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Some surprises are fun. An unexpected birthday bash with your best friends. Christmas presents. The prize winning bottle cap from a Snapple Contest. A Willy Wonka golden ticket. Your boss gives you a raise because you are doing such a great job at the church. (In that case, it would be a miracle.)

While all of these surprises are very cool, they are also very rare. But over my years as a youth pastor, I’ve come to realize that most of the surprises youth pastors experience in ministry are not this much fun.

Surprise! We can’t find one kid at the theme park and we’re supposed to be on the bus and headed home now.

Surprise! We don’t really have a purpose for this meeting we just called.

Surprise! You’re leading this week’s teaching.

Surprise! Your annual budget reports are due on Friday.

Surprise! Small Groups are canceled for this week.

Surprise! Our summer camp is one month away and it’s going to cost $450.

Surprise! Our senior pastor just resigned.

If you’ve ever experienced one of those surprises, then you’ll agree with me—they are overrated and not much fun. So in the name of healthy surprises, here are some ways to keep from catching your team off-guard.

  1. COMMUNICATE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH YOUR SUPERIORS. Problems are going to come up in ministry, and not all problems need to be reported. But the ones that you think could fester or morph into a bigger problem, or will likely meet the desk of those you answer to someday soon, are the ones worth letting others know about. Whether you answer to a board or another pastor on your staff, make sure that you don’t ignore an issue that you think might make it to them and cause concern. Inform them first. It really takes the thunder out of the surprise if you beat the problem on its way to their desk. And it just might take some of the thunder out of their response too.
  2. COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS WITH YOUR LEADERSHIP TEAMS. Don’t surprise your leaders with what is expected of them at a retreat or in a mid-week program. Let them know that you have thought through your plans by giving them clearly written instructions. When you communicate the how and whys of what you want others to do, it’s easier to get your volunteers on the same page and they are able to lead with more confidence as well. Also, clear expectations will help you resolve problems with leaders who are falling short of those guidelines.
  3. COMMUNICATE YOUR CALENDAR AND NEEDS WITH YOUR PARENTS. Perhaps nothing is more annoying to the parents of students in your ministry than the inability to know the details of what is coming up. When they never hear about the next event or your summer plans, they can’t budget their time or money accordingly. (This is a surprise parents hate!) So over-inform them with your plans. Let them know what, when, where, how, and why the special events in your ministry are happening so it can be an integral, non-surprise part of their family calendars.

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