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.

Jesse Email Tag
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: Christian School Kids

Have you ever wondered what to do with Christian School kids in your group? Why don’t you let a Christian School kid give you some tips.

Written by Kaylan Mah (a Christian School kid) 

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

Author Info: Kaylan is a Grade 12 students from Vancouver Canada. She attends a local Christian School and is a fantastic writer. She uses her blog no2paths to help impact her world and she is making huge waves for Jesus.

DOWNLOAD PDF: How to minister to Christian School kids


I’ve always wondered what my life and faith would be like if I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home, going to first a Christian elementary school and then a Christian high school. It’s really easy to start taking faith for granted when you’re surrounded by it. It becomes almost like background noise that you acknowledge but don’t engage with because it’s just there. However, I’ve found that church, especially youth group, is a really unique place to learn more about God. Unlike school, most people are there because they want to be, even if it’s just to hang out with friends. That means our minds and hearts are open to learn or experience something. 

 I think there’s a lot of expectation that Christian school kids are the ones with strong faiths, and maybe they don’t need to be reached out to as much at church. That’s not true. Christian education might offer a faith-based perspective to the world, but Christianity is about more than the facts and stories. It’s also a relational faith, and teachers can’t reach out to every single student.

 At this point in life teens are kind of at a crossroads, where they’ll either keep pursuing their faith or they’ll get bored of it and leave the church. This is why it’s so important for you as youth pastors and leaders to be intentional in your interactions with us. Speaking for myself, I want to go deeper. I want to learn from Christians older and more mature than me about how to live out my faith. I want to be empowered and equipped with the tools and wisdom I’ll need in my life.

 Here are 8 things that I think youth pastors and leaders need to know about ministry to Christian school kids. 

 1) Dive into the Bible with us; teach us how to read Scripture. 

As a Christian school kid I’ve grown up with all the head knowledge: I can recite the Bible stories, I can tell you about the resurrection of Jesus and I could even share the Gospel with you. But it was only recently that I actually started reading the Bible in bigger chunks, rather than just specially-chosen passages that tell me what I want to hear. It wasn’t because of anything anybody told me, it was because I felt a personal need to get to know God that way. I wish I had started earlier because I’m learning so much about the nature of God, our role as Christians in the world, and the life of Jesus.

At church I think it’s great to do different series about practical topics that teens should know about, but I want to use my Bible more than just pulling up the app during a sermon. Small groups are an amazing opportunity to connect with others and grow together spiritually, and at least some of this time together should be utilized for Bible study. While answers to different faith-related questions can be helpful, my desire is more to be equipped to find these answers in Scripture for myself. Teach us how to read the Bible and understand it, how to think critically about the world in light of God’s word and how to interact with an unbelieving society.

 2) Find angles to familiar stories and topics that are unique, AND hit us with unfamiliar passages.

Growing up Christian, you end up hearing the same inspirational verses and passages over and over. It kind of desensitizes us to them. Yes it is important to still teach about them, but find unique angles and relate them to our current situations. Try to go beyond the surface level of any given passage. Dig deeper into context with us. Share how this passage impacted your own life. I personally feel like I take the most away from a lesson when throughout the sermon, or at the end, there are practical points – ways we can live out what we learned. 

On top of that, utilize less familiar passages because sometimes hearing something for the first time is what really makes a certain lesson stick. 

3) Teach us how to engage with the world.

Growing up going to Christian schools and churches can actually be harmful if we memorize all the typical Christian answers to life questions, but then go out into the world, get hit with what other people believe about life, and realize that our Sunday school answers aren’t going to cut it. It can make us question our own beliefs.

Our world is becoming more and more “secular,” and we need to know how to engage with the different topics out there. Discuss things like science, politics and entertainment; what we believe about them as Christians, and how we should deal with them in our lives.

For example, discuss questions like:

    • How do we follow Jesus’ example when interacting with those in the LGBTQ and Liberal communities?
    • Are science and Christianity mutually exclusive? 
    • Is it okay to watch violent movies? Support entertainment with sexual content?

4) Expect maturity from teens.

Don’t talk down to us. Go as deep with your teaching as you would with adults, but use illustrations and applications that make sense for teens.

Christian school kids especially can often see through fluff in a message. We decide that we’ve heard this before, that there’s no meat and nothing new you have to offer to us, and we get bored and tune out of the sermon. Give us something we can chew on and even struggle through, and let us know that you’re there to discuss anything and answer questions. This leads into the next point.

5) Emphasize the importance of a relationship with God.

Many of the people around me have been in Christian schools for much of their lives. Yet I see them go through so many struggles, and I don’t think their faith supports them because it’s not real to them. I’ve heard and seen so much evidence that people have the information about God in their head but don’t actually put it into practice. We need to understand the importance of knowing God personally, encouraged to pursue a walk with him, and then taught how we can do that. I think it all comes back to equipping us to pursue God through time in the Word and in prayer.

6) We need intentional mentoring and discipling.

Discipleship and mentorship is a huge thing that is often overlooked. I think many people (of any age) have a need for someone to come alongside them in their faith journey, but they don’t realize it or don’t know how to move forward finding someone who can help them. 

In the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples (and us) to “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and he goes on to instruct them to teach everyone to obey all he has commanded. The Great Commission is often used in the context of Christians telling unbelievers about God, but the word “disciples” is used here. Jesus’ own disciples had a mentor: Jesus himself. The discipleship he models is important to follow in the church, and I think there is so much benefit in starting young. 

As teens we’re going through changes and hard things in life, and yes we can turn to God, but sometimes what really helps is talking to someone older and more mature who has gone through similar things, or someone who can just guide you through it and keep you accountable and on track with your faith. It’s different from small groups, where the leader can only engage so much with each member. One-on-one mentoring or smaller groups for regular discipleship are something I think people like me could really benefit from. 

Sometimes it’s hard for a student to reach out to a leader or someone older. Maybe they feel a need for guidance but aren’t quite sure exactly what they need. That’s where intentionality comes in. They need someone reaching out to them. It can be as simple as someone asking how they are, and then taking time to engage in a deeper conversation.  

Sometimes students put up this “I want to talk, but it takes time” wall. How do you push through it? First of all, show you care about us. Ask questions, not to be nosy, but to show interest in our lives. My youth pastor has this thing where he asks about our love, life and faith.  

It’s usually hard to bring up hard topics, even if there’s something we want to share, whether it’s to get advice or just get the words out. In conversations, show us that you’re willing to talk about things that go beyond surface level. When a student sees a leader being vulnerable, sharing their own stories and struggles, it makes it easier to open up about ourselves.  

I know that youth leaders or anyone older can’t be expected to know intuitively how to mentor someone. I think it should be something that’s talked about more, and my church took a big step in the right direction with a conference on discipleship. It can be really beneficial to have practical training sessions on how to be a mentor and speak into the lives of others walking with Christ. 

7) Remind us that doubt is okay.

I think there are many people out there who have doubts about Christianity. But they see those around them owning their faith and think “why don’t I have it together like them?” It makes them think that they don’t belong, that they’re not “real” Christians. 

We need to be told that it’s okay to have doubts and questions. It doesn’t mean that we’re not believers or that our faith is somehow less than everyone else’s. That’s why it’s so important for youth group to be a safe community, a place where it’s okay to be vulnerable and admit that we don’t know or understand everything, whether or not we’ve grown up with Christianity. Create a space where it is okay for us to ask questions, even basic ones that “you should know already.”

I also think that many people leave the church because they’ve heard the same things over and over and it becomes boring or unmeaningful. But don’t worry that we’ll end up questioning our faith. You don’t have to tailor your sermons or lessons to be nice and pretty, so that nobody will feel convicted or challenged or confused at the end. The important thing to remember is that God is a big God and he’s big enough to be questioned. Let that happen.

8) Challenge us.

This connects to several of the points above. It’s true that many people who go to youth group are there to have fun with friends, but there are also those who desire a deeper relationship with God and need direction with that. Challenge them to grow deeper in Christ. While it’s important to be drawing in non-believers with events where people can just hang out, eat food and play games, I think youth pastors and leaders should make an effort to seek out the kids who are truly serious about their faith and focus on challenging them. 

It can go beyond this too. There are students out there who not only want to grow their own faith, but care about reaching others. Whether or not our friends are Christian, we’ve all been placed by God in a unique situation, able to reach a unique group of people. As my pastor likes to say, students are the best equipped to reach students. This is why student leadership is important. Guide us in the best ways we can influence others through our words and actions. 

Start Small

Maybe the points I mentioned above seem totally overwhelming to you, or maybe you feel like you’re doing great at all of them already. I encourage you to think and pray about all of these things, because there is always room for growth. And as youth group kids we’re not just statistics or projects, we’re people.

I think the first step and perhaps the most important way to reach us Christian school kids, or anyone else, is by being intentional about relationship. I’m going back to the point about mentorship for a moment. It can seem like a big intimidating thing. But mentorship really is about engaging with us on a personal level, not just “hi I’m your small group leader, let’s read the Bible together” but caring about our lives and our growth as people and Christians. We’re relational beings, so I think the most important place to start is by showing us that we’re loved, and then going from there. 

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”

NETWORKING DEFINITION

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. 

DEALING WITH THE MAJOR COMMENTS

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. 

SO HOW DO I NETWORK WHEN I DON’T LIKE NETWORKING?

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. 

Tips

  • 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.

Tips

  • 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.

TIPS

  • 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. 

PRACTICE MAKE PERFECT

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.