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Why high expectations are central for an effective team

The health of a ministry will depend almost entirely on the health of the leaders of that ministry.

In youth ministry, we totally rely on volunteer leaders to keep ministries running and to make a difference in young peoples lives. There is always the tension between getting as many volunteers as we can because we always need more and getting the right people for the job. Often I see people compromise on who they let into their teams or the terms they let them in on and I see their ministry suffer for it. I have also done this a number of times.

While it is important to get the right people on your team (maybe this is another post), it is just as important to have a healthy team culture that these people enter into. A healthy team culture can straighten out a number of kinks in a person’s character or reliability. Just as a healthy person can still be dysfunctional within an unhealthy team environment, a healthy team environment will help bring out the strengths in all your leaders and help them grow in their leadership potential. So how do you grow a healthy leadership team and how do you create a healthy culture within the ministry you lead?

I have found that having high expectations of your volunteers and setting clear boundaries is one of the best practices you can have in creating a healthy leadership culture and, in turn, a healthy ministry. Now, many people shy away from this because they are scared of losing leaders but I have found the exact opposite to be true. Here are a number of reasons to set the bar high when it comes to your volunteer team:

  •  You get rid of unhealthy dysfunctional people that were bringing your ministry down. Let’s be honest, we have all had those people in our ministry and they hurt kids more than help them. They kill team moral and simply bring something unhealthy into the ministry that is hard to get rid of.
  •  You give people something to strive for. People actually want to be stretched and challenged. They want to grow. Healthy leaders are people that are looking for things that will increase  their potential and grow their skills.
  •  You communicate that this matters. How high you set the bar communicates how important this ministry is and how much it matters. I don’t know about you, but I want to be involved in things that matter and are important. I want to be involved in things that I know are going to make a difference. Asking more from your leaders communicates that this ministry matters and this, in turn, creates a greater sense of belonging to something important which then creates a greater sense of ownership and investment which creates a healthier ministry. Setting that bar low, however, does the opposite of all this. If you want a healthy ministry set the bar high.
  •  You communicate clearly. It is actually just a very practical tool to let people know where they stand and what is expected of them. What’s the time commitment? What events do they need to attend and what time do they need to turn up? What tasks do they need to do each week? This helps bring clarity and again makes it easier for them to own the role. The parents of your junior leaders will also love that they know what their children are signing up for.
  •  You avoid conflict and create accountability. All this clear communication of expectations and responsibilities cuts off so much of the nasty stuff called conflict that so many unhealthy teams are infected with. We have communicated clearly, we have set the bar high, people have signed up being clear on all this, there is much less chance for things to go awry. And if they do, you have a whole lot of stuff to fall back on. You have a signed code of conduct where the leader agreed they would not engage in this activity. This makes it much easier to have the conversation about what they got up to on the weekend or what they posted on Facebook. With high expectations and clear communication comes a high level of accountability which again grows the health of your team and the effectiveness of your ministry.

This year in our youth ministry I updated the leadership role description (yes we have one) and code of conduct (yes we have one of those too).  It is now a two page document that leaves no room for people to claim they don’t know what they are getting into and what is expected of them.  My leaders actually appreciate this as it makes things much simpler for them. The new documents we are using this year have been adapted from some material I got from the kind folks at St Hillary’s Anglican church in Kew, Melbourne. You can down load our role description below.

Next time you are starting a team, don’t settle for ‘whoever and whatever’, because you will end up with a ‘whatever’ ministry.  Set the bar high and see how your ministry flourishes.  If you don’t get any volunteers with the bar so high, maybe you weren’t supposed to do it in the first place.  Sometimes no ministry program is better than a dysfunctional, unhealthy ministry program. If you are in an existing ministry and things are really bad, then consider raising the bar in a number of increments so there isn’t too much of a culture shock. But if you’re starting out new, start high.

If you’re interested in the leadership agreement we use or would like to adapt it for your setting, you can download it here.

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You tube Faith talk

You tube Faith talk

The guys over at the Rethinking Youth Ministry blog are doing a great series on creating faith discussion around you tube clips. This weeks is on the meaning of life and is particularly worth sharing. There are three videos and a bunch of questions for reflection.  A whole your night or small group discussion could be done around this.

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A great short video that paints a beautiful picture of the impact of the Resurrection. Share it with your youth kids sometime this week.

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Getting closer to Easter

As we get closer to Easter, is it time for us to get closer to Easter.

We can sometimes really struggle to get close to people in our lives  or certain events because getting close can be confronting.  If i get close to you, i need to share myself more with you.  i need to get vulnerable, i need to let my guard down.  Getting close to people is scary.

It’s the same with Easter.  i find it quite easy to skim over Easter with the normal christian language of Jesus dying for my sins, that we throw around so easily, and not actually stop and get close to what this means for me.

when i let myself get close to Easter, it takes on new meaning for me. it speaks in a fresh way into my life.  most of all, it confronts me. it confronts me with what was actually done for me. it confronts me with my sin. it confronts me with what has been won for me through this act of death on a cross.


I did a chapel on this today and wrote up a small group discussion for out senior youth program tonight. this resource has my notes from the school chapel service, small group discussion questions and a prayer station guide for a time of quiet Reflection time.

CLICK HERE to download it and use it in your ministry.


I am reading Dallas Willards book, the Devine conspiracy. Just read this ripper quote. “If my pride is untouched when I pray for forgiveness, I have not prayed for forgiveness. I don’t even understand it.

Pride and forgiveness

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Trust and Teams

Do you trust the people in your team?

This could be one of the most important questions you could ask yourself when forming or re-evaluating your ministry team.

Without trust the effectiveness of a team is greatly diminished and the impact in ministry is reduced. So what exactly does trust look like for a team leader?

As i have reflected on this over the last week i have come to believe that there are two types of trust that a team leader needs to exercise and they are both very different.

Trust from experience and understanding 
This is the type of trust that does not come easily.  It only comes after long evaluation and consideration and prayer.  This is the type of trust where you need to suss a person out first and get to know them before you can trust them. This is informed trust.

if you are the leader of a team then it is important to exercise this type of trust when forming a team and letting new members onto a team.  You need to know and understand your people. Know their faith, know their background. What makes them tick and know if they are going to be a valuable addition to your team of if they will cause trouble. I have been caught out in the past forming teams and just chucking anyone on there without first getting to know and trust them.  These people have the potential to become a burden on your team and on your ministry.  Sometimes you can fluke it and get it right but, it’s not worth the risk.

If you leading a team, you need to be able to trust your team. To do this you need to know your team members. This means being informed

So what’s the other type of trust?

Blind trust
So maybe blind trust isn’t the best phrase to use but it gives a good picture of what I am talking about.  Once I have made an informed decision to trust my team members and let them onto my team, I can now have faith in them to carry out the tasks they are entrusted with. Sometimes I can even trust them with something I know that they might not get it right, but trust that they will learn from it.  It is a trust that puts a leader into a new situation and trusts that they will pull it off. It’s giving a Leader a group to lead and trusting they will not stuff it up.

Often I will have leaders come to me expressing their doubt in their ability to achieve a task they have.  I always remind them that I asked them to be on this team because I trust that they can do it.  I trust them with the kids in our youth ministry.  The leader might not see it in themselves, but I do and I trust them and I make sure they know this.

What is really going on here with these two types of trust is that one is about character and one is about ability.  I need to know my leader’s character is solid before I let them onto my team.  once I have chosen to trust that, I am happy to trust them with any task because even if their ability may not be up to scratch, I know their character is. And no matter how the task turns out, i trust that they will grow and learn.

So really both trust are about their character but the second allows me to empower my team and show them I believe in what they are capable of.

So how are you trusting you team?

If you can trust them. How are you empowering them with your trust?

If you can’t trust them, what are you doing to address this, reconcile or maybe adjust your team so you can trust and empower them?


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The closest interface I have with God, is not my behaviour and action.

I was catching up with my mentor the other night and he dropped this pearl of wisdom on me. We were wrestling with the idea of spiritual disciplines and the grace of God.  On one hand as Christians we state that we are saved by the Grace of God and nothing i do can make God love me more and be more present in my life.  On the other hand we beat this drum of doing certain things to grow closer to God. Can we get to caught up in the action that we miss being close to God.  more thoughts on this latter maybe. So what is the closest interface you have with God

The closest int…

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