oprah-email-marketing-meme-300x224As of 9 a.m. today I had 1,400 emails in my inbox. That is actually lite compared to some of my friends. I have a friend who told me he has 30,000 emails in his inbox. Seriously! I said, “you should claim email bankruptcy“. Email bankruptcy is a thing, here’s how it works.

  • Control/Command + A
  • Delete
  • Send an email to all of you contacts saying, “I am sorry, all of my emails have been deleted. If you were waiting for a reply from me on any particular email please resend the email.”

That method is quite abrupt, and semi-permanent (very permanent if you delete your deleted folder). It’s not my preference but I’ve thought about doing this many times.

SIDE NOTE: My most productive hours of work seem to be 9-11:30am. I try to do the things that need by best attention in that chunk of time. I find that if I get weighed down with email and other simple tasks I give away the most productive portion of my day. That means I turn off notifications on both my phone and computer. Do I miss things? Sometimes. But I attribute that to other people’s poor planning not my lack of availability. I cannot be tethered to email for “just in case.”


  • I process email twice daily: After lunch and before I leave for the day. Dedicated time receives my full attention instead of trying to squeeze in moments.
  • Response Easy: Immediately respond to any quick questions then delete.
  • Response Hard: If the message needs more thought I will flag the message and follow up at a designated time (within 24 hours.)
  • Deleting and Filing: I found three types of emails in my inbox; unread messages, messages that were read and no longer needed, messages read and hovering as file storage…these all needed to go!
    1. New messages eventually fall into the last 2 categories) if not deleted.
    2. I found that messages I replied to never got deleted. I would type a reply and then shut down the window. I need to add an extra step of deleting that message I replied to.
    3. Instead of leaving files in my inbox, I now sort them to an Evernote folder or a Google Drive or Dropbox folder.
    These alone helped me delete about 1,100 of those 1,400 emails.
  • Reply/forward emails to someone who can help: Sometimes an email will sit in my inbox for weeks because I don’t have the time to give it attention. If it’s something I can’t handle right away or that somebody else in my ministry can answer more clearly, I’ll reply to that person and carbon copy (CC:) someone who can help and then immediately delete the message. For example, last week I received a request to use our church to host a concert. I wrote back,

    “The best person to help you is Tony, he oversees facilities. If you do not hear from him this week feel free to connect with him directly, I have added him to this email.”

I am on my way to a zero inbox. I am down to 335 messages. How many messages are in your inbox?

blog-lessons-learned-blackboard-800wGrowing up I’ve had several people in my life that have made a lasting impact. I am totally the man I am today because of the people who took the time to invest in me.

I feel privileged to have been able to do the same in the lives of the students I get to invest in. And along the way, I’ve learned a ton about being present in the lives of students. I’ve also learned how serious God takes it. So i thought I’d share a few of my learnings with you:

  1. I’ve learned students are listening – They are listening to our every word. Even though they might not do what we say all the time they are still listening. I’ve had students remind me of things that I’ve said that has helped them that I don’t even remember saying. I’ve also had them call me out on things I’ve said that I didn’t think they were paying any attention to. THEY ARE LISTENING and you have the ability to speak words that will build them up in their faith. On the flip side, you also have the ability to speak words that will tear them down or lead them astray. You must know that they are listening and the things you say is affecting them for the better or worse.
  2. I’ve learned students are watching – I believe students watch us more than they listen to us. As a leader/mentor it is important we model what we preach. This is why relational ministry is so important. Because the principle behind relational ministry is that we model Christ and the biblical principles of His kingdom to students doing life together. So it’s great in the sense that they get to hopefully not just hear about a life surrendered to God, but also see one. So if you are living a life surrendered to God that’s what they will see. Likewise, if you are talking the talk, but not walking the walk they will also see that. Remember, they are watching.
  3. I’ve learned to be honest with students – Be honest about where you are in your walk with Christ. And don’t be afraid to get help with the things you don’t know. Also, be lovingly honest in your conversations where you have to speak some tough truth.
  4. I’ve learned to be their leader, not their friend – Be their leader, not their friend as if they are your age or in your stage of life. This gets people into a lot of trouble because there are no clear lines drawn. And you begin to treat them as someone you can dump all of your frustrations/worries/hangups/habits/issues on. I need to use discernment concerning sharing about my life with students; and I need friends outside of ministry that are my age (or older) and are in my stage of life or have been in my stage of life that I can personally relate to and walk my faith journey with.
  5. I’ve learned it’s important that I strive to be trustworthy and lead with integrity – Remember, having integrity is not about being right, it’s about doing what’s right. We need to point students in the right direction. We need to teach them the right direction even when you’re wrong.
  6. I’ve learned that students are vulnerable – My role in their life gives me influence. It’s important that I take it seriously and never take advantage of it. Matthew 18:6 – Sometimes we think this verse means if we cause them to start doing drugs or something terrible, but our hypocriticalness can totally cause a student to stumble, and walk away from their faith. God holds us accountable with the lives He has entrusted us with.

Your presence in the lives of students are needed. Know that it is a responsibility God takes seriously.

Hope it helps,


Our friends at Lifetree Adventures provide incredible international mission experiences for youth groups, church groups, individuals, friends, and families all over the world. One of their unique mission experience destinations is Cuba! (Yes, you can travel to Cuba!) Dave Hoffman, recent Lifetree Adventure Traveler, shared about his time there. Read below about how awesome your Cuban Lifetree Adventure could be!


“From the time we stepped through the doors of customs, I knew that Cuba was going to be an amazing Lifetree Adventure.

We met our Cuban partners and started our drive to the “casa particular” that would be our lodging and home base for the week. Many Cubans make their homes available for rent to travelers and tourists, and our group had the pleasure of having wonderful hosts, and wonderful food at our “casa particular.”

Over the next five days, we visited home churches and learned more about the ministry partners that Lifetree Adventures has established. Each night, we shared stories about where we saw God at work, and discussed our lives back home. In just a few days, we went from total strangers to a close knit circle of friends!

Over the next four days we were able to worship with the Cuban people, meet a pastor that was imprisoned during the early days of the Castro government, pray for the pastoral teams of many churches and visit the seminary where leaders of all denominations receive training.

During this time we had the opportunity to work with a group of women that reach out to families that have children with disabilities. Seeing their dedication to supporting each other, whether they were church members or not, was inspiring.IMG_2167

We were also able to help out on the farm as the Mango trees were laden with fruit, overloading the branches and the fruit was touching the ground. One afternoon we worked to prop up these branches using branches (for braces) and strips cut from palm bark to tie the braces to the branches.   We enjoyed working and sweating together to get this fruit off the ground, knowing that it was going to help support the pastoral teams that we had visited, worshipped with and prayed for.

Thursday morning was bittersweet as we left our gracious hosts, and headed toward the tourist beaches of Varadero. It was sad saying goodbye to our friends at the house, as well as our new Cuban friends in ministry, but we were also looking forward to an afternoon and morning on the beach!

Varadero was like crossing into another world – a tourist world and not the world that the Cuban people we had met lived. We stayed at a wonderful resort and enjoyed time on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve had the pleasure to step onto. We swam, enjoyed the sun, had some 596wonderful food, saw a show and enjoyed time together as a group.

On Friday, we left Varadero for the city of Havana. The drive along the coast was amazing as it is truly unspoiled (except for a few Chinese oil interests and Cuban military facilities). Havana is a city that is beginning to see its beauty restored. Yes, there are many building in disrepair along the Malecón (a famous 7 km drive/walk along the city’s sea wall), but there are also signs of restoration and pride as the city begins to wake up from years of neglect. We spent the night at the Catholic Church in Havana and enjoyed walking around the old town, the Fort protecting Havana, the central square of the revolution and many of Havana’s sights.

I can’t wait for my next trip to Cuba for another Lifetree Adventure trip in just a few months.” – Dave Hoffman, Lifetree Adventure Traveler


To learn more about Lifetree Adventures, visit the website or call Robin, your experienced international mission advisor, at 800-747-2157!

I still recall the look on my mentor’s face when I first started in ministry. She would get this quiet smile as I would tell her that I already knew everything and I didn’t have much to learn. My opinion was truth and there wasn’t anyone who could tell me anything differently.Years later, I understand that look she used to have. It wasn’t bitterness or even resolve. She understood there comes a point when you realize actually how little you know.

I am thankful for mentors who let me think I knew it all so that I could learn I am actually desperate for help. I do wish however, that I had been shown how to navigate the pitfalls a little better. There are lessons learned along the way, that I wish I had learned long ago. As I walk alongside the next generation, I see there are heartaches they could miss. If they could just “get” these 5 things, I truly believe they would take this world for Christ in ways that would boggle our minds:

1. Only Christ has what you need.

I know it sounds elementary.Yet, I don’t think we teach our youth HOW to have their identity in Him. Why? We don’t really believe that he has everything. I heard Francis Chan say recently that we will look to Jesus as a Savior but will we see Him as our role model for living?

When we are unhappy or the world is unfair we try to find our identity in our work, our looks, our status and even our ministry. We must learn early that we must look at ourselves through the eyes of our Savior and never lose our desperation for Him.The moment we think we can gain control, we have actually lost everything.

2. Take the hurdles head on.

I had a mentor tell me once,”You can choose to run around the hurdles in your life. We all want to do it.The problem is that there will always be another one. At some point you need to learn how to jump them.” We can run away from our challenges, the one catch is that there will be another one.That verse in James says to consider it pure joy WHEN we face trials of MANY kinds. The sooner we can learn hurdles aren’t so scary, the more we can live a full life for the Lord. It may not feel like it in the moment, but with His hand we can get over them.

3. The journey matters.

When you are 10 you want to be 13. At 13 you just want to be 16. Then 18.Then 21.Then married.Then have children. Our focus can always be on that “next thing” there is to attain. We should have goals, that is important. However, the most important lessons learned are in the journey. (It may sound like a Hallmark card, but it’s true.) Where you are right at this moment is part of the shaping process that makes you look more like Jesus.  We need to help students ask the Lord, “What do you want me to learn in the adventure we are on together today?”

4. Scars are just tattoos with better stories.

We get wounded in life and sometimes it is beyond our control. Other times people hurt us. There are moments when those that should have loved stab deep.There are even moments when our decisions are indeed irreversible. The result is always a gaping and oozing sore. What we need to ask is, “Do we want to be healed?” Our attention can be solely on the unfairness of the lesion. Forgiveness is not giving the offense absolution. Instead, it is the understanding that no one can be effective if they are trying to ignore a bullet hole in the leg. Forgiveness recognizes that bitterness causes separation in our relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness is an act of choice that is followed by feeling. Our wounds do leave scars. But, when we let the Lord heal them then we can learn to embrace them. We are no longer the walking wounded, but those who are not afraid of the tale of our scars.

5. Don’t lose your zeal.

We have a tendency to feed this mentality that all teens rebel. You know when they “grow up,” then they will live fully for Christ. The other side of this is that we can teach our youth that at some point they should be less excited and passionate about Christ. Today is the day called for Salvation. Today is the day that the Lord wants you to be fully his to be used fully by him. Does rebellion happen? Yes, we have free will. Should we expect it? No. Let’s teach this generation they don’t have to be complacent. They can be a light that the world is drawn to, no matter the age.

If I could some it all up I would say this to my youth, “Live without regret.” If we can look back with as few cringing moments as possible it will all be worth it. I think most of all I just want this generation to understand that they are more powerful than they know. Now I stand with that same smile of knowing while I remind them, they have the full potential to put my faith to shame.

– Leneita

In this episode, we discuss modesty in youth group when it comes to clothing by the pool. We also discuss grade transitions: Elementary to Jr. High and Jr. High to High School. Send questions or topic ideas to talkyouthministry@gmail.com.


Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt


Two years ago I stumbled into an incredible experience, almost by accident.

It’s called the Simply Jesus Gathering—held in Denver, and featuring some of the most incredible speakers in the world (this year, the gathering is April 23-24 at Denver Community Church, 1595 Pearl St., Denver, CO 80203).


All of the speakers have one thing in common—they’ve centered everything they do in life (writing, speaking, teaching) around their passion for Jesus. My wife and I were there as participants, drinking in the conversation that was led by people like N.T. Wright, Philip Yancey, Jefferson Bethke, and Tony Campolo (among many others). The environment was electric with Jesus—it was also relaxed and authentic.

And now, two years later, I’ve been invited to speak at the 2015 version of the Simply Jesus Gathering. It’s one of the great honors of my life. I’ll throw-in with people like William Paul Young (author of The Shack), Ted Dekker (bestselling sci-fi author), Father Greg Boyle (author of the bestselling Tattoos On the Heart), Leonard Sweet, musician David Wilcox, and many others.

Yesterday my friend Carl Meaderis, who founded the conference and is Jesus-centered to his core, gave permission for each person on the speaker team to offer their “friends and family” a special half-price rate to the gathering—that’s $140. Consider yourself “friends and family.” To get the rate, just use this promo code which is specific to me: RICK140. Click here to register.

I’d love to see you there…

– Rick Lawrence

Hey #YMNation!

Super exciting news. We released TWO new books for your students this week! 24/7 by Tim Levert and 8th Grade by Lars Rood.

24/7 by Tim Levert247 book

In his new book 24/7, Tim Levert, a veteran youth worker and author, speaks directly to teens about how they can passionately follow Jesus “in real life”. Structured as an “instruction guide”, 24/7 offers specific, practical suggestions on how teens can live out their faith in the everyday, ordinary moments of life.

Tim also offers solid thoughts on living God’s kingdom and revealing God’s kingdom to others while challenging teens to think deeper about their faith and how to apply it.

As your youth journey through this book, they’ll be inspired and invited to trust and follow Jesus’ words and example in their lives!


8th Grade by Lars Rood

For the majority of your youth, 8th grade is the best year of junior high. They’re at the top of the heap, the cool cats, the8th grade boss of the school and the people the 6th graders look up to.

Lars Rood’s new student devotional, 8th Grade: Leading the Way With the “Real You”,  helps 8th graders understand that they as people, their choices and their contributions to relationships matter. By realizing this students can lead well as the big dogs at school before they have to start all over at the bottom of the food chain as a freshman.

8th graders have impact and with this 30-day devotional they’ll be challenged to think about who they are and how they can have positive impact by following Jesus, leading themselves and then leading others.


I encourage you to check out these awesome books for your students for use in your youth ministry or as end-of-the-year student gifts. We can’t wait to hear how God uses these books to grow your students!


-Kirsten and the SYM Team

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Last week I shared my “5 Favorite Chrome Extensions“. In the comments of that post was a recommendation by Sean for an extension/app called Pushbullet. I did a quick search for the app and installed Pushbullet on all my Mac, iOS, and Android devices. Pushbullet is fantastic! It is flawless in every way that Apple’s AirDrop fails. It also integrates a few other Mac Yosemite features but brings them not only to iOS and Mac but also Android and PC.

Pushbullet does 4 things really well…

  • Never miss calls or text messages. As you receive them, they pop up on your computer/laptop screen. Yeah, we know, Yosemite does that with Continuity, but you need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. But it doesn’t end with calls and texts; all of your phone’s notifications can pop up on your computer.
  • Immediately send files and notes from your computer to your phone (or visa versa) with a click. You could get this done via Mac’s AirDrop, but AirDrop is not flawless. My Mac always sees my iPhone but my iPhone sees my Mac only about 25% of the time.
  • Instantly send a link from your computer to your phone (or visa versa) with a small extension or through the desktop app. When you turn on iCloud on your Mac and set-up Handoff you can also get this done, but it is yet another app you’d have to install and use. Pushbullet is all in one.
  • Like a blog rss feed reader you can subscribe to channels and Pushbullet will send you notifications when those channels update.

Basically, this is one app you did not know you needed. But you need it and it probably has an app that works on your platform here. Check out this video to see how Pushbullet works, then click over to this app’s page to grab this killer free app!

If you have an app that makes life as a youth worker easier please drop the name and link in the comments below!