blog-lessons-learned-blackboard-800wGrowing up I’ve had several people in my life that have made a lasting impact. I am totally the man I am today because of the people who took the time to invest in me.

I feel privileged to have been able to do the same in the lives of the students I get to invest in. And along the way, I’ve learned a ton about being present in the lives of students. I’ve also learned how serious God takes it. So i thought I’d share a few of my learnings with you:

  1. I’ve learned students are listening – They are listening to our every word. Even though they might not do what we say all the time they are still listening. I’ve had students remind me of things that I’ve said that has helped them that I don’t even remember saying. I’ve also had them call me out on things I’ve said that I didn’t think they were paying any attention to. THEY ARE LISTENING and you have the ability to speak words that will build them up in their faith. On the flip side, you also have the ability to speak words that will tear them down or lead them astray. You must know that they are listening and the things you say is affecting them for the better or worse.
  2. I’ve learned students are watching – I believe students watch us more than they listen to us. As a leader/mentor it is important we model what we preach. This is why relational ministry is so important. Because the principle behind relational ministry is that we model Christ and the biblical principles of His kingdom to students doing life together. So it’s great in the sense that they get to hopefully not just hear about a life surrendered to God, but also see one. So if you are living a life surrendered to God that’s what they will see. Likewise, if you are talking the talk, but not walking the walk they will also see that. Remember, they are watching.
  3. I’ve learned to be honest with students – Be honest about where you are in your walk with Christ. And don’t be afraid to get help with the things you don’t know. Also, be lovingly honest in your conversations where you have to speak some tough truth.
  4. I’ve learned to be their leader, not their friend – Be their leader, not their friend as if they are your age or in your stage of life. This gets people into a lot of trouble because there are no clear lines drawn. And you begin to treat them as someone you can dump all of your frustrations/worries/hangups/habits/issues on. I need to use discernment concerning sharing about my life with students; and I need friends outside of ministry that are my age (or older) and are in my stage of life or have been in my stage of life that I can personally relate to and walk my faith journey with.
  5. I’ve learned it’s important that I strive to be trustworthy and lead with integrity – Remember, having integrity is not about being right, it’s about doing what’s right. We need to point students in the right direction. We need to teach them the right direction even when you’re wrong.
  6. I’ve learned that students are vulnerable – My role in their life gives me influence. It’s important that I take it seriously and never take advantage of it. Matthew 18:6 – Sometimes we think this verse means if we cause them to start doing drugs or something terrible, but our hypocriticalness can totally cause a student to stumble, and walk away from their faith. God holds us accountable with the lives He has entrusted us with.

Your presence in the lives of students are needed. Know that it is a responsibility God takes seriously.

Hope it helps,


In this episode, we discuss modesty in youth group when it comes to clothing by the pool. We also discuss grade transitions: Elementary to Jr. High and Jr. High to High School. Send questions or topic ideas to


Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt


Two years ago I stumbled into an incredible experience, almost by accident.

It’s called the Simply Jesus Gathering—held in Denver, and featuring some of the most incredible speakers in the world (this year, the gathering is April 23-24 at Denver Community Church, 1595 Pearl St., Denver, CO 80203).


All of the speakers have one thing in common—they’ve centered everything they do in life (writing, speaking, teaching) around their passion for Jesus. My wife and I were there as participants, drinking in the conversation that was led by people like N.T. Wright, Philip Yancey, Jefferson Bethke, and Tony Campolo (among many others). The environment was electric with Jesus—it was also relaxed and authentic.

And now, two years later, I’ve been invited to speak at the 2015 version of the Simply Jesus Gathering. It’s one of the great honors of my life. I’ll throw-in with people like William Paul Young (author of The Shack), Ted Dekker (bestselling sci-fi author), Father Greg Boyle (author of the bestselling Tattoos On the Heart), Leonard Sweet, musician David Wilcox, and many others.

Yesterday my friend Carl Meaderis, who founded the conference and is Jesus-centered to his core, gave permission for each person on the speaker team to offer their “friends and family” a special half-price rate to the gathering—that’s $140. Consider yourself “friends and family.” To get the rate, just use this promo code which is specific to me: RICK140. Click here to register.

I’d love to see you there…

– Rick Lawrence

Lessons-learned-300x208I had the privilege of taking a few of my student leaders to a workshop where they were a part of a Q & A panel. There were youth workers there asking questions about their experience in youth ministry. Now, they had a few of the questions beforehand, but I didn’t prep them nor did I shape their answers. I wanted them to be honest about their experiences good or bad.

It was probably one of the greatest moments in youth ministry for me. Not because they made the ministry look good, because they didn’t. They shared the good and the bad. As the youth pastors in the crowd begin to ask questions and the students begin to answer, a few things became very clear to me.

  • Life change is not in the events we do. It’s what takes place at the event that changes lives.
    We spend a lot of time and stressful hours trying to come up with the craziest and greatest events ever. Which is not a bad thing, but if you’re measuring life change based on it you are probably not going to see the fruit you expected. What became clear to me is that I need to focus my time on what happens at the event because that matters more.
  • We can view failure as a loss or a learning experience.
    The saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” should be a universal slogan for youth ministries everywhere. And I would add “try, try something different.” You must not be afraid to fail in ministry, and knowing what works warrants you to know what doesn’t work. We’ve tried a lot of things that haven’t worked. And because we are not afraid to fail, we find what does work. What became clear to me is our youth ministries are too unique to think that their is a one-size-fits all system or plan. You try, you fail, and you learn. You will find what works in the process.
  • Students remember what we do, more than what we say.
    As the students began to speak about their experiences and what has been the most impactful, none of them answered the teachings or curriculum. It was the selfless act of a leader who took time to walk with them through a difficult time in their faith and/or personal life. What became clear to me is that we need to spend more time being and modeling the Word of God to students and not just teaching it.
  • Be relationally intentional.
    I heard more stories about how God worked through relationships than anything else. What became clear to me is that we need to spend time helping our leaders become more intentional concerning relational ministry.

I learned a lot just listening to our students answer questions about our ministry. I would be lying if I said all of it was enjoyable. They spoke of things we tried that didn’t work and we learned from them. I would encourage you to do the same. Let your students speak honestly about your ministry and learn from them. You will be surprised how attentive they are to the ministry.

Hope it helps,


In this episode we go to the email bag. We discuss what to do when the ministry you’re serving in is not what you thought. We also discuss parents. Remember, you can leave a question or topic suggestion at

Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt

I am not sure why I’m locked on to this topic about youth workers getting fired. All is good in my world. But I thought I’d put out a third post and make this a trilogy. Check out the 5 Steps After Getting Fired and the Steps 6-10 posts.

Sometimes things just go awry in church ministry. Being let go from your job is a part of the youth ministry profession.There are times when its nothing you did (like the church is experiencing budget shortfalls) but many times there is some sense of unhappiness with your job performance coming from someone.Whether truth or not, churches will sometimes look for things to be unhappy about so they feel better about exiting you before they head in a different direction with a “Superstar Superman” youth director who will fix all their growth woes.

Here are 5 practices to make you better at your job and make it harder for leaders to find fault:

1) Keep an updated youth contact sheet: “That youth director never once reached out to my son!” Sound familiar? Avoid this by creating a spreadsheet with every single youth name on it connected to the church. Active church families’ teens, inactive church families’ teens, and active youth visitors should all be there. Give the spreadsheet headings: email, text, call, Instagram, FB, visit, etc. Mark down group and personal contact points. (Tip: For the inactive church member students, leave the occasional message in the parents’ voicemail, in addition to the student’s.) This way, you can turn it in once a month to your boss or the board, and they don’t even have to ask.

2) CC your boss: Having a thread of what was said in a sensitive area with an unhappy person never hurts. Also, cc’ing your boss will keep you accountable for what you say. It also lets the unhappy person know you’re willing to work this out and are being transparent.

3) Repeat after me, “I’m sorry, and…”: Too many youth workers come off as defensive. So when someone comes to them with an idea or a complaint, the first words out of the youth worker’s mouth is, “I’m sorry, BUT…”  What follows is never good. The “but” immediately sets the complainer’s walls up even higher. Saying, “I’m sorry and I’ll check into that,” or “I’m sorry. I’ll work hard at making sure that doesn’t happen again,” helps the other person to feel heard.

4) Leave a (electronic) paper trail about events: Squelch people’s questions and concerns. Use a program planning sheet for each event so that every staff and leader/volunteer can see details as they fill in. Post it in a Google Drive for people to see at any time or attach each version in emails. (Email me at and I’ll send you my one page version or go to and find their major event notebook freebie.)

5) Be intentional. Never assume: Never assume anyone knows the why behind the what. Don’t leave great follow-up to chance…because it won’t be great follow-up.

“How long do you preach to your students?”

howlongThis is a common question among youth workers, especially within an American culture where attention spans matter. I wonder sometimes if ministries in foreign cultures that are used to longer church services ever have to even ask the question, but that’s perhaps another blog post for another time.

Most youth workers set aside a certain amount of time for their message to make its point, dabbling somewhere in between 10 to 30 minutes. Others might offer that a general rule of thumb is one minute of preaching per the age of your audience (i.e. an audience of 15-year-olds equals a 15 minute message)

—-Click here for additional youth ministry sermon resources.—-

Perhaps another way to consider the question is “How long should you preach before engaging students another way, and then preaching some more?”

For example, if you watch major TV shows or movies that do this well, they’ll give you a thick scene… then shift it to something completely different… then shift it back to the thick scene… and so on. Sometimes the shift is lighter, like in the Passion of the Christ when you’re watching Mary look at Jesus being beaten – and then there is this little mental flashback of them being playful with each other years earlier, or him needing her help as a child – and then we’re back to the heavier stuff.

If you do this well, a “message” can last longer than it would otherwise. The catch is to make sure things complement each other versus distract from each other.

What do you think?

– Tony / @tonymyles

P.S. Here are some other thoughts I once wrote down on the process of creating a sermon:

(I’m picking up the convo where we left off last week; see Steps 1-5). 

You’ve been fired, you didn’t see it coming (though, I’d push you back on that and say, “Really?”), you’ve gone home to sequester yourself for 24 hours. Now what?

#6 – Determine if you’ll agree to “resigning” or if you’d rather be “asked to leave.” Whatever you decide, don’t vacillate. Either direction has its own course and you need to stick to one path.

#7 – If you decide to “resign,” determine what your severance package needs will be before signing the letter of resignation. 3 months is minimum; 6 months is better. With severance agreed upon, you are also agreeing that you will “finish strong” by leaving things in fabulous order and will not participate in any negative conversations. You will stick to the story that you resigned and you are exploring the call God has for you elsewhere.

#8 – If you decide not to “resign,” tell your boss in a written form with other leaders cc’d. Keep it very professional; eliminate any passive aggressive snarky-ness. Give them a target date for finishing up your position (unless they already gave you a date). 1-2 weeks is long enough. Anything more is too tempting for political messiness. Include in the letter what your transition plans will be as far as files, data, calendar, etc. Keep your tone very helpful. You might suggest that you’d like someone to help you take your stuff out of the office so that person knows you’re leaving behind what belongs to the church. Most importantly, be sure to share that your intent is to finish well. When asked by members, tell them succinctly without attitude, that you were asked to leave, you honor the leadership, and you are exploring the call God has for you elsewhere.

#9 – Begin working on your resume. Google what’s new, sharp, and eye-catching. Look at what jobs are available on the biggest YM job boards like,, or Remember: if you want another ministry position, you don’t want to burn bridges.

#10 – TAKE THE HIGH ROAD! I mean it, friend. There is no other way to do this. The reality is that if you’re picturing a courtroom scene in your head where you get to present evidence as to why you were wronged, it won’t happen. The more drama you create by whispering here and there, the more it hurts your career, your family, the church, your youth, the Kingdom. Yes, I know you weren’t treated fairly. “Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord” – in other words, let God deal with your “former” church. I’m watching one of my FB friends play out their depression and co-dependency online and really, it isn’t helping anyone. In fact, it may actually prove why that person were asked to leave.

It gets better. The lessons learned, if you’re willing, will be one of the best things to ever happen to you. Trust me, I know.


(PS: Check out Terrace Crawford’s This Week in Youth Ministry podcast; he interviewed me about this very topic! )