Sometimes the unexpected can happen. It can be hard to know how you’ll respond to a tragedy.

At a Workcamp last summer, a crew of teenagers and adults were two hours into building a wheelchair ramp for a West Virginian resident when the unimaginable happened. The resident of the home collapsed; emergency personnel were called; and not too long after, they found out that their hours-old friend would not be returning home. With renewed purpose, the teenagers embraced a new mission: finish the wheelchair ramp; love the resident’s family in every way possible.

We’ll let the late resident’s daughter, Heather, tell you the rest of the story and how Workcampers made a difference for her family in their time of need.

“My father was walking to his building in the back of his yard to look for some supplies he had stored for this project. As my father returned to the job site, he fell hitting his head on the concrete and stopped breathing…Ultimately the doctor informed my family and I that he was probably dead before his head hit the ground…I packed my bags and drove home as fast as I could arriving the next morning . . .

“As I pulled in the driveway, the crew pulled in and started their work for the day. I could not believe these kind souls returned the next day. I cried as they asked if they could complete the task they had been given. I responded with a ‘yes please’ as tears rolled down my face.


“You see, this ramp was not just for my dad. It was also so that my dad could try to take my mother outside. My mother had just come home from the hospital after being there almost 7 months and being on a ventilator for 3 plus months. She ultimately began to live, breathe, eat and talk again. My father was her caregiver. He was looking forward to taking my mom for a walk in her wheelchair. But this was not in God’s plan.

“I was very impressed that day. The children and their leaders had bought and signed a beautiful card and given it to my mother. Everyday they prayed for our family and would play with my sister’s kids and my son. They brought gifts of love for the grandchildren to help ease their pain and grief…

“As the family and friends came in and out, the mission group was very kind and respectful. They soon felt like part of our family…I look at these beautiful young adults and pray that my 9-year-old son, Ian, turns out just like them. I want him to be a kind Christian with a heart filled with love for Jesus and respect for others.

You see … these people are not just ordinary people. They are angels here on Earth that God sent our family. My family cannot express how thankful we are … Thank you and God bless you all.” – Heather and the entire Valentine Family

God can call us to love others in unexpected ways that can change us, as well as those we encounter.

Will you join us for life change? Let’s create moments of #LIFECHANGE this summer.

Call an advisor today, at 1.888.966.8982 ext 2, or visit to get started.


Infinite Jukebox makes your favorite song last forever, literally. When I find a song I like, I can be guilty of hitting repeat on my office stereo and letting it play in the background all day. With Infinite Jukebox I can hear one song with zero pauses for as long as I want. If you thought The Allman Brothers Band’s “Mountain Jam” was long, just wait until you hear Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off for the entire day.

Infinite-JukeboxInfinite Jukebox parses any songs (search their site or upload your own mp3) into beats and matches patterns so it can jump around the track, making it sound like one continuous song. Click play and Infinite Jukebox jumps around with near perfection, you can even see what part of the song is played most and lines to where the song will possibly jump.

If listening to a song on infinite repeat would drive you nuts, think of some other possibilities. This site would be great to pull up on your smartphone or youth room computer and play background music for discussions. games, and opening and closing ambiance music.

Worship Band from Start to Finish
Whether from our computer for ambience or from our worship team, music is a key element in our gatherings. Step up the music everywhere and check out “Worship Band from Start to Finish.” It is a great resource for you to use for your worship team or to hand to a volunteer who is building your youth worship team.

– Brandon / @iamBRANDONEARLY

“So what do I do now? Seriously – what are my actual next steps? I just left the pastor’s office. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I didn’t see this coming. I know I should have seen the signs…but I didn’t. Now what?”


1) Don’t sign anything. No resignation letters or transition agreements, etc. Even if you feel pressured to agree to “we’ll say you resigned instead of got fired.” It’s not the optimal time for you to think clearly.

2) Skip the pack-up production and take only the 2-3 most cherished items with you. Leave quietly and within 15 minutes of exiting your boss’s office. No boxes, books, furniture – nothing that looks like the big, emotional goodbye. You’ll get the rest of your stuff eventually, but believe me, people will be watching what you take and don’t. The littlest thing will cause a rumble.

3) Don’t call anyone but your spouse or your mom. I mean it. The first few conversations after “the talk” could make or break years to come of what follows your professional reputation.

4) Go home. Don’t stop at the store or a friend’s or another youth worker’s place or the bar or the ice cream parlor. Go home where you can process in a complete zone of safety.

5) Set aside messages for the rest of the day. The texts, emails, phone calls, visits, etc., will start to come in but you and your family need time to cry, scream, swear, get mad, throw stuff – and no one needs to see it. If need be, have a relative come over to answer the door. In your “away” message, let people know you’ll get back to them the next day. Every single thing you say is painfully fresh and won’t be filtered like you’d like it to be…and will be repeated numerous times by others. Why give anyone any bullets to shoot you with?

Let me know if you want to read steps 6-10.


PS-Just got interviewed about this very thing for a podcast. Thanks, Terrace! Here’s the info: the episode will air next week, Thursday, March 5th, at or you can listen and download the podcast on


For as long as I can remember I have been the poster child for relationally driven ministry. Perhaps it’s because I came out  of the roller skating party era of youth group where it was more about programs than going deep. Maybe, it’s because all I wanted was a place to wrestle with hard questions about the way bad stuff happened to the ones I loved, and what did God think about that. I formed small groups before they were a “thing” and far before I read any books on being purposeful in my approach. This is the flag I wave. Go deeper. Model your ministry after Jesus who spent a good portion of his time with a hand full of people here on earth.

You can imagine the lump in my throat when my own three teens admitted to me they don’t really like small groups. (They attend another youth group in addition to ours.) As a matter of fact since their youth pastor is a great preacher they say they would rather sit in a large group setting taking notes.

What on earth could they be talking about?  These were supposed to be the moments when you get to share your heart, and go deep, wrestling with your faith.  Their reasons for hating small group time fascinated me.

Here are their thoughts:

I Don’t Learn Anything

Small group ministry means lots of volunteers stepping in.  Volunteering means you have a life with responsibilities other than running a small group.  It is easy to pick up the packet of curriculum and read it as you are teaching.  The trouble is students can feel a million miles away and that you weren’t totally engaged in being there.  It’s difficult to lead when you haven’t really gotten ready for what could come along. It creates a scenario where the leader can care more about the information they are teaching than what the group is learning.  We call it “running the curriculum,” in our house. The trouble here is that students don’t know when to ask questions and if feels like a mini-sermon, with some rambling on whatever comes to mind.  We need to prepare for who is in our group (the personalities and learning styles) and learn the best way to engage them.  We need to pre-read the lesson and see where it is going and why it is going there.  In short take five minutes and prepare.

My Leader Just Hangs Out

It’s easy to try to be friends with our students.  Small groups are a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our students and who they are.  We can get tired of trying to get the silly student settled and just use this time to “talk.”  On one or two occasions this is fine and perhaps even necessary.  However,  this is a generation that looks for the meaning and purpose in places they are involved.  In youth group this means large groups are for preaching and singing, special events are for fun and fellowship and small groups are a place to understand their faith.  There is a time to hang out.  There is a time to let students be silly and out of control.  My kids would say small group is not the place for this.

There’s No Depth

The challenge of the church at large today is that everyone is at a different place on their journey with Christ.  This is magnified at youth group.  There are students there because their parents make them, others don’t know Jesus at all, some are there for friends and others because they like the leaders. These are all the ones we tend to set our programming up for.  Yet, there are ALSO teens who WANT to learn more and truly know what belonging to Christ means. Yes, it is difficult to teach to both sides of this coin: the shallow and deep.  Yet, in a simple way just keep order in your group.  It might be a rabbit trail that has nothing to do with the lesson or drama that someone else creates, but at some point one of the students hijacks the small group.  You can stop this.  Keep order, stay on topic and answer questions that are meaningful (not when does the next Maze Runner movie get released.)   I think if we went deeper more often than not the students who are goofing off will be engaged.  At least this is my personal experience.

The Introduction Is Too Long

This one was really interesting.  It made me think of the time we had no place (due to building usage) to meet together for an opening.  Instead, when students arrived, they were greeted by small group leaders and spent the whole youth group there.  There was no large group and our students loved it.  Those who came early actually had that extra time to talk to their leader and get to know them. My son calls large group before small group he “mini-sermon set up.”  These are well done, but then by the time they get to small groups and the leader can take control, there is no actual time to get to anything meaningful.  Maybe you need to rethink that time before small groups or make sure small group time is longer?

Sometimes the trouble is that we don’t take the time to really teach our leaders how to run a small group.  How do you handle the student who takes over?  What about the one that’s really hurting? They need our attention and taking them aside before or after group is entirely appropriate and helpful. Instead recognize that during small groups our students have more than often come with bated breath hoping to have some confusions in their Christian walk cleared up.  Create a space where they are engaged, involved, and where we expect them to grow in the Lord.  My problem is that too often I don’t expect most of my students will actually grow.  Maybe the issue is really just one of expectations.

Thanks for loving students,99 thoughts for sg

– Leneita



P.S. – Check out 99 Thoughts For Small Group Leaders for you and your volunteers (great for rookies and veterans)! 

Did Rob Bell Really Say…?

 —  February 19, 2015 — 17 Comments

“Rob Bell is in the news again.”

My wife mentioned this to me the other day. I wasn’t aware of all the details in that moment, so I simply sighed.

robbellBell made headlines this week via an interview he and his wife took part in with Oprah Winfrey. The Bells promoted their new book on marriage, while poking at its definition and Christianity in general. Their book includes a chapter for gay couples.

Rob said, “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness. Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”

Charisma Magazine responded:

God made us to be relational beings, but in a very specific way. He formed Eve as the fit companion and helper for Adam, the two of them uniquely designed to complement each other in the journey and mission of life.

And Paul’s solution to loneliness (and, even more so, to temptation) was specific as well: “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

He didn’t say, “Each person should have his or her own companion,” because that was never God’s intent for His creation… according to Bell, human feelings trump God’s Word, which can easily be dismissed as outdated—2,000 years outdated, it appears.

didGodLet’s talk about what we’re talking about… whether it’s the next thing Rob Bell says, or the next “Rob Bell.”

The first question in the Bible begins with “Did God really say…”

The first question a human asked in the Bible asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I see a theme there.

Rob is great at asking questions. It’s what made him largely popular among many Christians early on in his ministry. I sat under him as my pastor for a season when he was theologically sound. I realize that sounds like a summary statement, and it absolutely is. It’s the kind of statement that Rob himself might say, “Who’s to say what theologically sound even means? Is it because someone agrees with you?”

Notice, that would be simply asking another question. Still, Jesus said to evaluate people and teachers to make sure the fruit they were producing was healthy because it was in agreement with God.

Unfortunately, I’ve watched Rob build a career and new theological platform on asking questions…

which is like saying, “I’m going to jump up in the air. About midway up, I’ll jump again simply in my own power… and then, midway up from there… I’ll jump again, again in my own power.”

doublejumpThe first jump is sound… any jumps after that are just resisting what is actual law.

(Maybe a little much Mario has influenced this thinking.)

You’d have to construct something artificial – a platform, perhaps –  to make any subsequent jumps.You might become so used to using your platform and seeing others use it that you’d actually begin to feel like you redefined what it means to jump.

You haven’t.

You’ve merely gotten a number of people to buy into your platform to allegedly reach new heights.

Which perhaps is why when speaking on the attempt to redefine marriage to accommodate gay couples, Bell added, “…the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense. When you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other, and they just want to go through life with someone.”

Hang on… “Did Rob Bell really say…?” And because he did, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Here’s the irony – and this is what I’d really like to point out.

Bell is kicking at biblical values using biblical values. You see that, right?

I noticed this pattern in a review I wrote for his book Love Wins. Bell talks about the beauty of marital love from a perspective that God blessed us to have… while at the same time he’s questioning the very Source material by which he even knows that to begin with.

dictionaryAgain, it’s like saying, “The Dictionary is an outdated concept. Words no longer have meaning.” To state that, you just used words.

Tracking so far?

If there are any takeaways you can offer to people you know who are processing this, help them to understand this point.

There will always be someone in our midst on this side of heaven who perhaps with good intention is attempting to make sure we’re not missing something. Such individuals can either be helpful accountability to Christianity, or become so focused on potential errors that they create new ones in the process.

Thankfully, there will always be a God in our midst, too – both on this side of heaven and on the other side of it. He’s not threatened by Rob Bell’s comments… nor should we.

What we do need to do is remove the stumbling blocks it puts into the paths of others.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)





When students serve on a Group Mission Trips, their lives are changed as their eyes are opened to the needs of others and their own need for Jesus. A teenager transformed has the potential to impact everyone around them—including their families. Paul Roell, a father of two teenagers, is proof. Check out his story!

“It all began over 5 years ago when my daughter asked me to go on a Group Mission Trip to Buffalo, NY. I got to experience the craze that inspired my daughter and many of her friends to devote a week of their summer vacation and to serve God by serving others.

I witnessed first hand the love the residents have for just the small effort that our crew gave to paint their house at Workcamp. I took a year off the following year, but was back in when my daughter wanted to go back on another mission trip. That year, I became more involved and heard the call from God. He had me, hook line and sinker. I heard loud and clear that God wanted me to step up and be an adult leader. The passion burns deep inside me to do this all for the love of God and for our youth.

WorkingDespite some changes at our church, a group of other leaders formed a new youth group to allow all teens and adults to attend the mission trip. It has been exhausting at times trying to keep up with the youth mission team while working full time. No one said that following Jesus was going to be easy. With the support of my wife, family and friends, it works. Our team has been expanding and we are getting ready to launch into a new endeavor to involve more youth in our community to partake in a mission trip.

I know first hand the incredible impact the mission team has on our youth. My daughter and son are testimonials to that. For the past two years my daughter has been involved with medical mission trips to Ecuador and my son has been recruiting his friends to join us on Group Mission Trips. As quoted from Brandon Heath’s popular song, “God’s not finished with me yet.” – Paul Roell, Batesville, IN

Will you join us for life change? Call an advisor today, at 1.888.824.3965 ext 2, or visit to get started. Let’s create moments of #LIFECHANGE this summer!


medium21This post is focused solely on how to increase your amount of disgruntled volunteers. If you’re already doing some or all of these things then you probably already have a few. So keep it up and watch your group grow.

  1. Be vague – Only share the task. Keep the details and your expectations to yourself.
  2. Don’t communicate – Share as little information as possible. Don’t return emails and/or text in a timely fashion.
  3. Be last minute – Give your leaders no more than two days to plan or prepare to serve at your events…three days if it’s an overnighter. If your leaders want to serve, they should be ready at all times. Also, it’s ok to expect them to stay late and come in early.
  4. Only think about the project/event – Only care about how they best can serve you and never think the other way around.
  5. Don’t appreciate them – They made the choice to serve your ministry, so you’re doing them a favor by letting them. Besides who has time to say thank you anyways.
  6. Don’t train – They were once a student, so they should know what to expect and what to do.
  7. Make time for correction – Even though you may not have time to say thank you, you need to make time for correction.
  8. Don’t be an example – It’s more important that they follow what you say.
  9. Micro-manage  – Make sure you are leading your leaders step-by-step. If they are frustrated with the lack of trust you show in their ability, then you are doing your job.
  10. Don’t support – Think of volunteers as free help. Besides, they should be giving up their time serve the church. It’s what we as Christians are called to do.

If you follow these ten tips faithfully you will be on your way to having the most disgruntled group of youth workers on the planet. If you want the opposite, then do just the OPPOSITE. Any more tips out there that I may have missed?

Hope it helps,


This is a great list of what NOT to do with your volunteers. Want advice on what TO DO? Check out Simply Youth Ministry’s resources for volunteers!

Youth Ministry has never been more social! There are tons of resources out there that you might be missing from the Simply Youth Ministry Network. Check out these links where we are connected to social media and give a follow…