I wanted to address something that is very important to me. Networking. Call it what you want, I call it survival. After many moons of student ministry, the things that I treasure most apart from my savior, my wife and kids, and XBOX Live…is my networking relationships with other Youth Pastors on the frontlines of student ministry.

There is a funny illustration that one of my good friends used while he was talking to one of my former students. I am sure he ripped off the story, but it went something like this. “A reporter was at a small paper and wanted to impress his friend by telling him that he had gotten an interview with the town mayor. His friend Bob was happy for him and said, “hey, when you see the mayor, tell him Bob said Hi.” The reporter was obviously disheartened when he found out that his friend already knew the mayor. Sometime later, after the reporter had moved up in the world of reporting…got an interview with the president. He phoned his friend Bob and let him know what he was up to. Bob was excited for his friend and said, “hey, when you see the President, tell him Bob said Hi.” The reporter was disheartened once again. Finally the reporter reached the zenith of his career and landed an interview with the Pope. He quickly dialed his friend Bob to let him know what he was doing in the hopes of impressing Bob. Bob was very excited for him. When the reporter got to the Vatican there was a large crowd gathered as the Pope was coming out to greet the people. The reporter was floored when he looked up and saw Bob coming out with the Pope. He looked at the guy next to him and asked, “hey, who is that guy with the Pope?” The man replied, “I don’t know who the pope is, but that guy next to the guy with the funny hat is Bob!” A funny story. My friend was telling my former student that I was Bob…referring to the fact that he thought I “knew” everybody. I was flattered, but I would like to think that it is because I genuinely try to connect with those that I have been blessed to run into during this fun ride called life.

Networking with others is essential in this thing called student ministry. We cannot think that we have it all figured out. We don’t. We don’t always have the best ideas. The moment I realized that I can learn much from colleagues, mentors, and friends…that is when I began to figure it out. Here are some tips for expanding your network and by default, expanding your influence and the influence others have on your life and ministry.

· Be humble. Be the first to pick up the flag of another individual with great talents and ideas and wave it high. This is the same if they are youth pastors in other towns or even in your own community. If they feel you are genuinely interested in them and their success, it makes it easier to work together and squashes any “turf” issues from the beginning.

· Stay connected. Don’t let the only time you call/text/message that person to be when you are “pimping” your own stuff or events. Get to know their families, let them know that you are accessible and available to swap ideas.

· Pray for them and their ministry. Rejoice in their victories and encourage them in their “bumps” in ministry. I know I appreciate it when a friend that really “gets” what I am doing shows his/her support. Sometimes this is a thankless job and to know that others have an idea what we are going through really helps.

· Be Real. At the end of the day, we have all had a tenth grader we have invested in for months or years decide to just check out and try their hand at the world, throwing to the wind everything you feel they have learned in your ministry. It is a tough job. So be transparent in your dealings with others and they will feel more comfortable networking with you.

· Be sensitive for God’s timing. I can’t tell you how many times I have met a fellow youth pastor and it has been just what we both needed at the time. God has a way of bringing the right people together to swap ideas and encourage one another to further His kingdom. So keep your eyes open for “resources” that He puts in our paths.

· Don’t be discouraged if you don’t “click” right away. Sometimes the closest friends in ministry may start rocky. My best friend in ministry, Scott Quimby, told me that he didn’t like me very much when we first met.  I am not sure why, maybe it was because he is an only child, but our differences have helped our friendship strengthen over time.  Sometimes youth pastors are  hesitant to engage with other ministries. Maybe you or the other have been “burned” by some 6 month flame-out and they are licking their wounds.

· Pick up the phone. Call around and see who is working with students in your area. Have lunch and share passions for students. Don’t worry if they are in a different denomination. The majority of us have the common ground of Jesus Christ. So start there first. Find out why they do what they do and then see the first recommendation above. Don’t wait for others to call you. Make that first step out in faith and see what God has planned.

· Use these connections to share your concerns and/or “vent.” We often have to be careful sometimes in ministry by being perceived as “complaining” by members of our own churches. I get advice and bounce ideas about situations with my colleagues without getting into a gossip session. It helps a ton and I am a better youth pastor because of it.

· Share resources. I have many friends that are in churches that may not have the budget that I have. We have all been there, trying to stretch a budget. So give freely when you are blessed. Loan books, share props, large ticket items, and resources. Don’t be afraid to ask either. Take interest in their ministries and I have found they will take interest in yours. Recently, I have had several conversations with guys/gals that have struggled with tragedies in their ministries. This is a great time to share resources, experiences, and wisdom that battle scars from years of ministry leave us with. It is a blessing in the end, it doesn’t seem like it when you are going through a church split, firing, or the wisdom we gain from laboring through the loss of a student’s life in your community and ministry. We all have “I will never do that again” moments and if that wisdom helps someone else from making the same mistake, then that is a win-win situation.

· One final thought for now. Go to conventions and conferences. Even ones you may not necessarily want to. These are great places to network with like-minded people. The network of youth pastors that I have now have been my shoulders to lean on during my ministry time. Some of them have grown into wonderful mentors that can speak wisdom into my life and ministry. Give them the freedom to do just that, have a few people that you can rely on to speak the truth into your life…even if it hurts sometimes. We all need our card pulled sometimes and it is much easier coming from someone that you have a close relationship with and not just someone taking pop-shots at you from the peanut gallery. Networks of friends help you make it through the peanut gallery days.

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Weekly highlight videos I put together during our L.I.F.E. Emphasis during ’09.  Always a crowd pleaser for students to see themselves on the bigscreen!  Used Adobe Premiere for editing, shot on a Sony Mini-DV video camera.

Below you will see a few more examples of how to use video in your ministry.  I repeat…everyone looks cool in slow motion.

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The following video was literally shot in about a half-hour at a Student Leader (STUlea) pool party when we thought of a way to promote the new website for Flipside 517…and yes, I know it says it is under construction, we are reworking it right now and it will be up soon lookin’ sweet.

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Room Invasion TRoberts…example of trying to get footage from a room with minimal props/material around.  Obviously these won’t be near as funny without knowing the particular student involved, but we do what we can.  I hope this gets some creative juices flowing in your ministry.

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Carmen Lane

Carmen is a great resource to Youth Pastors and Student Ministries anywhere.  She has the ability to teach/share on a number of topics and I am sure you have a need in your ministry for effective female speakers.  Dating/Relationships, Student Evangelism, Abstinence, and even how to build a safe room in your home!  You won’t be disappointed.  Carmen also serves on the Super Summer Leadership Team as the registrar and has been in Student Ministry for over 12 years.  Currently, she is serving in the local church as a volunteer, heading up Student Evangelism.  Whether it is a Ladies Event, large event, or filling in on a Wednesday Night Youth Rally, Carmen has a heart for God and a heart for students.  She leads by example and is great role model for the younger generation.

Carmen is the wife to Brian and super-mom to their two kids, Chloe & Harrison.

Based out of Vilonia, AR

Contact via Carmen Lane

morrisonMatt Morrison was born and raised in the suburbs of Dallas, TX. He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and a minor in Speech Communications. He is currently a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, seeking a Master of Theology.

“When I come out to a place, I love to communicate the powerful stories of the Bible. When I share stories from my own life, it helps these ancient narratives become tangible. Through that, it is my goal to see the student connect the dots and walk out differently than he came in. But above all, if I don’t take the time to invest in the kids off stage, I have failed to minister the way God has called me to.”

“To the youth leaders out there: I admire the men and women who dare to bridge that gap between the adults and the youth every time the church doors open. Your investments will live long past your own days. It is a great honor to minister alongside you from the pulpit during your events.”

Based out of Garland, TX
Contact via www.gravityministries.org

Eric BallEric Ball is a great friend, father, and speaker. He would be a great fit for any event. He has a passion for students and youth pastors/workers alike. Eric is able to take the Gospel and present it in ways that resonate with people and lives are changed. I have known Eric as a mentor and he has invested in my students on a personal level, even opening his home to them. I am sure that you and your ministry will benefit from having Eric share his Faith at your event.

“As a veteran student pastor, Eric has experienced the explosive move of God in his ministry having the privilege to see it grow from three students to over several hundred students weekly. The evangelistic and discipleship strategies Eric implemented had profound affect upon the community with even non-churched parents giving financially to his youth ministry because of the impact upon their children. Eric also pioneered student missions in his church by developing its first junior and senior high student-led short-term mission trips. His vision for training led to the development of an intensive Intern Training Program which received acceptance as an official training program from the Youth Ministry Department of Columbia International University. Hundreds of young men and women received practical ministry skills and are now serving the Lord all over the world.” excerpt from www.e3ministries.com

See a quote from me from 2005 that was published in a ROYS Newsletter.

“First of all I wanted to say thanks to all of you at ROYS for your continued investment in Youth Pastors like me. Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry is a tool that allows us to bring our ministries into focus. Any youth guy with a few tricks in his pocket and some half-baked ideas can draw students, but to truly have an impact on the lives of the younger generation there needs to be a genuine desire to be in their lives for the long haul. I had some skills and even a little creativity, but what JFYM has done is bring all of those things I was doing for ministry and centralized them to be more effective, and I have seen the results first hand. I had read a little of Barry’s writings early on in my ministry and then served in a church were I had the privilege to pastor the daughters of one of your Eagle Leaders, Eric Ball. Eric invested in me in a way that didn’t seem condescending, but out of a friendship that he extended to me. Through him I began to grasp the overall idea of what JFYM was all about. I now find myself serving in a greatEric Ball
church in Arkansas and I am applying the JFYM biblical principles throughout our ministry here. It has been a fun ride. I am starting to see students feel the beginnings of a call to ministry, students that genuinely have a desire to see their peers know Christ, and adults that are starting to catch on, too. I prayed for other youth workers and pastors in my area that I could help mentor and train, and God has begun building those relationships, too. Matt is a young man in his 20’s who has a desire to be better equipped for ministry. (He serves in another church in town, but that doesn’t matter.) Our relationship supersedes any “turf war”.
Since becoming an Eagle Leader with ROYS, I have become even more impressed with the individuals at ROYS. There is a desire to see others become what God has planned them to be. There are no egos involved, just a passion to see students come to Jesus. You do that by multiplying yourselves. Not a new concept…just an effective one. Thanks for being there for us!” Dustin Sams, FBC Stuttgart, Arkansas

Based out of Titusville, FL
Contact via E-3 Ministries @ www.e3ministries.com

runks.dknob.72dpi[1]Contact him at www.runks.com

I have had the priviledge to work with Runks during our summer camp stuff. He did a wonderful job and truly loves the students. He was hangin’ with them during lunch and rec time, everywhere. His messages were right on the money and had our crowd of over 1000 locked in. Runks also spoke at our “Live Weak” event that was in January.  He once again did a great job.

Info pulled from Runks’ site www.runks.com “Runks is a crazy guy who has lived a crazy life and is a master at using hilarious stories from his life to illustrate biblical truth with clarity, authority, and depth. More than just a funny guy, he is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and addictions and has an awesome testimony of the power of God in desperate situations.

Runks has a passion to help students discover their identity in Christ, find freedom in their struggles, and follow Christ with all their heart – because they get to – not because they have to. Runks will help your students discover freedom from their pain, hope for their future, and Grace for life!!!

Runks was a Youth Minister for 7 years and in 1998 began traveling the country sharing his message of hope and freedom to teenagers, college students, and adults. He holds a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and resides in Levelland, Texas with his wife Joanna, and their two kids, Elli and Nick.”

Based out of Levelland, TX
Contact via his website www.runks.com

If you are like me…we have all been in that position of needing someone to fill in teaching/leading our students. I am going to compile a living document of people that will do well by you and your ministry. IMG_6325 If you are wanting someone to come in and take up the time and wreck everything you have been working hard at…well then, there are some prisoners on work release that you could probably pick up to fill in. However comma, you most likely want someone you can trust to do a solid job and walk awayCoySamsBand knowing that God has been honored. That is why we will have a category completely dedicated to those available for your events and speaking engagements. These are recommendations that I have compiled through a network of friends and colleagues…by no way shape or form, does it mean that everyone doesn’t lay an egg every once in a while. Keep me posted and

DSams Speaking 1Here in no particular order are guys/gals that I trust and love to work with. We all would love to have unlimited budgets but that is just not the case. I know I would…because I would surround myself with these people constantly and have a fountain machine in my office with Mt. Dew in it just to the right of my computer screen…between it and the printer…or maybe not even a fountain, just one of the those “straws” like they have on the Camelbak Hydration packs…yeah, that would be awesome…and these people in ministry are too!