Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Super thankful for those who serve in youth ministry!!! We had a special guest join us this week. His name is Steve Adams and he is our children’s pastor at Saddleback Church. We discuss the importance of building relationships. Subscribe here!! Remember if you have a question you can send it to We are also now on iTunes check us out for the audio only. Excuse the quality…a permanent location is in the works. :)


Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt

“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 — 22 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)


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!

Your Church Critics

 —  February 16, 2015 — 4 Comments

Critics: they’re everywhere! It feels like something in our public air waves has changed and everyone really IS a critic. Is it social media? Is it “post Christian” society? Is it a God-given right? Are we just a grumpier people?

I was talking about this dynamic with a ministry friend just yesterday and I don’t like where we’re heading. She and I both partner with a lot of churches in evaluating their ministries and staffing. I think this line of work is what makes me hypersensitive to the difference between evaluation, coaching, critiquing, and criticism. What’s good and what’s really just damaging? What’s within the realm of “saying only those things that edify one another” and what isn’t?

Two examples: The Super Bowl and SNL’s 40th Anniversary show. Why would Christ-followers decide its a good thing to get on FB or Twitter and keep sharing negative things about the performers? What happened to, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I watched the SB half-time show and enjoyed it in the moment for what it was: Katy Perry performed, the tiger was something else, and you don’t see dancing sharks every day. Why would I post criticism before posting positive comments? The world is watching us, church leaders, and when we’re snarky, it just proves their point. “See? What kind of love is that? I don’t need any part of that.”

Or take last night’s SNL show. Of course there were dumb skits, bad acting, and off notes. Its SNL! You got what you paid for, so to speak, when you tuned in. I thought it was epic! Did people look older? Yes, thus the reason it was a 40th anniversary. Me? I was blessed by being united with “old friends.” Through the magic of TV, I spent time with different decades of my past.

Church, why criticize? Don’t tell me its all “a teachable moment” or “its a free country so I can say what I want.” The truth is we do “catch more flies with honey.” We earn the right to say tough things when we’ve earned the rep for saying positive things as well.

And yes, I get the irony of me criticizing criticism.

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Check out this new episode!!! Congrats to Josh Hurley the “WINNER” of the(WHAT IS THIS?) contest!!!
Email Bag:
1.I’m new. What do I do?
2.Website or nah?
3.How to get students to participate?

Also: Check us out on Itunes!!!


Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt

I saw a graphic that sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

Then I wondered… should it?

Here it is – I’ll leave it up to you to tell me…


What’s wrong (or right) with this picture?