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I love how vast our little youth ministry world is! I really like discovering men and women who finding their own unique ways to minister to teenagers. If I was a millionaire I would seek out these “little guys” in the ministry world and fund the crap out of them (Yes, that’s my way of trying to make a deal with God!)!

Through a series of random events I recently met Larry and Leslie, the hosts of a podcast for teenagers called “Teen Christian Ministries Live”. Teen Christian Ministries Live is a series of 30(ish) minute podcasts hosted by Larry Roy and Leslie Lamb that tackles a variety of tough issues teenagers are facing. Here is the timeline of my exposure to TML:

- Like any young/small ministry would, TCM Live reached out to Saddleback asking if somebody there would be willing to check out their podcast. Their email was forwarded to me.

- I agreed (because, like I mentioned, I love being exposed to new things…), but was fairly certain I’d be underwhelmed.

- I snooped around their website for 20 minutes and really liked what I saw.

- I reached out to Larry and asked if he’d like to spend 30 minutes on the phone.

- He agreed. And yesterday I spent some time with Larry and Leslie talking about their hopes and dreams for TCM Live.

- The more we talked, the more I liked them and what they are trying to do! I think they face an uphill battle for awareness and are going to struggle to actually get students to watch a 30 minute web-based show, but they are aware of those challenges.

- After hanging up the phone, I felt like even though I’m not a millionaire and can’t fund the crap out of them (and I think I would if I was. Are you listening, God?), I decided I’d do what I could to help them out. This little blog post is one thing I can do!

I just want to pass them along to you because I truly think what they are offering might be a really helpful thing for some of the kids in your youth group. Could you put together an equally effective series of videos for your students? Probably. Have you? Probably not.

Check them out. If you like what you see…share it with some of your hurting students!

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Once a year, Simply Youth Ministry has a sale that is too good to pass up! It’s the 40-40-40 sale: 40 Hours, 40 Percent off and 40 free backgrounds! This is a great way to get a great deal on tons of great resources! CHECK IT OUT.



Reboot

Last night our college ministry officially “Rebooted”. Without going into the long story, it had been in an odd place for the past year or so. Decisions had been made by the “higher ups” that had effected it, momentum had been lost, and we went through a team transition that resulted in THREE of the four full-time Pastors leaving their positions. Tough season to say the least. We needed to figure out a way to give it a fresh start; a reboot.

And that’s what happened last night! Our new college team has been working for a month tweaking, re-inventing, dreaming, recruiting, and promoting the “new” college ministry at Saddleback. Honestly, it’s not better than the “old” college ministry, just different….and well timed.

The result? Hundreds of college students packed out our gymnasium last night. The anticipation and energy was unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. It was fantastic.

So my question to you today is this: What area(s) of your junior high ministry need to go through a reboot? What needs to be tweaked, reset and given a fresh start? Your results may not be as dramatic as our college ministry experienced, but my hunch is that a strategic reboot here or there will help move your ministry in exciting new directions.

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If you work with middle schoolers/junior highers, you really should join us for our 3rd annual Middle School Ministry Campference!

At this campy/conferencey weekend designed just for middle school youth workers, you will laugh, play, relax, grow, learn, discuss and even debate a little bit. It’s smaller than most conferences, usually around 100 of us, which sets it apart and really helps it feel like a gathering of the middle school ministry “tribe” (am I the only person in youth ministry that hates that word/analogy?).

I’m so thankful to Marko, Adam and the Youth Cartel for dreaming up this event and I look forward to it every year…it really is one of those “must do’s” if you work with young teens.

You can register for this years Campference, coming in October, RIGHT HERE.



kick butt

Yesterday I sent this tweet: My simplistic answer to the question of longevity in youth ministry: “Kick butt; Be healthy”.

I’ve had a few people ask if I could expound on that a little so I thought I’d do that this morning.

“KICK BUTT”
- Ministry deserves my best efforts.
- The freedoms the church gives me shouldn’t be abused or taken for granted.
- My friends in the marketplace shouldn’t work harder, longer, hours than I do.
- I need to take chances, innovate, and “swing for the fence” on a regular basis.
- I need to aim for excellence…but not be a perfectionist.
- I need to be willing to make tough decisions to help our ministry win.
- “Kick Butt” is actually more of an attitude than an aptitude. It says, “I’m All-In, all the time.”

“BE HEALTHY”
- Having a “kick butt” attitude isn’t an excuse to neglect the important things in life.
- “healthy” doesn’t mean balanced (I actually don’t think balance exists in ministry life)
- I need to spend time with the Father on a regular basis.
- I need to aim to be a good husband, dad and friend.
- Speaking of friends; I need at least one who knows the real me and isn’t afraid to call me out on stuff.
- I need to have some hobbies and interests that don’t include ministry.
- I need to take care of my body.
- I need to enjoy the journey more than the destination.

This month marks my 25th ministry anniversary. And although I have plenty of regrets and things I wish I would have done differently along the way, I think that part of what’s helped me last and have a measure of success (however one measures that in ministry…if you even can) is having a “Kick Butt; Be Healthy” attitude.

firepit

Above is a picture of our brand new fire pit. Instead of buying one “off the shelf” at Lowe’s, we went all in. We dedicated 1/3 of our back yard to a large (5′ diameter) fire pit with room for a dozen people to encircle. The idea was simple: We live in a small house with very little extra space for conversation, so let’s create an outdoor “great room” of sorts.

Last night, our teenage son and 8 of his friends broke it in. They hung out around the fire pit for a couple hours talking, laughing and burning things. Somehow, the fire pit created an atmosphere that made them way more open to conversation….with each other and with my son’s dorky middle-aged parents.

It got me thinking about junior high ministry, and the environments we create (or fail to create) to help foster conversations. The obvious answer is to to grab the old faded plaid couch in the corner of your youth room, move it to the center and torch the sucker! Trust me, that would get your kids talking! And it will get you fired. So the second best idea is to simply ask yourself, “How might we create ‘fire pit’ environments in our junior high ministry that would create more natural opportunities for conversations?”

To get you started, here are some thoughts about creating “fire pit environments” in your ministry:

- A warm, friendly feel.
- conversations are welcome, but not forced….they flow naturally.
- laughter is a value.
- Physical comfort. So don’t burn the old faded plaid couch, find MORE of them.
- Create a sense of relaxation…unhurried feeling.
- An environment where everybody’s voice matters.

As you head into Summer, it’s the perfect time to build a fire pit atmosphere in your junior high ministry!



family

The other day, Doug Fields wrote a great post in which he mentioned four ways churches might help strengthen families:
STRONG marriages
CONFIDENT parents
EMPOWERED kids
HEALTHY leaders

And while our youth ministry isn’t tackling those four areas in a strategically defined manner, I do think we’ve taken some pretty significant steps over the past two or three years that (I hope) are serving our families well. Here are a few new things we’re doing as well as some old stuff we’re simply trying to do a little bit better:

- Worship Together Weekends: We’ve written and talked a lot about this. Once a month, we cancel our JH and HS youth programs so families can attend “big church” together as a family.

- Parent Text Messages: Both our JH and HS ministries give parents the opportunity to sign up for a text message subscription that provides all sorts of announcements, insights, etc. from our team to mom and dad.

- “Help, I’m The Parent Of….!”: We recently had our first “Help, I’m The Parent Of….” workshop and it was a huge success. “Help, I’m The parent Of a Tech-Savvy Teen” helped parents understand how to navigate the world of social media with their teenagers. We plan to do a couple such workshops each year covering different topics.

If you happen to be in the Southern California area and would like to host your own, “Help, I’m The Parent Of A Tech-Savvy Teen” email me at kurt@saddleback.com and I’ll be happy to put you in contact with the organization the put this wonderful event together for us.

- Family Activities: We are trying to put together more family events instead of events solely for teenagers. Not a ton….just a few per year. This past weekend, we had a family service in junior high and invited parents to join their junior high child for a lesson about the importance of family and a BBQ afterward.

- Better Costumer Service: This is an area I think we have taken big steps in…and we still have room to improve. We want to return emails and phone calls from parents quickly. We want to be easy to find at church. We want our communication to be timely and accurate. Trust is earned in the little things. And good customer service is a great place to start.

Doing youth ministry in a manner that serves the family well isn’t easy. And to be honest, it’s not the way I was raised to think about youth ministry which is why I’m thankful for people like Doug Fields, Kara Powell and others who are leading the charge.

Rick Book

I couldn’t be more excited about the new book, A Youth Ministry Volunteer Speaks His Mind….at least what’s left of it!

Rick Williams has been a volunteer youth worker for over 30 years, and has written a book specifically for those of us who are the primary leaders of our youth ministries. If you lead a youth ministry, this book is a must read. Rick has a fun, simple and very direct writing style that will make you laugh while it punches you in the gut! Rick is willing to say in this book what so many of the men and women who serve alongside us want to say…but rarely do.

I was fortunate enough to serve alongside Rick for the first six years of my youth ministry career, and I’m thrilled he is finally sharing with everybody else some of the stuff he taught me all those years ago. Here is the description from the website:

Ever wondered what your volunteers really think about you, your leadership, and your ministry?

Get an insider’s perspective from Rick Williams, who has seen it all as a volunteer in youth ministry: futile meetings, weak leadership, disorganized events, lax standards, and even the occasional guilt trip. Yet despite all these challenges, he has remained a volunteer for more than 30 years!

Your volunteers have feedback and suggestions that can help you lead more effectively. Most of them want to serve in meaningful ways. They want to take ownership. They want you and the youth ministry to succeed. But are you listening and truly hearing what they’re saying?

A Youth Ministry Volunteer Speaks His Mind will help you navigate the waters of engaging volunteers in life-changing ministry to teenagers. Rick’s perspective may not align perfectly with the people who serve alongside you, but you’ll discover truckloads of wisdom and experience from his insights. Leading a team of volunteers isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but they’re worth the effort!

You can get a digital or hard copy version right here!