Posted by: Scott Rubin

It’s frigidly cold outside as I write this, and there are mountains of snow in every parking lot it Chicago. School-getting-out is the last thing on my mind – even though I am definitely daydreaming of flip-flops & cookouts. (please no taunting from you lucky warm weather people!!)

But this month I’ve been starting to plan for May & June — because The Transition is coming. Of course, some of you also oversee elementary kids ministry, or high school ministry, or Both! But as the last day of school approaches, lots of us start thinking about “graduating” middle schoolers, or “welcoming in” brand new ones. (The average height in our ministry plummets by about 12 inches in one week — it’s crazy!)

What kind of plans do you have in place, if you have to “bring in the new”, or “move up the old”? I’m not just talking about meeting new kids — maybe you already know them. But how are you going to help them mark the transition into the next phase of life?

It’s one of the reasons that I love jr. high ministry. I think that a 12 year old can own so much more of their faith than an 8 year old can. And a 12 year old’s brain is accessing new dimensions of thinking every day, it seems. (other days, it seems like their brain takes a little vacation… )

This year, we’ve moved our summer camp earlier into the summer.. right after school gets out, actually. And we’re inviting the “new 6th graders” to come with us. If we communicate it right to parents, it could be a fantastic way for these newbies to connect, and get fired up about their next 3 years with us.

Besides that — it give me a great excuse to think about summer… I can almost feel the sunshine again…

Any tips anyone wants to share about how you Transition Well??

Random Randomness

 —  February 25, 2011 — Leave a comment

Posted by Kurt Johnston

- Will we ever catch up? That is the question I found myself asking last night as I watched a screening of the soon-to-be-released movie, “Soul Surfer”. It is the story of surfer Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack a few years ago. It truly is an inspirational story. The movie stars Dennis Quad, Helen Hunt and Carrie Underwood, so it seems like it had a fair amount of production budget. However, as is the case with most faith-based films, the overall production quality was a couple steps below par. Now, if you saw “Facing the Giants” this film is about 5 steps forward, but it is still frustrating to see the body of Christ unable to deliver world class results. We are getting closer, but I wonder if we will ever catch up.

- Our church is in the middle of hosting a week-long conference. Today, in the parking lot of starbucks, I met a team of 18 paid staff from a church in the seattle area. Eastlake Community Church is 5 years old and has grown to about 5,000 people. A visit to their website seems to indicate that they are truly trying to do church a little differently, and it seems to be working!

- Do you have student leaders in your youth ministry? Consider taking them to Doug Fields’ Student Leadership Conference this July. I promise, it will be a highlight of their summer. check it out at

- I’m shockingly excited about a brand new resource at
It is the “Chat or Challenge” Ball, and I think it is an absolutely genius idea for junior high groups! It’s basically a clean, controlled game of “truth or dare” but the “truths” (chat) and the “dares” (challenge) have already been written. an inflatable beach ball has a mixture of Chats and Challenges printed all over it. The ball is tossed around a small group, and when the leader hollers “stop” whoever is stuck holding the ball looks to see what “chat” or “challenge” their left thumb is sitting on, and then proceeds to accomplish the challenge or discuss the chat. GENIUS, GENIUS, GENIUS.

- Concerning the above comment. Simply Junior High was named “simply” for two reasons: 1) it provides stuff that is soley created for junior high aged ministries. its, simple…you need junior high resources? Go to Simply Junior High. and 2) Because in a ministry culture that seems infactuated with over-thinking things, there is still a need for the simple; the practical stuff that you can grab off the shelf and put to use right away.

Posted by Kurt Johnston

I’ve come to a conclusion; about myself and about everybody else. No matter how open to change we might be (and some people are much more comfortable with the overall concept than others), none of us are really as open to it as we think we are.

Let’s talk about youth ministry. Not all change in your ministry is good change, and not all change is bad. In fact, in and of itself, change is a neutral concept….it can be good or it can be bad depending on a wide variety of things.

I tend to enjoy change…I like the way it shakes things up…I enjoy the tension it brings. And because I enjoy change, I am always caught off guard when I find
myself resisting it. In the moments I find myself really struggling with change, I try to ask myself a few questions:

- What, REALLY, am I fighting? Am I fighting an old tradition that I just don’t want to say goodbye to? Am I fighting a person whose judgement to make change I don’t trust? Am I fighting a principle that is truly worth fighting?

- Why, REALLY, am I fighting? Is it because of pride (something I hold dear or maybe even created myself is being changed)? Am I fighting because the change will create a bunch of new work and leadership needs? Is it because the change really is the wrong change, and I’m fighting what I know will be a mistake?

It works almost every time. Identifying what you are fighting, and why just might change the way you deal with change!

5 Leadership Questions

 —  February 19, 2011 — 8 Comments

Lately I’ve been thinking about leadership more than usual. I thought I’d share some of the questions I’ve been asking myself for a couple of reasons: 1) they may be questions worth asking yourself, too. and, 2) I would love to hear any insight you may have regarding some of them. While some may sound rhetorical, and may actually have been in the past, I am really asking myself some honest questions.

- Is leadership over-rated? I have landed on “yes” as my answer, but still chewing on this one (so, maybe this question is rhetorical)

- Why does everybody talk about “servant leadership”, yet so few people really model it? Why is servant leadership so hard for me to display?

- Is leadership more science or art? How fluid does leadership need to be….if at all?

- In what ways, if at all, have all the “business-influenced” books, seminars, strategies etc. hurt the church, and Christian leaders?

- And here’s the biggie: As youth ministry continues to morph/revert back to a more organic, relational, less programatic atmosphere, is traditional leadership needed less….or more than ever?

Posted by: Scott Rubin

When I was in 5th grade, I moved from my beloved city of Cincinnati, to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I never wanted to be “the new kid” — but there I was. I remember a 5th grader named Brandon Born, who was nice to me on my first day of 5th grade. (actually, he was so tall that I walked up & talked to him because I thought he was a teacher. For a minute I was scared that all Michigan kids were giants.)

When I started my first job, I remember “the new guy” feeling, as an adult. A guy named Dan was friendly to me, even though his job had nothing to do with mine. That was a long time ago, and I’ll never forget it! When was the last time you were the new guy… or new girl?

We’ve been trying to pay more attention to The New Kid in our middle school ministry in recent days. When you’re in jr high, it’s so easy to feel like “everybody knows each other… I’m the only dork who doesn’t know what’s going on here!”

We try to have some of our core students show a new kid around, and introduce them to people. Not just “welcome” them at the door, but actually hang out with them for the whole time they’re there. We call it our “S.N.A.P. team”… short for “Showing New People Around”. (we’re not too fussy about the exact order of the letters. :)

And I’ve been trying to personally spend some time with any new students on their first day. It’s not the most “convenient thing” for my schedule, but it seems to really mean a ton to these kids who are trying to figure out our ministry. And when they walk in on their 2nd visit, they’re super happy if I recognize them and say “welcome back”!

We’re a long way from perfect with new kids… for sure. But these days, I’m trying to pay more attention to how that’s going. Because if we can get a new kid to stick around, you never know what God-sized thing could happen in their life because of it!

Helping Single Parents

 —  February 16, 2011 — 2 Comments

Posted by Kurt Johnston

In the last few years, I have grown more and more compassionate/concerned for the plight of single parents. As my wife and I strive (and struggle) to raise two teenagers together (pay for them, help them navigate life, help them with school, drive them around, help them through ups and downs, etc. etc. etc.), I can’t imagine what it is like for a single parent. I can’t imagine it because I have never been in those shoes, and I can’t imagine it because….well, because I simply can’t wrap my mind around it!

Our ministry hasn’tyet made the strides I want to concerning single parents (I’m not even sure what I ultimately think we need to do), but we have made a few small adjustments that are on track:

- We reserve the VAST majority of our scholarship funds for single parents.

- We try to extend extra grace to single parents who pick their kids up late, who ask for us to provide rides, etc. Basically, when tempted to view them as “high maintenance” we purposely remember their situation and look for ways to help.

- We try to extend extra grace to students from single family homes. Again, it’s tough enough to raise a respectful, responsible teenager when two parents are on the scene; imagine doing so alone! Students from single family homes are often carrying around an extra load of hurt, anger, insecurity etc.

- We try (we don’t always do it well) to hook up kids from single parent homes with a “mentor/role model”. We are more agressive with this when the “missing” parent is truly missing….not part of the child’s life at all. A student with no dad….we try to provide a closer relationship with a male role model. With no mom….a closer relationship with a female role model.

If anybody has done more significant and strategic ministry to single parents, please share with the rest of us.


 —  February 14, 2011 — Leave a comment

Posted by Kurt Johnston

a friend of mine from church shared this:

During the year 2011 we will experience 4 unusual dates…. 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11 ………

NOW take the last 2 digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be by the end of this year and it WILL EQUAL …. 111!

I’m on a quest. My goal: to clean up and simplify a whole bunch of my youth ministry’s “stuff”. I think lots of youth groups are like mine…we make rocket science out of stuff that should be very simple. Take volunteers, for example. Certainly there is a whole lot that goes into building a healthy volunteer team, but what are the most basic things…the things that when done well give the best results? I haven’t thought this all the way through, but here is my initial thinking:

ENLIST: Do a good job of getting the right people on the bus. You need more volunteers, but you don’t need more of the wrong volunteers! Create some sort of system that helps you enlist the right youth workers for your junior high ministry.

EQUIP: Keep it basic, but make sure you train and equip your team. Figure out what the most essential equipping components are and focus on those.

EMPOWER: Give ministry away! Let them create new ministries! Don’t view your team as nothing more than foot soldiers carrying out your orders. Give them ownership and let them run.

ENCOURAGE: Cheer them on! Lovingly correct them when needed! Say thank you a whole lot.

What are some of the crucial, but very basic, things you do with your volunteers?