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Recently, this blog has been asking people on our Facebook page to participate in different polls we do through the Facebook Questions section. I had made the decision at the beginning to send the question to all of my own personal Facebook friends in the hopes that I would be able to get more people to participate on the page and hopefully get more people to Like the page. The questions were not personal, simply asking about basic opinions on youth ministry, if they use certain social media networks, or seasonal questions that fit the holiday.

Unfortunately, I ran into a problem. One of my friends from college decided that he did not like being asked to answer this question. He kindly asked me to stop sending him requests because he felt like I was simply trying to run a research project on him. I happily obliged, but was puzzled. For the previous five months, I had be posting between one and three articles a day through my own personal account from this blog that would have shown up on his feed, approximately 300 articles in all. Yet five questions over a month and half was too much. Do not get me wrong, requesting my friends shows a notification that I am asking for something, whereas when I post a blog article, it simply shows up on their feed. So there is a difference in the delivery, but I was curious why he was so disgruntled over it. So why the complaint now?

The answer came quickly: Do not mix up the idea that sharing links that someone can ignore and asking for interaction directly with Facebook Questions is the same thing. They are completely different.

Short Term Success Does Not Mean Long Term Success

My goal to share questions from the Facebook page was a short-term tactic that was designed to increase the reach and interactions of my page with people and also improve the number of Likes so that I would not have to do this too much longer. Short-term, the posts did increase dramatically, though after just the third week it did begin to drop. The problem that came was two-fold: My Likes did not increase at all and people were beginning to gain a negative perception of the page and ultimately the brand. You may increase the reach of your Facebook page quickly, but too much in a short time (and that term too much is very subjective) can lead to a long-term lose of fans and views and even a negative connotation to what you have to offer. When coming up with the strategy of how you plan to use social media to promote what you have say, share, or sell, do so wisely and think about how you would react if someone did what you are going to do to yourself.

You might be asking why I am bringing this up, who cares if we offer suggestions or request their opinion. The difference is that ignoring a suggestion is guilt-free whereas ignoring my request brings about a little irritation that I may be bugging them and even a brief moment of them evaluating if it is worth being a fan of my Facebook Page. Combining guilt, irritation, and a reevaluation of committing to your page once in a while (a month or more) is one thing, but as I found out the hard way, even a question a week becomes spam in many peoples’ eyes.

Would you be annoyed at the frequency of requests or shared links you are putting out there?

We take a look at how we can make the negatives in ministry turn into the positives.

This last year has been amazing for the seventy8 Productions blog. We began with nothing, an empty slate, and ideas to put into words. We have shared our favorite memories, but we did share the details of the stats that we have been so excited. Our first post received a whole three views and that month we had ten unique visitors. Now, we are averaging about 4,000 unique viewers a month, a 400,000% increase in a year… not bad.

The dream of blogging began simply as trying to provide some fun stuff for you and record some other thoughts and research for later use. The added benefit that came out of it is that I was able to better conceptualize youth ministry constructs as I prepared for the different relationships and events. When I added the student leadership program and had a summer intern, I planned everything out ahead of time, went through the feedback I received from everyone, and put it into action. I love to converse with great youth workers and tech people, both on the website and through other venues.

Here are the stats over the last nine months:

[easychart type="horizbar" height="100" title="Monthly Unique Pageviews" groupnames="Months" groupcolors="005599" valuenames="Apr,May,June,July,Aug,Sept,Nov,Dec" group1values="672,761,1202,915,1058,2172,3572,3311,4222" ]

While success is easily measured through pageviews, number of comments, and people who have subscribed to your RSS feed, that is a sterile approach to interacting with people. To measure success means more than cold numbers, instead you need to invest the time and energy that can build relationships, share wisdom, and find great resources to have better your own ministries.

We want to share some of the things that we have found to be success. Here are three things we have found to not only increase the number of people that view our website, but make for a better blogging experience.

  1. Give Away Free Stuff. This is by far the best way to increase the views and benefit others. In fact, three of our five top viewed pages were free resources that we gave out and the category of free stuff accounts for more than twenty percent of our traffic overall. At the same time, people offered up some great constructive criticism that will help make better material for the future to share. If you are not offering free stuff on your blog, you are losing out on what you have to share and the views that come with it.
  2. Content Is King, Always. Regardless of if you plan to write to make the money or just for the hobby, you need to know what you are going to write about and write it well. Success does not just fall into your lap. Writing a post may require experiencing something in life or ministry, taking the time to do the research and flesh out an article, or having some professional opinions of hot topics of the week. This will require using SEO techniques to know what people are searching for and viewing, writing about unique material that you are an expert on (or at least know what not to do), and putting in the elbow grease for your posts. If you do not put in the effort, you will not get the results.
  3. Guests Posts Give A Voice To The Audience We love our guest posts. The response to offering guest posts has been amazing and the quality of content was better than we could ever expect. In fact, we plan to make one of the guest authors a regular on the website this month. Not only do we give a voice to a group of people, that week of guest posts not only freed up a week for us at seventy8Productions, but it was the third most active week for us from viewers. Guest posts are a must for all bloggers! Make an event of it.

People measure success in many different ways. In fact, if you do youth ministry, you know all of the different people that have buy-in to it. You, the students, your volunteers, the parents of the students, your senior pastor, the deacons, the congregation, other youth ministries you work with, and more. Each of those people may have a different way of measuring success. And while many think that numbers are evil, you need to be able to actually be able to measure if you are succeeding. Attendance numbers are easily measurable, but that does not quantify real discipleship.

I do want to be clear about one thing. Measuring success is not comparing your ministry to others. They have their ministry that serves that part of the community. If we start to compare ourselves, we begin measuring their goals to our ministry and that always makes someone look bad. Separate your ministry from them and recognize God’s blessing on your specific ministry.

  1. God’s View Of Greatness.
    God’s view of greatness is not what the world would call success. Look at Matthew 5 and see how He wants you to success in life and ministry.

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
    Matthew 5:3-12

  2. Ensure Everyone Is On The Same Page.
    Find out who has important buy-in to your ministry and include them in on the process of measuring success. Maybe the senior pastor helps you decide what the goals of ministry should be this year. The volunteers are shared with the goals and how they will be incorporated into the plan to success. And the parents hear a monthly or quarterly update on how those goals are being fulfilled. The most important part of this is communication.
  3. Constantly Evaluate How It Is Going.
    This means that we have quantifiable goals that I can achieve, meet ten new friends of students currently attending or have volunteers run 25% more of youth group. We do not have control of who gets saved or even comes to events and so those would be bad goals. Our goals are year-long at USAFA Club Beyond and every quarter we look at the progress. If things are way off, we are just killing it or not doing as well as possible, we look at why. Maybe our goals were unrealistic or we didn’t (and couldn’t) see tough barriers. So we readjust those goals into new twelve month goals. Because we are constantly tweaking and reevaluating the goals, we never actually reach them, but are always growing and improving.

So what would you count as success? What are your goals?

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Yesterday, we talked about the fact that some ministries start to settle and maybe even give up trying new things. But at the end, we encouraged you to start to thrive in ministry. Here

  1. Remember Your Calling. It is usually in times of crisis, stress, or busyness that we get caught in those ruts and stop thriving. But in those times, we can take time to reflect on God’s original calling. What was it that God did to draw you into ministry? What made you passionate about in youth ministry?
  2. Think Long-Term. We can become disappointed when something does not pan out like we thought it would. The numbers were not high enough, no one came forward during our alter call, or a fundraiser just did not work well. But we have to remember that every job comes struggles in the short run, but our work has eternal consequences. Keep pressing on and be faithful to what God has set you out to do.
  3. Shake It Up. You have to realize that everyone learns differently. Some are great at hearing the Gospel and believing. Others need space, creativity, or doing something with their hands before the whole concept of God becomes real or visible. Provide new, different, and powerful opportunities for teenagers to learn about God’s love.
  4. Pursue God In Your Own Life. If you are stagnant in your own walk with Christ, how can you expect to preach or serve out of that? Make sure you have a solid prayer life, community of friends,deep in the Word, and understanding of your faith. If you can’t make the time for it, then you need to cut some things.
  5. Remember The Joys. Ministry has highs and lows. The highs are often fleeting and the lows seem to last forever. Capture those moments and draw on them for encouragement when things get tough.

What are you going to do to start thriving?

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Our ministry at USAFA Club Beyond relies heavily on its volunteers and so there is a deep need to help set them up for success. Here are three things we do to ensure we achieve it.

Empower them. Training is one of the fundamental parts of a great team. Whether you have a group of veteran volunteers or first-timers to youth ministry, everyone can benefit from training. A single yearly training is not enough nor are one hour monthly events. The single, longer session is perfect for vision casting, youth ministry 101, and the overall mission of the youth group. At the same time, monthly meetings are perfect for Q&A from struggling volunteers, tweaking skills, and going over future curriculum. We incorporate both and find that they appreciate all of it.

Equip them. This includes a thorough and purposeful curriculum, a four or six month calendar of events, and all of the necessary equipment. Their job is not to come up with the questions or the lesson (though several of them are great at it and I ask for insight when writing up the curriculum). On their best nights, they stick to the core of the curriculum but follow the discussion of what the students bring up, asking different questions and using other illustrations than what is printed. But when life gets hard, they have a terrible day at work before youth group, or get into an argument with a family member, now they are not coming to club at 100%. This is when preparation key to providing success.

Encourage them. Sure our title is youth worker but at least 30% of our time is invested in adults like our volunteers and so we must make a point to focus on them too. Many of them are hurting just as much as our students but they have figured out how to cope. We need to minister to them in their successes, failures, mistakes, and accomplishments. So if a student is giving them a hard time or they are going through a crisis, buy them a Starbucks and give them an hour or two of your time to be a sounding board or help bear their burdens.