes this is true BUT I often think waiting in the line is the currency you pay for the time with the person. People are busy in a modern world and people’s time is of high value. I have often believed that the wait to talk to someone is equal to the time you are taking up with your question. It doesn’t mean if you wait 10min you get 10min, but what it does mean is that to ask your question/s costs you both something, in this case, time. However, over time and multiple encounters your first 10min may pay off a hundred-fold.
  • I just don’t know what it say: This is where most people actually get caught up and I’m going to suggest some things you can say in the second half of this guide. However, for now think about this comment this way, if you say nothing you will get nothing. By that I mean that networking is all about relational touch points. A simple “hi my name is Jesse”… can over time turn into “Randy can you mentor me”. Now this does not happen all the time, but if you never say anything you will never get anything. 
  • They don’t really want to talk to me: This might be true for a handful of people you meet but it’s been my experience that more often than not they actually would really like to talk to you. Every public speaker knows that talking to the crowd is part of the gig, and every public speaker knows that crowd is their bread and butter. They are only a public speaker if the crowd continues to show up. Trust most of the time they want to talk to you because it affirms that the crowd is still listening. The worst feeling is the world is give a big talk and not having anyone come up after and at least say thanks… trust me it’s not fun. 

Now before we move of to the practical section of this guide let deal with the last comment because it’s really the most important one. 

Why does this even matter? 

We have established what networking is, addressed the major comments about networking but now we need to understand why it’s even important. If we go back to our working definition for Networking, “Networking is the building of relational touch points where there can be an exchange of information, or services. However, without the relational foundation the lasting impact of the network can be in question.” we start to see the answer to the “Why”.

For me Networking is all about relationship. We were created for relationship with God and each other. It’s hardwired into who we are as people. From the very beginning God designed humanity to be in relationship and it’s that desire to build relationships that I actually think fuels activities like Networking. 

Yes, I know that you’re going to say that, “Relationships are a lot of work” and they are, there is no getting around that fact. To build into people requires work and our most valuable currency… time. However, I think it take more energy and dedication to function in our world as a solo act. Because to do so would push against our very nature and that has a strain and toll on the mind, body and soul. 

This is why Networking matters, it meets a core need we have to be in relationships and community with those around us by giving us the direct benefit of sharing ideas and resources that help us in turn build better relationships and deeper communities. To network is to fuel this cycle over and over again. 


All of the above now sets us up to answer the main question of this guide, how do I network when I don’t like networking? And in order to do that I’m going to split my answers into the three reasons people network. 

DISCLAIMER: There is no ONE WAY to do any of this because people are people not projects. We are not all “cookie-cutters” of each other. The people in my world are completely different then the people in your world. So in the BIG theory of it all we can see some patterns and practices but we’re painting with a broad brush. 

1) Business Networking

Business Networking is what we think of most when we think of networking. This is the creation of relational touch points for the exchange of information or services. Basically, you’re hoping to get something from them and in return you are offering something in return. The classic example of this is meeting speakers and vendors at a conference. They are hoping you buy what they are saying or selling and you are hoping to make a connection to an inside track about a particular product or service. 


  • When it comes to conferences and speakers think about the following method for networking.
  • Introduce yourself and what you do (they want to meet people to) and ask one of three questions.
    • Q1I’m just starting out in __________ and wonder what kind of advice you could offer me as I get started? WHY: This question helps put your face and name into their memory
    • Q2Based on what you said, I was wondering _________________________? WHY: This question is a door for more conversation about what they said or what you are offering. This is the question with the best room for immediate follow-up. 
    • Q3 Would I be able to get your notes and email you some follow-up questions? WHY: This question is all about the long game on connection and relationship. The notes give you something to walk away with and the email information gives you a point of connection. You can also then refer to where and when you met to help bring your face and this conversation to their minds. 


  • Respect their time and the others waiting behind you. If you monopolize their time they will remember.
  • It is 100% worth waiting in line especially if you plan on attending the conference more than once or you think the odds are high your paths will cross again. 
  • Never forget the golden rule… “people are people not projects or possessions”. Treat businesses networks as people and you will be surprised at the depth and fruit that will come from your contacts. 

2) Relational Networking

Relational Networking is what I think of when I’m meeting people in a room for the first time but it’s not businesses orientated. A good example of this might be a church BBQ, a block party or birthday party your kid has been invited to but you don’t know any of the other parents. Basically, there is a room full of strangers and your expected to mingle and meet people.


  • Think of asking questions from the F.R.O.M acronym
    • Family: Can you tell me something about your family?
    • Recreation: What do you like to do for fun? do you play any sports?
    • Occupation: Where do you work?
    • Memory: What was your favourite birthday party growing up as a kid?
  • Then make sure you actually LISTEN to the response. Most people are thinking about the next question while someone is answering their first one. A better strategy would be to listen to what they say, then respond and repeat. 
  • Try your best not to force the conversation let it be natural
  • Do whatever you can to try and remember their names. One tip is to try and use it as your respond back to them.

3) Personal Networking

Personal Networking is when we take time to meet people we want to get to know on a more personal level. Typically, these are people that run in our same social circle, clubs, sports teams or parents from our kids’ car pool. These are typically people you know already but want to know on a deeper level. This is more than the surface level of Relational Networking and the different then the results-based Business Networking.


  • Remember people are people not projects.
  • If the goal is depth you need to be willing to be vulnerable first. If you want to go deeper with someone but are unwilling to open up and allow them to go deeper with you this isn’t going to work.
  • Use what you have in common as a starting block and build on that over time. Basically, start with what you know, and organically build on that over time.
  • This type of Networking is about the long game, so be patient and trust the process. 


We have covered the definition of Networking, “Networking is the building of relational touch points where there can be an exchange of information, or services. However, without the relational foundation the lasting impact of the network can be in question”. We have address the major comments people make about Networking. We also look at ways that you can Network in business, relationally and personally but at the end of the day it’s all theory unless you actually go out there and NETWORK.

My challenge to you is that over the next 3 weeks you try and make 3 networking connections in the 3 major areas (Business, Relational and Personal). The goal is not the number, remember people aren’t projects, or how well you do. Rather the goal is to get out there and try. The more you try the more comfortable you will be. The more comfortable you are the more you will try and when that next major opportunity comes your way you will be ready. 

EXTRA CHALLENGE: I would love to hear your Networking Stories and maybe even post some of them here on Fresh Ministry Consulting. You can email me HERE and tell me you’re Networking Story. 

How To: Weddings

Every Pastor at some point in time will get asked to do a wedding, but are you ready?

Written by Jesse Criss and Edited by Michelle Murray-Schlitt

Series Intro: There is a ton of things that happen in ministry that are just never really thought at Bible School. Being a Pastor involves a lot of on the ground training. This series is designed to help you with those “How To…” moments

DOWNLOAD PDF: How To Guide Weddings

Every Pastor at some point in time will get asked to do a wedding. In the world of Youth Ministry this is actually fairly commonplace. Either because your young 20’s leaders start to get married or the relationship you develop with some of your students extends beyond High School. Either way you will be asked to do a wedding because on this very special day no one wants it to be done by a stranger. Most people’s preference is to have someone they know lead this in this most important moment. 

This opportunity gives you the ability to do a few things.

  1. Speak into their lives: Often being asked to do a wedding is also an invitation to speak into their lives. It a chance for you to ask critical questions about their love, life and faith. You may get asked to do their pre-marital even and though that is outside the scope of this guide I would recommend checking out Prepare and Enrich (check out
  2. Help them understand what marriage is: Our world has a messed-up view of marriage. They see it as a “thing” that can be switched out or cancelled at any time. The reality is much different right? Marriage is the union of two becoming one. Genesis 2:24 clearly communicates this principle and is often used in weddings, For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh”. Your role is to help them understand this reality as they take this next step in their relationship. 
  3. Bring a word of encouragement: Every wedding ceremony should have a “Word of Encouragement” but not a sermon. This is short note crafted for the bride and groom to encourage them going forward. This is not time for a full-blown sermon on marriage. Frankly no one is there to hear you preach. But the bride and groom do want to hear from you. Champion them, encourage them even challenge them but keep it uplifting and SHORT.  
  4. Prayer of Blessing: My favourite part of performing a wedding sermon is the final prayer of blessing and dedication. It’s an opportunity to intercede for the couple and pray over them in what can be a very powerful way.

The very first time I was asked to do a wedding was for close friends of mine it was terrifying. I was so worried that I would make a mistake, slip up, say the wrong names or just wreck their most important day. But in all honesty, it was FANTASTIC. I still messed up a bit, but no one really cared because they were all there for the couple, not for me. However, for that couple my presence meant the world to them.  

I think that is why as pastors we need to say yes to officiating weddings. The couple is choosing to invite you into their story, and not just any part of their story… the beginning of this new journey. You get to partner with them and set a path forward for them to travel. It’s exciting, powerful, emotional and a ton of fun.  

Now there is no simple way to tell you what a wedding should look like because every wedding is a bit different but here are the COMMON ELEMENTS all weddings need to have.

  • ENTRANCE: This is the order, process or method that the wedding party will be coming down to. Depending on the size and scope of the wedding party this can be a very easy step or the most complicated part of the whole process. It always ends with the coming of the bride.  
  • WELCOME: Typically there is a welcome on behalf of the Bride and Groom. 
  • WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT: This is your spot to encourage the couple and those in attendance. This is NOT the spot for a 45min sermon on what the bible says about marriage, infidelity and divorce (trust me it happens). 
  • EXCHANGING VOWS: Vows are meant to be a declaration of the couples commitment to each other. Its good to have a few samples but encourage them to be creative and write something that fits them and who they want to be as a couple.  
  • EXCHANGING RINGS: This is an opportunity to talk about the unending love of God and the model of marriage we see in scripture.  
  • PRONOUNCEMENT: This is your “kiss the bride” moment 
  • SIGNING THE LICENCE: Most places need a legal documentation with witnesses to make a marriage legitimate under the law. This usually take about 5 minutes and is extremely important that it is done correctly.  
  • BENEDICTION/PRAYER: Final moment to pray and bless the couple 
  • INTRODUCTION: The first formal introduction of the newlywed couple.

Regardless of what COMMON ELEMENTS you use to create the wedding. I have always believed it’s extremely important that the couple be okay with things like word choice and how things sound. This is after all THEIR DAY and often they need to repeat after you. What you say matters a lot to them and should be of high priority to you. I always tell my couples that we need all these things but how they look, sound and feel is completely up to them. 


  • Always look over the wedding license before you leave the wedding or mail the form. Make sure you have everything where it belongs.  
  • Know how big of a wedding party you’re willing to work with. When each person has 6 attendants, parents, grandparents and long lost relative all part of the ENTRANCE it can be a lot of work to organize. 
  • Send a prayer to God thanking Him if they have a wedding planner.
  • Be careful of all the extras, they take time and sometimes can be confusing. Things like sand pours, parent candles, breaking dishes, communion, worship are not issues in themselves but they can distract and take up a lot of time. 
  • Stand to the side before you make the PRONOUNCEMENT. When they have their first kiss don’t be in the shot.

At the end of the day I have ONE RULE that guides it all….

RULE: You have been invited into one of this couples most important days. It’s a high honour and we must never forget WE ARE NOT the focus… they are. It’s their special day and our job is to highlight the commitment they are making to each other and to God.  

The following Wedding contains two Sample Wedding write-ups, my Wedding Info Sheet and a Sample Program. You  are welcome to adapt and use anything and if you have any questions feel free to contact me here at Fresh Ministry Consulting.