Guest Post by Jerry Varner

Let’s face it. The words “Let’s have a meeting about that” don’t typically invoke feelings of excitement and splendorous wonderment. Quite the opposite. Some in ministry might hear those words like a boyfriend hears his girlfriend say, “We need to talk.”  *Gulp*


No doubt if you’ve ever been to a meeting that wasn’t led well, or have ever led a meeting that wasn’t led well, then you know that there’s more to a well-run meeting than good coffee and Twizzlers. Much more, in fact.


When I set out to create a positive, productive meeting I always keep in mind the sage words of wisdom from the woman I like to call “Mom” when she said, “Plan the work and work the plan.” So, here’s how I “plan the work” of a good meeting.


I believe a strong meeting (in this context we’re talking about student ministry) has three components that must be present. I’m a sucker for a good analogy/visual so I call these three parts Mechanical, Managerial, and Motivational.  Think of a car. Mechanical is the engine, Managerial the steering wheel, and Motivational are the wheels. Here. Here’s a doodle I made (during a recently less-than-productive meeting) for all you visual learners…



Now, I don’t think these 3 need to be in equal parts, nor do I think they need to be an any particular order, but I have seen that meetings are most effective when they have each of these three represented. So, let’s break each one down and give some practical examples.



This is the part of the meeting where you deal with logistics, systems, the nuts and bolts, and addressing/repairing any broke method that you or your team may be aware of.  Some examples are:

  • New students aren’t getting noticed, their contact info not getting received, and so they aren’t getting followed up on. That’s primarily a system issue. What’s not happening that needs to happen?
  • You come in before every youth worship gathering and your sound board is always messed with and mics are always missing.
  • You’re constantly running low on registration forms for the upcoming retreat.
  • Your social media platforms are stale and ineffective so they need someone to be the champion for those.



This is the part of the meeting where you’re reviewing/recasting vision. This is where you’re speaking into situations that need your direction, guidance, and wisdom. You’re using your influence to help steer the student ministry direction. Some examples are:

  • One of your leaders has a question about how to handle a student who has confided in them regarding a difficult situation at home.
  • You need to provide some training to your small group leaders on how to facilitate deeper discussion rather than simply conveying information. This might be done via video (such as DYMU) or from your own experience/observations.
  • You’re sharing the purpose of an upcoming community connection event and rallying support and participation from your leaders.



This is the part where you grab the fuel pump handle and start refueling your leaders for the next leg of the journey. I’d suggest using as much personalized content as possible. Use a short video a student shoots on their phone and sends you of what the student ministry means to them. Have a parent come in and give a word of thanks to your leaders for how they help support the parents’ efforts to model Jesus-style love to their kid. In any way you can, put evidence of fruit on display for leaders to see. Also, give the leaders ample opportunity to testify to where they see God working in the student ministry. Remind leaders of why we’re doing what we’re and all that delicious “this is a marathon, not a sprint” sentiment that we constantly need reminding of.  Another thing I’ve done is contact a student 1-5 years outside high school graduation; maybe from their dorm room and either show a video of their testimony or have the Skype in and share a word of thanks to the leaders.


If you have it within your budget, invest money in gift cards or swag (shirts, mugs, iPads, trips to Disney)  to show your appreciation of the work your team does. (For the record, trips to Disney aren’t in my budget either.)  I recently learned from Katie Edwards, the Junior High Ministry Pastor at Saddleback Church that she dedicates 25% of her entire budget to equipping and encouraging her leaders. That’s not a megachurch thing, that’s a percentage thing and every one of us can at least consider what they might look like in our own context.


Finally, a wise man I like to call “Dad” taught me that “Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from prayer.” So don’t let prayer at your leader meetings be an afterthought or addendum.  Start with it, stop the meeting for it, and wrap with it. After all, “plan the work” has to start with making sure your team is in step with God’s Spirit.


What other components are you sure to have at your leader gatherings?