I think I first heard about the “chips” principle when I was working for former pastor, and current leadership guru, John Maxwell.
The concept is a simple one: In church ministry you are constantly putting “chips” in your pocket, or taking them out. When you find yourself out of chips, you are out of luck and potentially out of a job. So you never want to run out of chips!
You get chips when you earn trust, when you handle an upset parent properly, when you help out another ministry, when you say “yes” to something the senior pastor asks of you, etc.
You lose chips when you break trust, come home from camp late, say a joke from stage you shouldn’t have, whine to your senior pastor about your schedule, ignore a parent’s concerns, etc.
Because I want you to have lots of chips in your pockets as you minister in your setting, let me share the three things that I’ve discovered consistently put the most chips in the pockets of youth workers:
LONGEVITY—Nothing puts more chips in your pocket than simply sticking around for a while! When you weather storms and turn down other opportunities for “greener pastures” you put tons of chips in your pocket. In the revolving-door world of youth ministry, staying committed to the teenagers in your church for a prolonged period of time gives you chips galore…which you’ll need when you have to cash some in because you played the cinnamon challenge game at camp.
ATTITUDE—Sometimes it’s not what you do but how you do it that puts chips in your pocket! Agreeing to emcee the senior adult potluck doesn’t automatically win you favor. Agreeing to do it enthusiastically, and expressing gratitude that you were asked, is what earns you chips. And you’ll need those chips because you will have to cash some in if you ask a room full of 80-year olds to play Twister! It’s been said that your attitude determines your altitude. I like that, and have found it to be true.
COMPETENCE—For most churches your involvement in their youth ministry, whether paid or volunteer, is a skill-based opportunity. You add chips to your pocket every time you do something well (unless of course, your attitude sucks). You add even more chips to your pocket when you consistently do something well that others on your youth team can’t. So look for ways to do what you do well and do it often! This will give you lots of chips that you will need to cash in when you miscount and leave a student at rest station on your youth group road trip.
How full are your pockets?