Random Randomness

 —  December 10, 2010 — Leave a comment

Posted by Kurt Johnston

- Today I filmed 10, 3-minute training videos for rookie volunteers. We will use them for our student ministry setting, and they will be part of an upcoming resource from Simply Youth Ministry.

- I am so glad my beloved Broncos fired Josh McDaniels! My only fear is that a new head coach won’t be a Tebow fan, and we could see him permanently shelved or shipped off.

- Starting to get excited about two upcoming conferences: Radicalis, our church conference Hosted here at Saddleback (Feb 22-25) and The Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago (Mar 4-7). These are two very different conferences but both are going to be fantastic.

- In our junior high ministry, we have a higher percentage of young leaders (in the 18-25 year-old range) than ever before…the energy they bring to our team is tremendous. I wonder if this is just a blip for us or the start of a longer trend.

Posted By Kurt Johnston

I can trace my fascination with leadership back to a very specific moment. In the mid-90′s my wife, Rachel, and I were in one of our final interviews to join John Maxwell’s team at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego as their Junior High Pastor. We were meeting with one of the executive Pastors when, sort of out of nowhere, the question was asked: “Kurt, are you a leader?” To be completely honest, I had never really thought much about leadership. I was a Pastor, a youth worker and a decent builder of teams….but a “leader”? I had never thought about it, and didn’t even know how to answer. As I fumbled and bumbled my way through some sort of contrived answer, Rachel saved the day (and perhaps my chances at the position) because she was smart enough to intervene and say something along the lines of “from my perspective, Kurt is an amazing leader because…………….” She was quick to recognize that there needed to be a good, strong, well defined answer…after all, that is certainly a mark of leadership!

They hired me. They probably should have hired Rachel.

Over the years I have read books, attended seminars, invested in graduate school etc. etc. etc. all dedicated to learning more about, and hopefully becoming a better leader.

And while I am fascinated with the topic/idea of leadership, and still find myself on a continuous hunt for more input, I have (in the past year or so) landed on a few personal “Pillars of Leadership” (that’s my lame title) that I hope inform every leadership scenario I find myself in. Here is what it looks like for me.

Pillar #1: Leadership is Liquid

- Leadership is as much (if not more) art than science.

- Different scenarios need different approaches, leadership styles etc.

- Different people need to be led differently.

Pillar #2: Strive to be Ethical, Effective, Efficient and Excellent

Ethical: True to Christ, True to Myself, True to Others

Effective: Doing the right things

Effecient: Doing things the right way

Excellent: Giving things my best effort

Pillar #3: Leadership is Over-rated (sorry John Maxwell, Authors, and Grad School Profs)

- Ultimately it is God at work through me, not my own personal skill-set that will bring about the best results.

- The gift of leadership is no better than any of the other gifts.

- I would rather my tombstone say “He was a great guy” than “He was a great leader”

Your “Pillars of Leadership” would probably be different, but you ARE building your leadership style on something….on what, exactly, is probably worth considering.

Random Randomness

 —  November 22, 2010 — 1 Comment

Posted By Kurt Johnston

- Yesterday our family went to Lower Manhattan Community Church, a great church that is led by Ryan, a former student in our jh ministry who grew up at saddleback. Ryan is taking a year off from law school to focus on pastoring. I am sharing this because I was fascinated at how much his law education influenced his communication style….it was awesome! He has a unique ability to be logical, present “both sides” of an idea, and build a case for the truth of scripture….but all in an amazingly laid back, conversational style. It convinced me of something I have always wondered/assumed: having undergraduate or graduate work in something other than ministry-related education actually seems like a benefit, not a handicap.

- Something Ryan said at lunch shocked me. He said that because Manhattan is so expensive, very few families with teenagers can afford/choose to live here. He couldn’t think of a church with a youth ministry or of a para-church organization that was alive and well in Manhattan. He admitted that he could be unaware of some great stuff happening. Obviously in a city this large, there are teenagers….does anybody know what the youth ministry climate is like in Manhattan?

- just finished season 1 of 30 Rock on Net Flix. This sounds silly but I have been on a person boycott of the show all these years because I think Alec Baldwin is a kook. Between threatening to leave the United States because of George Bush to his much publicized fit of rage at his daughter, I just have this adolescent “I will punish him by ignoring him” mentality. But dang it….the show is funny and he is fantasic.

- If there really is a youth ministry void here in Manhattan, I suggest we all convince Greg Steir to move here. He would be perfect with his loud, confident, tough on the outside but really the world’s nicest guy personality. Me? I couldn’t do it. I would quickly get beat up by the dude selling fake Gucci hand bags on the corner.

On Vacation, but…

 —  November 18, 2010 — Leave a comment

Posted By Kurt Johnston

I am on vacation….visiting NYC and DC with the family and won’t be posting anything of substance (which implies I usually do) for the next week or so. But as I was sitting in a Manhattan Starbucks this morning waiting for my family to wake up (I am the only morning person in our crew) and reading the Huffington Post (don’t judge me), I stumbled upon a little article entitled “7 sites you should be wasting time on right now”. I went to the list, and found this blog called, “middle school proverbs” written by a middle school English teacher who records the funny stuff he hears his students say. I don’t think it is worthy of “7 sites you should be wasting time on right now” status, but it is pretty entertaining.

Posted By Kurt Johnston

Two great new resources to help junior highers face the hurts that come their way:

1)Messy Stuffsmall group video curriculum. My friend, Heather Flies has done an amazing job creating a 5-week video bible study that will help your students navigate the painful, messy stuff in their lives.

2) My Broken Palace. This is a growing online ministry/prayer community/awareness website designed to give students a safe place to post prayer requests, get some support and recognize that they are not alone.

I still feel….

 —  November 11, 2010 — 1 Comment

posted by Scott Rubin

I still feel NERVOUS the day before big events! Even though I’ve been doing middle school ministry for over a decade, it’s still there. Maybe nervous is too negative; it’s that nervous-excitement about what God might do, you know?

Tomorrow we leave on our most-anticipated event of the fall… our Small Groups weekend retreat. We’re in that last-minute-prep mode — on track to get everything done, but needing every minute to make sure it happens.

And at the same time, it makes me think of Proverbs 21:31…
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”

Even though I know it’s not all up to me (or any of our team), sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling that way. And so, right now, I’m praying for Victory that comes from God.

For the student who’s nervous about coming, but will move closer towards real community this weekend.
For the student who doesn’t know that God wants to surprise them this weekend with his truth and love.
For the student who’ll pray out loud this weekend for the first time.
For the student who’ll realize that they’re really treasured by God, and choose to follow him for the first time this weekend.

But none of that can come from me… and I need to remind myself of that!

Excited for the weekend!

Posted by Kurt Johnston

Before I talk about where we are headed, let me talk about where our youth ministry has been for the past 15 years:

If you have never read Doug Fields’ classic youth ministry book, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, or have never been to a Purpose Driven Church or PDYM training conference….or simply haven’t cared much about the purpose driven paradigm, then this blog post may be of zero interest to you; unless you like thinking about new paradigms, different ways of doing things, strategic thinking etc. If you fall into ANY of the above categories….read on!

An entire book, week-long conferences and years of in-the-trenches youth work have helped define the original purpose driven youth ministry model, so to try to summarize it in a paragraph doesn’t do it justice…but that’s what I will do.

In short, PDYM “by the book” has set out to create a healthy youth ministry built around a balanced approach to fulfilling the five biblical purposes for the church of Evangelism, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Worship. To help do this, five “potential audiences” of students were identified (categorized based on where they are in their spiritual journey): The Community student, The Crowd student, The Congregation student, The Committed student and the Core student. In order to build a youth ministry that met students where they were…and moved them forward in their journey…and also fulfilled the biblical purposes, a simple formula was in place: Potential Audience + Purpose = Program. The strategy being that you figure out what purpose is best fulfilled with what type of student and create a specific program to meet the needs of the students and fulfill that particular purpose. For instance, create evangelistic opportunities to reach community students, create fellowship opportunities for congregation students, etc.

What we said was basically:”Create strategic programs directed at a certain type of student to fulfill a specific purpose.”

It’s actually BRILLIANT thinking and has proven to be a great strategy for thousands of youth ministries around the world. In my experience, critics of the PDYM model usually get hung up on semantic issues more than anything else…they don’t like the words “purpose” or “paradigm” or “program” etc.

Currently, Doug Fields is in the final stages of re-writing Purpose Drive Youth Ministry and I can’t wait to see how it has morphed from the original.

SO WHY CHANGE? Great Question. A few of thereasons:

1) One of the things we have preached to youth workers for years is “there is more than one way to do it” and “our way isn’t the ony way and certainly isn’t the best way”. Yet, we hadn’t changed “our way” for 15 years…feels like a good time to practice what we preach.

2) On paper, I have never seen a better youth ministry paradigm than PDYM…the problem is youth ministry rarely plays out in reality the way we draw it up. If you are a sports fan, you know what I’m talking about. About the only concern/problem I have had with the original PDYM paradigm is one that feels big enough to see if “another way” might also work. The problem: The paradigm reflected an “ideal” scenario rather than a “real” scenario. I understand leadership…and I know that the primary role of a leader is to move people from the “real” to the “ideal”….to move them from where they are to where they need to be. And I think the original PDYM paradigm did a fantastic job of doing that. But those who know me best know that I am (maybe to a fault) a pragmatist. Mark Oestreicher calls me a “fierce utilitarian”. And because of this, I will always bend toward what seems to work best right here…right now.

So…What do I think will work best in our ministry, right here…..right now? I am deeply committed to PDYM, specifically building a ministry demonstrates balance in the 5 purposes. But it’s going to look different.

My starting point is the idea that we have “three arenas” in which our ministry has access into the lives of students. We gather them in LARGE GROUP settings, We gather them in SMALL GROUP settings and we get together with them as INDIVIDUALS. Here, in a very small nutshell is what it looks like:

LARGE GROUP: We want to EXPOSE students to Christ, his Kingdom and the 5 Purposes.

SMALL GROUP: We want students to EXPERIENCE Christ, his Kingdom and the 5 Purposes with others.

INDIVIDUAL LIFE: With the hope that students will EXPRESS Christ, his Kingdom and the 5 Purposes through their lifestyle.

We are still aware of the 5 potential audiences….that students are in different places spiritually, but instead of trying to design programs specifically for those students…that aim just for them and discourage other “audiences” from showing up, we arerecognizing that students show up to whatever they want, whenever they want regardless of the program and it’s intended purpose or audience.

Of course, there is still plenty of idealism in this new paradigm. In an ideal world, a student’s experience in our youth ministry might look something like this:

Billy goes to church on the weekend and while sitting in our weekend large groupgathering hears a testimony fromBrianna who recently served at the local soup kitchen (Billy has now been EXPOSED to the purpose of ministry/serving). Later that week in small groupBilly’s leader says something like, “hey guys, wasn’t it cool to hear Brianna’s story about the soup kitchen? How about if next week instead of a normal meeting we all go to the soup kitchen for a couple hours?” They do…and together, Billy and his friends EXPERIENCE the purpose of ministry/serving. That night, Billy goes home and says something like this to his dad, “Dad, I don’t think our small group is going to go back anytime soon….but I really liked the soup kitchen. It’s weird, but I feel like I should do that kind of stuff more often. Would you ever take me there?” His dad does…maybe one time, or maybe on an ongoing basis…but either way Billy has now EXPRESSED the purpose of ministry/serving on his own….as an individual.

What we are saying is basically:”Create programs within each arena that deepen student’s commitment to Christ, hisKingdom and the purposes.”

My hope is that this new paradigm will be a little more organic and fluid and a bit less rigid. I have nothing but love for the origianl PDYM model. In fact, I believe its brilliance is in its adaptability. I am more comitted than ever to buiding a ministry that reflects the 5 purposes of Evangelism, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Worship. It’s just going to look a little different for now.

The Doctor Is In

 —  November 10, 2010 — Leave a comment

Posted By Tim Levert

Helping Parents Help their Students

I’ll never forget the look on her face. Ashley was a regular attender to our weekly programming, and after a discipleship-oriented weekend retreat, she was ready to live out some significant spiritual commitments. But the evening she returned home, Ashley and her mom got in a big fight, and she ended up on my doorstep, looking alone. Ashley’s mom was a great lady, and she was committed to Jesus, but she had no skills (or common sense) when it came to helping Ashley navigate her spiritual journey.Most of us serve parents who are similarly sincere . . . and clueless.

What can we do?

Here’s an email I recently sent out to parents whose students participated in a discipleship-oriented weekend. If you find it helpful, copy/paste it and call it your own.


Hello parents-

By now, your students are waist deep in the [weekend]. I would guess they’ve eaten lots of sweets, drunk lots of caffeine, laughed quite a bit, and been challenged in their spiritual journey. I know how precious our kids are to us — thanks for trusting us with your student this weekend.

One of the most common questions I’m asked after a spiritual event is, “How can I help my student keep the ‘fire’ going?” I love this question, because it tells me at least two things: 1) how important your students’ walk with Christ is to you, and 2) how you’re willing to invest in them. The number one predictor of whether or not a student will hold on to their faith post-High School is the type and frequency of spiritual conversations students are having with their primary caregivers: parents and step-parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc.You are the key!

So here is Tim’s short list of things you can do to maximize your student’s DiscipleNow weekend.

1. Pray.I know most of you are already praying for the weekend. Many of you have been praying for several weeks. Awesome work! Keep it up! Pray that the students will be open to whatever God speaks into their lives, pray that the students will trust God and His word, and pray that students will be willing to do whatever God asks of them. This may seem overly simple, but I believe most of the issues we face is our adults lives are because of a lack of trust in God and is word. Pray that our students would begin now the practice of trusting God.

2. Let them talk. When your student gets home, they’re going to want to tell you every detail, with laborious and painstaking accuracy, of the farting video, the gnome wars, and the hockey game; and you’re going to want to know about the Bible studies, the large group messages, and their spiritual take-away. Trust me – they’ll be much more open about answering your questions if you make time to let them tell you about all the other stuff. Devote Sunday lunch to conversation about DiscipleNow. Take Monday evening and spend the time listening to all the stories. If you let them talk about their side of things, they will get to the God side of things.

3. Let them sleep.They will be worn out. Our schedule is intense and jam-packed. If your family schedule allows it, make a big deal out of giving them time to nap Sunday afternoon, and your whole family will appreciate it.

4. Give them grace.Your students will come home changed after the weekend they’ve spent with Jesus. And sometime over the next week, they’ll blow it. One of the worst things you can do is say things like: “I thought you were going to be more committed to Jesus now?” Instead, pray more, talk more (ask them how they’re doing, speak encouragement, etc.), and remember they’re adolescents.

5. Trust God in the process. Teenagers are peculiar animals. They are highly philanthropic . . . unless it comes to your kitchen. They will take up the cause of the leafy sea dragon . . . but forget to feed the dog that lives in their own house. No one understands teenagers – you, me, experts, etc. But God does. God understands them because He made them. And God loves them. God knows they are works in progress (aren’t we all!), and God is progressively working on them. It all starts with trusting God, and it never really moves on from there. Trust that God has an amazing life in store for your teenager, and your teenager is learning every day how to trust God more.

Enjoy the next few days with your students, even if it includes a detailed description of the farting video.