slumpJust got an email from a youth worker asking for some guidance. He’s feeling the holiday pinch concerning the engagement and attendance of his students. So I sent him my response and thought I’d share it with all of you since we are all in the same boat one way or another this time of the year.

You need to know that the holiday pinch is normal and felt by every ministry. The holiday season is a time for the family, so families are going to do a lot of family orientated things. Students are also taking finals before break so they are studying like crazy. Then there’s winter break so families are vacationing.

There are two things you can do during this time of ministry. One of those things is to do nothing, and just let things be the way they are. The other thing would be to take advantage of this slower time of ministry. So here are seven ways you can take advantage of this slower time of the year:

  1. Use this time to spend more time with your family. Use this time to get back some of the time you spent staying late, staying overnight, going in early and/or coming home late.
  2. Use this time to invest and hangout with the faithful few who show up to youth group. You could use this time to strengthen and build up your core students.
  3. Use this time to strategize the new year. You can launch a new name for your youth group, new ministry opportunities, you can create new activities that students can bring their friends to. You can use this time to look to the future.
  4. You can take advantage of the fact that families want to do things together. Create something for the family. Last year we started doing a Christmas play, and it’s one of our largest attended things we do. Our audience is filled with parents, family friends, and new students. It’s easy to invite someone to a Christmas play, and it keeps the momentum going.
  5. You can use this time to do some much needed training with your staff and volunteers.
  6. You can also use this time to celebrate your staff and volunteers.
  7. You can strategically use this slow season as a time to engage the families that are coming out to church for the holiday season only. Maybe beef up your presence at big church. Let those families know that you exist and the things you offer.

Hope it helps,



We are about one week out until Christmas. This means of course that we are only two weeks away from the end of 2014. Some of us had an amazing year, others (like me) will raise a glass on midnight December 31 with a scream, “GOOD RIDDANCE!” Yet, now is also when we start seeing all of the posts and podcasts about goal setting. They tell us goals are vital to accomplishing anything in the coming year, and science supports this fact.

The other day I had a discussion with my husband about some discontent I have had as of late. I realized all the leadership talk about focus had me riled up. “I don’t know if I truly have any goals.” I told him. “I mean I have lots of great things I am doing for Jesus, in ministry and life, yet I am not sure if I have an end game.”

I got to thinking about goals and how I wanted to set them for 2015. Yet, if I am honest I have tried so many “methods” as suggested from everyone from the known leadership universe from Jon Acuff to John Maxwell to Michael Hyatt in this idea. I have started small, planned out, organized and used all sorts of “mechanisms.” There has been Evernote on my phone, Corkulus on my computer and even old fashioned sticky notes in my plan of attack. I keep my list for a short while and then Patrick Lencioni would accuse me of being the “fire fighter” in his book, The Advantage. I lose sight of the the vision, because I am so focused on dealing with the issues of the day.

Then in the last few days I have realized some real things that have hindered reaching anything:

I Forget to End the Year.

What I mean by this is that it is so easy to focus on what is ahead we don’t wrap up what just ended. Our goals for the new year really become a hold over of what was unaccomplished in the previous year. We feel guilty if we don’t really want a particular goal anymore and now we don’t know what to do. End the year. Take an honest assessment of what was and wasn’t accomplished and why.

I Need to Grieve the “Undone.”

This might sound silly, but I heard it in an interview with Michael Hyatt the other day and it really struck me. It’s important for a moment to allow yourself to grieve a little in what you wanted to do, and didn’t. What did we “hope” we would do and we never go around to is. As the overdone song says we tend to think we just need to “let it go.”  Yet, the true this that there are times when we can’t. When I don’t do this I can tend to have an extra set of “hold over goals” from past years. They sit there as a reminder of what I never get to. Stop the “someday I will be…” because it’s ambiguous and will never happen.

I Have to Acknowledge Discouragement:

I have embraced the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) with the best of them.  I have eaten the frog first. (Gotten through the toughest and grossest portion of the goal.)  Then it still seems like my dreams are somewhere  out there. Another year goes by and I still am not closer (or so it seems) to what I truly desire so my shoulders slump and I stop believing.  It’s not like I literally wave a white flag and give up.  Instead I would say it creeps in slowly until my attitude becomes one of, “why bother with this anymore.”  This is the true reason why I have stopped plodding out goals.  I am really hurt by the ones who have been stolen, buried and tainted.

To fully look to 2015 the reality is I can’t just limp through the end of 2014.

Let’s take the time to end well and then look to 2015.

What didn’t happen and we grieve it?

What was a nice idea but doesn’t need to come over to 2015?

What keeps making the list from 3 or 5 or 10 years ago that if we are honest need to go away?

Before I can even begin to craft a list for 2015, there needs to be some honesty about 2014. Are there unanswered dreams that need renewed focus?

To launch well, we need to end well. Don’t forget to take the time to actually get over this year. Everyone says 2015 is a blank slate. However, it’s not if 2014 has already crept over.

What about you? How do you end well?

Saturday Night Live doesn’t always nail it.

This time I think they did.

Check out this promotional video for an annual Christmas church service:

snlSo… can we laugh at ourselves?

In my opinion, the humor isn’t found in just one side of this. I saw comments on Twitter when it aired like “…and that’s why I won’t go to church. Such hypocrites there!”

Meanwhile, the video itself begins, “It’s Christmas, and you know what that means: It’s time for your annual trip to church with your parents!”

That in itself has it’s own sense of satirical confrontation to the nominal faith of many people who profess God to be “God” and yet put him at a very non-God place on their priority list.

I did that for many years growing up. I was the angry, apathetic non-believing teen.

Now on the other end as a pastor, I’d like to think I can still own whatever gaps I have going on these days in my life.

It’s Christmas. Don’t just give God your best this time of year. Use it as an on-ramp to something genuine all year.

Yes, every Church on this side of heaven is imperfect. Still, Jesus has faith in us. How about we put a little faith in each other and this ragamuffin, Christ-centered community He’s created for us to grow in?

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1In this episode of Let’s Talk Youth Ministry, Kurt Johnston and I give four practical tips to the youth worker who may be feeling disgruntled towards leadership. This is a topic that will come up at some point in your time in ministry. Check it out!!

If you have any questions or topic suggestions send them to: Also, Subscribe


Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt

These videos offer some Christmas fun in themselves…

but can also be the ingredients for a great youth group lesson.

(Here’s a fun non-Christmas option)

PicardWhat if you show these to your students, get some general reactions, and then probe around with them on a few takeaways?

  • Do these videos make you laugh or frustrate you?
  • How do you think the original creators of the material that was changed feels about these? Should they get the final say on it?
  • If you made something that meant something to you and another person came along to change it into something humorous, how would you feel about it?
  • What in God’s Creator do you feel He’s okay with us twisting into something other than what it was intended for? When does it cross a line? Who gets to have the final say on that… culture, or the Creator?

What topics do you think you could cover with this?



It saddens me to read blogs and hear about so many people in ministry being bruised and hurt by leaders within the church. And while I understand there is another side to the story, I believe the first side should start with us as leaders. So if you are leading a ministry or a leader in a ministry, here are a few things for you to think about and also share with your leaders. These are some things I believe we forget from time to time and as a result people are hurt.

You Are Flawed - Being in leadership does not change this fact. Actually, being in leadership should heighten your sensitivity to the fact that you are flawed, and the depth of the pain and hurt you are able to inflict is immeasurable. So you are flawed, and your logic should never trump scripture.

You Are Held To A Higher Standard - God holds us to a higher standard because it protects us and the people we lead, not because we are special. God created standards for protection not punishment. Viewing them as punishment sets you on the road to not keeping them. Yes, in ministry you have someone to report to, but the truth of the matter is in the end we will all have to report to God. And the standards your direct report sets for you does not relinquish you from the standards God has already set as a minister of the gospel. This is something we must remember as we lead.

A Life Of Duality Ends In Destruction - It’s only a matter of time before you are exposed. Reach out for help NOW, because being found out does you and everyone you know more HARM than good.

Being Prideful Is A Sin - There is a reason why being prideful is a sin. It’s because the very meaning of pride is to take pleasure in ones own accomplishments. As a leader, taking pride in anything becomes a slippery slope you can’t afford. How about taking a position of humility in everything. Recognizing God and those he’s placed in your life to help you become the person you are today. Pride displays a false sense of the truth, so don’t buy the lie. I’m not saying you can’t receive a complement. I’m just saying, receive it in perspective.

Now, I didn’t write this to bash on leaders. I wrote it because as a leader in ministry I need to be reminded of these things. If we don’t put ourselves in check, we will be checked by the consequences of our actions. So what are some other things we need to remember that causes harm to those we lead?

Hope it helps,


Screenshot 2014-12-10 10.21.37

This young woman got out of her wheelchair at the Palm Beach Marathon to walk across the finish line.

This past weekend I had the honor of running another half-marathon. Before you are impressed you need to know a couple of things. First of all, I don’t really run as much as I fall forward with momentum. If this wasn’t bad enough, I am an asthmatic. There is nothing more attractive than the paramedics on the course constantly checking your inhaler is in hand.

Now I know what you’re thinking. I’ m going to make another one of those “finish the race analogies” now connecting the Bible to real life.  Yes, yes, run the race to the end even with creaky over-40-joints and restricted lungs. Keep running. That’s not exactly it.

I want to share with you the picture I encountered about 20 feet from the finish line. All day I had seen different runners pushing friends and families who were wheelchair bound. At a race like this most run for a “cause,” and it is not uncommon for those who CAN run to raise money by running for and with those who CAN’T. But as my eyes began to focus on the end of the race I saw a particular wheelchair stop. Putting on the breaks, a Mom and Dad helped their daughter  stand. Painstakingly she left the wheelchair supported by a parent on either side and inched her way towards that finish line.

Other runners, who were worried about their finish time or not really paying attention just kept going around her. There was no way I was passing this girl. I would wait.

The tears welled up and began to stream down my cheeks.  These wheelchair contestants remind me of my sister who passed away several years ago now. All of the emotions of missing my sister mixed with the beauty of this girl determined to use legs and not wheels to finish this race.

Later in the day my husband asked me, “So what’s the blog post going to be about with the way we finished the race? I know you and you are already thinking that way. I can see a lot of analogies you can draw. You can talk about grief and what triggers it, or the fact that as painful as our run was we are blessed to be able to. What will it be?”

Honestly, I had to chew on it for awhile. The picture of that young girl held up by her parents on either side triggered so many thoughts. I guess I will let you draw your own leadership lessons from it.

I will say this is what stood out to me most though. It’s easy in life to get distracted by all of the pain. This race was a hard one for me: humidity caused my lungs to burn, my hip ached for about 5 miles, and at mile twelve I was sure I was going to fall over. It was easy to focus more on the running than the race and the difficulty in finishing instead of making it to the finish line.  

Early that morning I turned to my husband and said, “What if I fail today?”  He said, “What’s to fail, if we finish?” I didn’t enjoy where I could go. I dwelled on what was too hard.  So many times we fail to keep running because we forget there is an end goal. The pain shuts us down.

Yet, it’s not that alone. I think my picture of Jesus in this running analogy has always been with Him waiting at the end of the race. When I cross the finish line I will fall into His open arms that have been waiting for me. Yet,  as beautiful of a picture as that is, I now think it’s wrong. Instead, He is running with me. Sometimes, when I can’t keep going He might push me. Yet, at the end, just like that girl, he will lift us up and arm in arm we will finish together. He is not just on the “other side” so to speak, He is the one whispering that this race is worthwhile.

You might be in a tumultuous time right now. Maybe your body is fighting sickness. Perhaps you just lost your job or leadership is making sure you know you aren’t valued. Whatever it is, keep running. Don’t get too focused on the discomfort of the run that you miss the race you are in, the one who is at your side or that the point is to keep going until you are finished.

He is with you. You know what it’s about to be a brand new year. You get to throw this year aside and start all over. It’s sort of like a brand new starting line.

- Leneita

491398827_640Evangelizing can be weird for students. I felt like a salesman trying to share my faith when I was in school. And not just any salesman, but a salesman who sells things people don’t know they want or even need. A perfect example of this is the person at the kiosk booths at the mall. They pace up and down talking to people who aren’t paying them any attention. Trying to sell them something they didn’t even come to the mall to get. I used to feel that way when I would have to go out and share my faith. I would think to myself, these people don’t want to hear what I have to say. It wasn’t until I got older that I understood that it will always be about sharing something with people who don’t know they need it.

Now, I personally believe God uses a lot of different ways to share His message through us. So I will never say one way is better. Because in some way or another God uses them all. But in this post I want to discuss evangelizing through relationship.

While I wouldn’t say it’s better, I will say it’s my favorite when it comes to teaching students how to evangelize to their friends. Evangelizing through relationships teaches students three things:

  1. It reinforces the main point of the gospel, which is God’s longing to be in relationship with us.
  2. It helps students not see the person being evangelized as a project or a deal needing closing, but a person God loves.
  3. It helps them speak through their own relationship with God, and from their own story and experiences which can’t be disputed.

So here are the four steps I like to walk students through when it comes to sharing there faith with their friends.

I Teach Them To Know The Gospel - Have you ever lead someone to a destination you didn’t know the directions to? I’m guessing your answer is NO. Well, it’s the same when it comes to sharing our faith. You gotta know how you got to where you are, in order to show people how to get there.

I Teach Them To Know Their Story – A lot of times students are paralyzed by fear because they don’t know what to say. So I’ll have students write their story out using a template if needed. And it will be about how God has changed their life. They will use this information to share the gospel. I’ve learned that people are more interested in hearing what God has done in your life, than just hearing what He can possibly do in theirs. So teach them to know their story.

I Teach Them To Get To Know Their Friends Story - A lot of times we know people and are friends with them, but we never engage in any conversations concerning the issues of life. So it’s important they know you care about the details of their life, because you are modeling how much God cares about them. Also, you have to earn the right to speak into their life, the same way people have to earn the right to speak into yours. We do that through getting to know who they are. Learning someone else’s journey is the quickest way to grow in relationship with that person. Get to know there story.

I Teach Them To Understand The Gospel And How It Intersects Their Story. – The gospel becomes more real once you understand how it applies to you. And for the most part we are most comfortable talking about ourselves. So it’s important that we don’t just know the verses and the right christianized language. We need to understand the gospel in light of how it relates to our story. And there is a confidence that comes to the one who understands this point.

Hope it  helps,