So go back and read my post from yesterday to catch up, but the main gist is this. Christmas Eve is a big deal for small churches: guests come that don’t come at any other time and they just might give your church a chance. Or not. You’ve got four days left to make this happen so get going!


Whatever it cost to get 2+ people to staff the nursery – pay it (with background checked people, of course). $75-$100 each for two nursery workers is worth it! Better money spent than any other advertising you spend all year. Have a back up plan for a 3rd person if the numbers go over 10-12 kids.

1) Staff it properly with kind, good first impression-type people. These people will be letting parents know that this is a love-one-another type place. Make sure its not staffed solely with youth (I’m sorry, students; I love ya, but there has to be an adult there, too.)

2) Review safety procedures with the nursery workers so that when reluctant parents think they might leave their child in your church’s care, you look like you know what you’re doing.

3) Have a sign in and out procedure because believe me – parents notice. Provide a name tag for each child where any special little reminder can also go.

4) Determine how you’ll find the parents in case of an emergency – which there won’t be. Maybe its sitting in a special spot, texting them (on silent), taking their picture so the usher can find them, a small scroll on the screen, or maybe you’re lucky enough to be a small church and still have those fancy light up things the big church has. Whatever works.

5) Don’t waste the opportunity! What I mean is this: its the birth of a baby and many of these kids will understand the concept. Tell the story in the nursery. Have a Nativity set (or more than one) for toddlers to play with. Crafts that reinforce the lesson wouldn’t hurt either. Spread the good news!

All for now. You can do this! This is not a chore; this is an opportunity to serve a family that needs Jesus…and a moment’s peace and quiet. Check back in tomorrow for the third tip: The Parking Lot Experience.




Small church friends, if you know me at all, if you’ve been one of the churches I’ve coached in the past, you know what I’m about to say: Christmas Eve is your time to shine…so don’t blow it! You’ve got 5 days till the big night so stay tuned daily to make sure all your bases are covered.

Why, you ask? Because Christmas Eve is the best shot you’ve got for a whole year to get 1) New families with kids through the door 2) Inactive members to give you a second chance and 3) Former youth, now all grown up, to remember that maybe they did like church after all.

The 5 Tips for sharpening things up? : 1) “Never Assume Anything” Publicity 2) The Nursery 3) The Parking Lot Experience 4) Through the Front Door Impressions 5) The First and Last 5 Minutes of the Service


I get it: people are busy at the holidays. Items on our to-do lists begin to slide off, shortcuts start looking really good. Fight through it, friends! Force yourselves to look through the lens of having company over…because you are!

Here’s a list of of quick tips to make what’s happening have even more impact:

1) Put Christmas Eve service times outside. Mention having candle lighting and a nursery provided. (More on that tomorrow!)

2) Make sure someone is answering the church phone all day Christmas Eve because people will be calling asking about time, candles and nursery.

3) Up-date the church website NOW with the above info and for goodness sake, put a few pictures from last year’s service on the front page to give them a taste of the beauty they can expect.

4) Update old info on the website about your children’s and youth ministries. While they’re looking for service times, they just might click over there as well. you don’t it to look like there’s nothing going on…unless there’s nothing going on (and then you need to call me for some coaching).

5) Splurge for the fancy bulletin covers and make sure its a pretty one. Don’t overcrowd the bulletin with extra fluff and stuff. At the same time, give guests everything they need to fit in with the crowd. Put nursery info in a prominent place. If you advertise anything about the church, promote the next CM/YM events. Guests see that as a sign of life in your church.

6) Have children’s bulletins ready and not the leftovers from some other thing. Make these fresh ones with picture to color while at the same time paralleling what’s happening. Come on; you can do this! Also a candy cane doesn’t hurt and battery operated tea lights for the candle light time for the wee ones keeps someone;s bulletin from catching on fire.

OK, this is enough for now. Don’t do it all yourself; divide this up into tasks and make a few quick phone calls. Check back tomorrow.


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,