Recently a good friend of mine told me I couldn’t “feel” her pain. She is in her mid-30’s in full time ministry and single. I was engaged by 24, married at 25, babies by 26.

She’s right I happened to get married and have kids pretty quickly. However, I started working in some form of ministry very young, and I know what it’s like to be single, and in ministry.

I know what it’s like to have people walk up to you and ask,  “When you will be next?” when they hear of the engagement of anyone in a 5 mile vicinity. In America we do not have pre-arranged marriages, so I was never sure how to “make this happen.” At the same time everyone thinks you have all the free time, so you can just be the one to “drop your life” when “something needs to be done.”

There seem to be plenty of books out there (especially for us girls) about how we are supposed to make Jesus the center of our lives then we are “ready” for our spouse. This is what I was taught. If I could just “Kiss Dating Goodbye,” and be about the Lord, then my husband would come. It was almost like he was locked behind a door, that would get opened when I had enough faith in Jesus. The problem of course is that we are pursuing Christ while having one eye open on the moment we arrive at enough “Jesus time” to “deserve a spouse.”

Us “married in ministry” folks do a miserable time at helping a lot of times. I  have realized as my friends reach over 30 I don’t always know how to be supportive. The reality is that all of my friends, who aren’t married, would like to be. Yet, at the same time, I know we can’t wave a magic wand and our “prince” shows up. How many of us have heard stories of parents and grandparents who knew each other for like a week and then planned a wedding soon thereafter, only to go on to be married for 50 years? So in our idiocy we start looking around for viable options of other “singles” for you. You date someone for like a minute and we want to talk about the wedding. We mean well, but we are not always helpful.

Part of the solution is that we realize unmarried does not equal undead. Paul himself talked about ministry and singleness being a good combination. You can’t just snap fingers and “get married” so living like you need it to come along any sec can just be frustrating. So my “single” friends know that for now they do just focus on where Christ has them and then see if/when a spouse comes along. So I guess this article is really to us married folks. We need to back off, and for now, let the single be single.

God has each life… He really does…



(yawns, stretches)


My computer drives me crazy on a daily basis for this very reason. Sometimes it locks up because I’m multi-tasking beyond its memory capabilities. Other times it takes a long time to process a video I’m downloading or creating.

You have this in your life, too.

Your smartphone that never seems to operate as fast as you want it to. The cashier doesn’t get you through the line as fast as you want. Your route home in traffic is slower than normal for no reason that you can tell.

And then there’s generational lag.

Watch this video and see if you can relate at all to being in a room full of teenagers and yet being off in some category of the conversation:

What is that category for you?

For example, as hip and in-touch as I assume I am, I’m always amazed at how little I know of who’s who at music/teen awards ceremonies. How have you ever felt like that over something in culture… or simply in terms of what’s happening in your student’s lives?

How can we reclaim our lag time?



Honestly, I can’t remember how our small group discussion ended up here. All of a sudden a very animated 16 year old yelled,

“I hate it when adults tell me I have potential.”

“Why?”  I inquired.  In my own mind that is a great word that helps others understand that we were made for more.

The boy continued, “Well,  first of all I mostly hear the word from teachers or my parents when I am getting lectured. It never really seems positive. Also, I don’t ever feel like I am allowed to make mistakes. It’s like everyone just thinks I am a mess. When I do something right, it’s like that was wrong.” I wanted to make sure I understood. “So what I hear you saying is that you feel like people just think you can’t get ever get it right? When you do that is just a deviation from the norm. What you want is people to see that you are really not trying to mess up. It just happens sometimes.” (Yes, I used the word deviation. Yes, I had to explain what I meant by that.)  His eyes went wide, “Exactly! It’s like when adults say “potential,” they can’t see I’m trying.”

As I listened “between the lines,”  I realized this young many was saying,  “Help me don’t talk at me.”

So in those moments when we need to call a student to “more,”  how do we? For the reason we throw words like “potential” around is often because we feel our students are either going down the wrong path or are just plain apathetic.

What’s the approach?

 Make Sure They Know WHOM They Belong To:

1 John 3:1a tells us,  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  I asked some students recently “Do you know what it means to be God’s child and the benefits that come with that?”  None of them could give me an answer. They would describe themselves as “Christians” and had grown up in the church. We must help them know when Salvation comes we now belong to Jesus, learning to live in that.

Let Them Mess Up and Wrestle with the Hard Stuff:

Our role in a teen’s life is to help them know what following Jesus looks like. We also need to recognize that sometimes they may wander. Other times they turn around and want to know,  “Why does following Jesus look like this?”  Many times they are trying to figure out what being with Jesus means. When we see destruction ahead our role is to tell them what it looks like, and how to avoid it.  Then we need to trust they will ask the right questions and stay on the narrow path.

Walk It Out:

Here is how Christ modeled reaching our “potential:”

I will do it  - You watch.   (Miracles performed, life lived, lessons taught.)

You do it  -  I will watch.  (Sending out of the disciples twice while he was still on earth to cast out demons and spread the good news.)

You do.  (Jesus sent them out.)

“There is nothing sadder to those of us who disciple kids, when we see you get stuck and not want to change,”  I told this boy. “We can see Jesus wants you to lead where you are now. So many times we see you walk away, and it hurts our hearts. We use the word “potential,” because we see you choosing to turn away from who the Lord is calling you to be. However, I want you to know that all of us, me and the other leaders, we haven’t reached our potential either. Being all Jesus wants us to be takes us into eternity. Potential doesn’t have to be a bad word, it all depends on how we spin it.

Do your students have “potential?”

…and I don’t mean parents. I’m talking grandparents, the old ladies in the women’s group, the crotchety dudes who grumble when students wear hats in the Sanctuary. The answer to the title question? Of course they do!

Can you believe that I STILL run into YP’s who say their counselors really shouldn’t be older than college-age? I consult with search committees who still describe their perfect youth pastor as a guitar-playing, b-ball throwing, surfboard-skimming, young married dude whose wife will also serve FT in the YM (for free, of course).

So as we’re all recruiting volunteers for the new school/youth ministry year, do yourself (and your students) a big favor: start with older people in your church. The secret? Ask them the right questions. Put them in the places they feel comfortable, where they can use their giftedness. Oftentimes, we frighten off potential older volunteers (who have time available and are WAY more dependable than many other vols) by our approach: too fast, too quickly asked, too confusing, too big, etc.

Older people can do more than just bring cookies. Here’s a list of volunteer roles older folks can fulfill in your YM:

1) Closet Coordinator: Every youth room has a supply closet that needs a mom’s touch.

2) Weekly Supply Organizer: Get your SS teachers s what they need by having a team get the SS rooms ready.

3) Garage Sale Gurus: Have a list of upcoming supplies/props the YM will need and put these folks on the hunt.

4) Prayer Partners: Have each student in your YM prayed for daily by an older person.

5) Divine Design: Your youth room is a MESS! Have someone come in once a month and straighten it up!

6) Data Divas: Many older folks are computer savvy. Have them keep your student data/attendance up-to-date.

7) Craft Coordinators: There is a segment of your students who are the creative, artsy, crafty type and someone to teach crochet (or whatever) would be cool.

8) Paperwork Police: Yeah, why not lesson the chaos for the adult chaperones at events or when leaving on a trip by bringing in a few folks to collect the paperwork? Can’t hire an admin? Schedule older vols for a few hours each day.

9) Who-knows-who: Older folks know a lot of people and they know others in your church that can help with what you need. Put them on your recruiting team.

10) ADULT COUNSELORS!: Of course older people can be a part of your team in face-to-faith ministry with students. The best way I can share this precept is from a friend of mine, Amanda Berger, who is the president of a ministry to girls called Soul Sisterhood. She runs “girls only” camp weeks and for the last 2 years, she brought a Camp Grandma on staff and has had HUGE positive results. You’ll hear from her on a few days and then a few days after that? You’ll hear from the Camp Grandma herself. Stay tuned.




Refresh Old Games

 —  July 17, 2014 — 2 Comments

refresh your gamesThere are certain classic games that your group loves to do. Chances are some of your favorites have been worn out because you over used them. Want to bring them back? Put a new twist on them. It’s not that hard. Just take the basic object of your favorite game and play it in a new way. Think of it as your favorite game on steroids. [don’t actually use steroids]

How does this work? Let me give you an example:
Rock, Papers, Scissors (Ro Sham Bo)
You know the rules, but change what the action is. There is a good chance you have played another version of this. Like Ladies, Hunters, Bears. Participants pair up and stand back to back. On 3 they turn around and pose as a lady (hand on hip and other hand on head saying “heeeyy” in a high pitched voice) or hunter (pretending to hold a giant gun under their arm and saying “BOOM”) or bear (both arms in the air yelling “Roooaaaaarrrr”).
Ladies beat hunters.
Hunters beat bears.
Bears beat ladies.
Loser sits down and the winner finds another partner until you are down to your final 2.

If it’s a tie they are both out. (this helps the game go by quicker).

Take Ultimate Frisbee as another example.

Just find another random object (one that won’t hurt) and use that instead. A few ideas: Ultimate Cow Tongue, Ultimate Octopus, Ultimate Pillow, Ultimate Flip Flop, etc.

Want to go really big? Play Monopoly, BUT use an entire room as the set up. Lay down cardboard or butcher paper and make a huge board. Then take a couple of square boxes and make large dice. Use cardboard sheets for your chance cards, etc. Find full size objects to be your game pieces.
Playing the Game of LIFE? Use Tricycles or little kid cars.

You can make the most boring game turn into something exciting by giving it a twist that your students aren’t expecting. Don’t limit yourself. Look around in your game closet and see what you can put together.

What game have you refreshed that worked well?

You never know where it’s going to happen.

Where was Started

Where was started

Google began in a garage. Microsoft started in a basement. Facebook launched in a dorm room.

Lots of famous companies began this way.


billions and billions more failed in the garage, basement and dorm room.

  • Maybe it just didn’t seem professional enough to do business next to a water house.
  • Perhaps it felt weird to meet an entrepreneur in a basement riddled with beer cans.
  • It could be that the dorm room idea would have taken off if the “creative genius” had better roommates who took phone messages from big companies.

Still, there are those rare occasions when something world-changing happens in the most unlikely of spaces.

Where eBay was started.

Where eBay was started.

What do you imagine is the greatest thing that can happen where you spend the majority of your day?

What are the seemingly-common areas you’re spending time with a students that are where eternal life change will happen… or won’t… based on if you do/don’t make the most of that space.

  • Be aware of the sights.
  • Be aware of the smells.
  • Be aware of the sounds.

You never know where something groundbreaking might happen… or maybe you do.

Testimony signs outside of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC on Easter morning.

Testimony signs outside of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC on Easter morning.

How can you make the most of ordinary space for ministry?

What’s the greatest story that could be told about the next conversation you’re about to have?

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)

Given my post yesterday on a local church’s lack of VBS administration and follow up, I thought I should repost this game plan from back in May (just in case you hadn’t printed it out and was saving it like an adored document on your night stand for such a time as this).

GAME PLAN: VBS Visitor Follow-up

 Volunteers/Staff Needed:

  • All Children’s Ministry Teachers/Key Department Leaders/Staff are on board with the first-timer process and have signed off.

Calendar Space Needed:   

  • 15 minutes at one VBS teacher training and/or email with response required. Goal is to ensure that all adults are oriented to the process.
  • May Meetings: VBS team, Sunday school team, Children’s Ministry Leader Team to set up plans for follow-up before VBS.
  • August Meetings: Same as above with the purpose of evaluation and for planning a follow-up event.
  • Plan a “Back-to-school” “Fall Kick-Off” or “VBS Reunion” event where all kids from VBS come back for a fun, energetic 2-hour program. The program elements will include a video/slide show from VBS, a look at the fall CM ministry, a craft, game time, snack, songs from VBS, etc.

Database Needed:

  • A database of visitors updated and distributed to all key adults and staff following the VBS week.
  • Sunday School database
  • Church Members/Family database

Children’s Ministry Staff Responsibilities:

  • Ensure that all VBS Leaders are prepared to give special attention and provide an intentional welcoming climate for all visitors, particularly first-timers. They are especially on the lookout for the parents of first-timers/visitors.
  • Ensure that online registration forms indicate “first-time family” or “visiting family.”
  • Create a First-Timer Card that will effectively collect information about that child/family and is emailed upon registration of a first-timer.
  • Ensure that First-Timer/Visitors Cards are available for all Sunday school teachers, children’s ministry volunteers, and any other weekly school year CM program leaders.
  • Ensure that all first-time visitors’ parents complete a first-timer card.
  • Ensure that, in each weekly ministry program and every special event, that at least one volunteer is responsible for distributing and collecting first-timer cards.
  • Be sure that all first-timer cards make their way back to the age-level director who will follow up.
  • Within three days of an event where a first timer has attended, generate a letter to be sent to all first time visitor families & mail before the end of the week.
  • Work with the Children’s Ministry data management person to ensure that first timer contact info is put into the system.
  • Work with the Children’s Ministry data management person to re-categorize all names on the visitor directory when needed as they either fall away or attend regularly. (Based on attendance information.)
  • Work with volunteers and staff on an ongoing basis to create an increasingly welcoming environment for each program of the children’s ministry.
  • Transfer all completed first-timer cards within 24 hours to correct age-level director.
  • Make a call or send an email to all occasional and regular visitors each month.

Children’s Ministry Administrative or Data Management Staff Responsibilities

  • Update the database monthly, placing each person on the database in one of the following categories:

1)    Visited only once

2)    Occasional Visitor (Visited six or less times in the previous three months)

3)    Regular Visitor (has attended at least seven times in the previous three months)

  • Each month, give the staff a list of all occasional and regular visitors (for follow-up contact).
  • Maintain attendance records for all weekly children’s ministry events.
  • Add “regular visitors” to the ministry mailing list, to receive the same ministry mailings that all children’s families receive.
  • Keep a hard copy back-up of all completed first-timer cards.
  • Ensure that the entire visitor database receives invitations to “bring a friend” community events.
  • Personalize and mail a letter for all first-time visitors within one week of their first visit.

Implementation Process:

1)    Create first-timer card.

2)    Determine what software the children’s ministry will use for its visitor database.

3)    Draft a “welcome” letter.

4)    Schedule volunteer leader training in which volunteers will be trained in their responsibilities in the first timer process.

- Stephanie

PS-There’s a Fall Kick-Off Game plan from Ministry Architects if you need one:

Two of Casa Caro’s current inhabitants recently experienced a Vacation Bible School that missed every box on the “how to run a solid VBS” check list. Small churches, you can do better than this! (and don’t worry – this church won’t see this post. Trust me.)

-Permission slip for parents to sign? Nope.

-Medical info on each child? Nope x 2 (and one of mine is a diabetic).

-VBS info on their church website? Last update was 2012

-Theme from one of the major publisher’s? R u kidding me?

-Songs learned? Hallelu/Praise ye the Lord, The Lord said to Noah, I’ve got the Joy, Rock/Sand song-circa 1960.

-Opening worship? In sanctuary where they all had to file in one by one in total silence.

-End of the day release? Open the doors and let them run out.

-Follow up? How could they – they never took names or addresses in the first place.

…and yet my two loved it! Couldn’t wait to get up to go each day (and these are kids that only experience “church” at my house). Climbed into the car SO excited to tell me what they learned, ate, did. They felt loved and accepted. They begged me to come the last day to hear their songs.

Later that final afternoon, the 6-year old was sitting on the bench in our front yard.”What are you doing?” I asked. “God provides so I’m asking him for something I need.” “Did you learn that at VBS?” “Yes.” “What are you asking for?” “A kitten.” Yikes. That’s gonna be an interesting carry-on for the plane ride home.