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I’m in youth ministry again!

Tim and Hannah with LISM shirts
Digging my daughter’s support of LISM at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference!

In some ways, I guess I never left due to an interesting twist that took place on my YouTube channel shortly after my termination, but next Wednesday I’m officially back to serving in a church context. Dana and I have been attending another church in our community since being fired and yesterday I met with their youth pastor (one of the LISM mentors, actually) about serving with their team as a volunteer youth leader. I’m actually really excited about it (and nervous, too, for some reason). I’ve always served in paid church roles and, similar to Doug Fields’ experience, I think it’ll be amazing to serve without all the pressures, expectations and politics of a paid position. In some ways, I feel like I’m freed up to actually do youth ministry now. Crazy.

But of course, volunteering as a youth leader won’t pay bills. Thankfully, the Lord has provided for us in many different ways.

My current “job”

Our income has come from several places:

  • Blog: I anticipated this would be my primary source of income, but it’s totally not. The ads make a little money, but wIth the cost of hosting, email subscription services, the service I use for LIVE YM Talk, and other fees, I basically break even here. In the past month or two, however, other advertisers have stepped up and put the site further in the black, which is great! Please check out their services and support the advertisers here!
  • Consulting: This is our primary income the past couple months. I’ve been consulting with businesses and organizations on all sorts of things: social media, online video, youth ministry and more. It’s been fun! Check out my consulting form if I can serve your ministry, business or organization with advice and input.
  • Writing: The opportunity to do some paid writing for other publications has come up a couple times. If you see my content “out in the wild,” please support the guys who publish it.
  • Video Production: I didn’t foresee this one being an income, but the opportunity to do some video shoots and video editing has popped up a couple times. In fact, you’ll find a pretty major video project of mine on banners.com in the next couple weeks.
  • Gifts: I’m continually blown away with how generous people can be. We have received so much financial support from so many unexpected places, even from totally random strangers! And if you’re reading this and you’re one of the anonymous people who have sent us gift cards, gas cards, and notes of encouragement, thank you so very much!
  • YouTube: Believe it or not, YouTube now pays me for my videos on my personal vlog channel. It’s not a lot, but every little bit ads up, so I’ve been vlogging pretty much every day for the past two months.
  • Speaking: I thought there would be more of this, but it’s a pretty competitive field and youth ministry budgets are challenged in this economy. Still, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the few retreats and youth leader trainings I’ve spoken at so far. If I can be of service to your group somehow, please let me know through my speaking form.
  • MinistryWebsites.biz: Again, the income from here is pretty minuscule, but enough minuscule income streams can add up. If you or your ministry is looking for a solid service for your website, check out my side project at MinistryWebsites.biz.

It’s a lot to keep track of, but I’m enjoying it. It’s fun to let my entrepreneurial streak totally loose. Two weeks ago I actually paid myself my first paycheck from Life In Student Ministry, LLC, which felt pretty weird. It wasn’t a lot, but combined with people’s gifts and such, it was enough to meet our budget and keep our savings intact for another month.

I have no idea how sustainable this kind of work is going to be long-term, but I’m thankful for every opportunity I’ve had to work so far and I hope it keeps up.

The church search

As far as the church search is concerned, Dana and I talk with churches when opportunities arrise, but we’re taking our time. We’re still working through hurts and issues from our previous church and it’s not fair to anyone if we carry that baggage into another position. We need to make sure we’re emotionally healthy, that we’ve worked through forgiveness and are free to serve the way God’s called us without anything holding us back.

We’re also picky about what church we go to next. There are so many things that need to align: vision, values, philosophy, personalities, expectations, responsibilities, etc. I’m not willing to settle for second-best when it means moving my family across the country. Since we don’t know if God will lead us to that church next week or in 2 years or never, we’re going to jump back into youth ministry as super-volunteers at the church we’re attending until that time comes. And, Lord willing, He will continue to provide for us on the side so we can invest into our real jobs of being volunteer youth workers.

Understanding my termination

Perhaps the most difficult part about my termination over the past couple months was not knowing what really happened at my previous church. I had theories and hunches based on the information I had, and some of my hunches were confirmed by those more knowledgable than me, but it wasn’t until the Simply Youth Ministry Conference two weekends ago that all the pieces really clicked.

I’m not going to go into great detail about it here, but you should all become familiar with Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership from his book, “A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix.” His theory came up in two different seminars I attended and we discussed it at length in one particular seminar. It explains exactly what happened in my church, why it happened, why I was fired and what role I played in the story that transpired.

This video gives a brief summary of differentiated leadership. I definitely recommend that every church ministry leader learn more about it. The more I learn, the more it precisely explains my termination and many other situations that every ministry leader will experience.

I found this blog post by OnMovements.com to get you started: Movement Leadership: Avoiding the Failure of Nerve


Posted on March 16, 2011

  • Tim, the video is awesome and I have experienced this. Still counting to ten and taking deep breaths 20 years later. :)

  • Tim it's good to hear your back into 'hands on' student ministry. The truth is we never leave it whether we are in paid or non-paid positions. If it's our calling and passion we'll always be involved in some way.

    Thanks for posting this video. I'm definitely going to buy the book and read it. I think church leaderships should go through this as well. The video was spot on for even where I'm at now. I've been trying to explain why 'lobbying' people who are on the outside of something is wrong and not healthy. I've been having a hard time with this. This video can do some great things with explaining what 'lobbying' or 'triangeling' looks like.

    • Yeah, it's way too common. The triangulation is done as "sharing concerns." The part this video doesn't even touch on are the "quick fixes" others in the system propose to alleviate the anxiety when, in the long run, it ultimately just makes things worse because it's a cop-out to avoid the root issues.

  • Wow! Friedman's theory is right on. Heading over to Amazon to order it now. Great Post Tim!

  • Hey Tim,

    Great to hear that you are back in the trenches mate! I will continue to pray for your situation and particularly healing and God's provision for your family! It was great to connect at SYMC! Thanks for calling me your favorite UK friend! Haha!

    Phil <><

  • Glad to hear you'll be having fun serving students and families at your new church! It will be cool to hear your insights on what it's like to see church and youth ministry through a volunteer's eyes and what you glean from that, as Doug Fields has shared.

    Unfortunately, the negative type of leadership described in the video can find a very comfortable home in a local church, where there is less accountability than in the business world. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Ahh yes, the big "accountability" word. Although, it doesn't help much if the the loose accountability that is in place is in the same anxious system together.

  • Nick Arnold

    I wonder how often congregation members, not just coworkers, try to "triangle" people in ministry!

  • Joe S

    Tim,
    Looking forward to you joining us on Wed. night. I am growing in this ministry through the mentorship of our fearless leader and look forward to your added leadership.

    • Yeah man, it'll be fun to serve with you! Totally looking forward to it. I was bummed when last week was canceled due to weather. Doh!

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  • Kez

    Thanks for posting this article. I fell to pieces when my senior pastor replaced me overnight and for no real reason, this post makes alot of sense to me. Blessings.

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