After spending three days with some really wonderful junior high/middle school youth workers, I am reminded of a few things. Generally, junior high youth workers…

- Are incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about this age group. This makes sense considering the fact that most of them are volunteer or part-time, that junior high ministry is still considered the place to “cut your teeth”, and that junior high ministry still, in many churches, is almost a “purgatory” between children’s ministry and high school ministry. There really aren’t a whole lot of external reasons to be involved in this ministry which I think makes those who are a little more passionate about what they do.

- Are good thinkers. I had so many good conversations about young teen ministry with fellow youth workers who really want to do it right and make an impact. It truly felt like an “iron sharpening iron” weekend.

- Are staying involved longer. It felt like a larger-than-usual percentage of attendees were junior high ministry veterans. Because junior high ministry is often the entry point to youth ministry, the turn-over rate is really high. That trend feels like it is slowing down a bit and it seems that there are A) more full time junior high youth workers who feel called to stay in it longer, B) More part time positions at churches which allows the church to keep somebody involved longer, and C) more volunteers who have fallen in love with this age group and are simply refusing to move out!

- Are feeling more appreciated than ever before. Despite the lack of external motivators, it does seem like more and more junior high youth workers feel like they are valued and appreciated by the church they serve and the church leaders they serve with.

- Are so dang fun! I can’t remember the last time I laughed as much, as hard, and as consistently as I did this weekend.

As usually happens when one goes somewhere to “minister to others”, I ended up feeling like I got the most out of the weekend. God used this weekend to remind me of the importance of young teen ministry. I didn’t really think I needed a reminder, but perhaps I did and I’m thankful for it.


 —  February 27, 2009 — 2 Comments

If you work with middle school kids and don’t read Mark Ostreicher’s blog, you really need to. His post yesterday was a great reminder of why I respect him so much and enjoy reading whatever he writes.

I’m thankful for the friendship we have forged over the years, and even more thankful that it isn’t a “cookie-cutter” relationship of complete like-mindedness. We differ theologically and methodologically (not even sure he knows what a “method” is), and he is one of the sharpest minds in youth ministry while I am one of the more simple-minded guys out there. A conversation between us is likely to look like this:

Marko: “Dude, (he’ll start with that word to make you think he isn’t all that smart), what do you think about the emerging, post-emergent, incarnational, communal, ecclesiastical, eschatological and formational implications of the current state of young teen ministry?” Note: I’m not sure I spelled all those big words correctly.

Me: “Dude, (I also start with that word to make you think I’m not all that smart) you wanna play dodge ball and then eat stuff?

Now THAT is an iron-sharpening iron relationship! This morning I’m thankful for Mark Ostreicher. I’m thankful that God is using him to shake me up a little bit and make me think outside my box. I’m VERY thankful that God is using him to do the same thing to the youth ministry world at large.

My question to you is this: Who do you have in your life who challenges you, forces you to question things, shakes up your paradigms and your status quo?

I have no answers, and I’m not even sure WHAT I think about these things, but this is stuff on my mind today:

- Where is youth ministry really headed? Does it have to be headed anywhere specific? Is it our role to try to figure that out and direct it that way?

- When does being pragmatic become a liability? To me, theology and doctrine without practical application is somewhat pointless but I wonder at what point pragmatism gets in the way?

- If Christ were to whisper into my ear his top 5 priorities for youth ministry, what would they be (pragmatism at it’s finest!)?

- If I eat two chili dogs for lunch, what are the odds I will suffer from heart burn later?

Random Randomness

 —  February 24, 2009 — 5 Comments

- Last weekend was a fantastic one in our junior high program. We wrapped up our Three-week “Made” series with a lesson on ‘becoming sheep’. The band did a fantastic job….led by a 9th grade guy who has one of the best/coolest/strongest/grungiest/ voices I’ve heard in a while. The only hic-up of the weekend occurred during our really large 6:30 service Saturday night. 6:30 on Saturday night is THE service to go to and is full of most of our highly connected and core kids plus a ton of community kids. Of course, it’s our ‘core’ kids who can often be the rowdiest, not because they’re punks, but because they are just so dang happy to be there, to see their friends etc. Anyway, I had to pause the program in the middle and give them a 5-minute “reminder” about appropriate behavior, respecting their peers who are leading the music, etc. IT WAS A TOTAL DRAG, but had to be done.

- I’m really excited about the GROUP conference this upcoming weekend! I think our 8-hour junior high ministry track is going to be super fun. Scott Rubin, Katie Edwards and I have planned some fun stuff.

- On a side note, Katie won’t be able to join us which would be a TOTAL bummer if it weren’t for the fact that she and her husband were given a foster child on Monday night so she needed to pull out of the conference.

- In two weeks, we start SCHOOL WARS which is our first-ever multi-week evangelistic push at our weekend program. We’ve put a ton of time and effort into the “series” and hopefully our students will respond by bringing their friends. The best way to describe it is a 3-week school-based competition (think American Gladiators meets Mad Max type atmosphere). The lesson each week will be a super short evangelistic message….same basic message all three weeks wrapped up a little differently.

- The latest SJH podcast is online now. You can watch it here.

Caption Winner…

 —  February 23, 2009 — 3 Comments

Top 5 captions as judged by….well as judged solely by me:

“The coach said we were going to a ‘bowl game’, but this wasn’t what I was expecting.”

Sounding much like his wife, the Defensive coordinator was heard yelling, “Who left the Toilet Seat wide open?”
-Ryan Stone

“When you’re going for the hit but the toilet makes you slip, diarrhea, diarrhea.”

Vigilante fan gets fed up with the “potty humor” during the half-time show.

My mom always told me toilet training wasn’t easy, but this is ridiculous….
-Jordan Lyons

congratulations! If the five of you will please email me at with your mailing address, I will mail you your copy of the new HSM3 DVD compliments of Disney Studios.

Caption Contest

 —  February 19, 2009 — 39 Comments

The good folks at Disney sent me a handful of High School Musical 3 DVDs to give away. So, stealing a page from Marko, let’s have a caption contest. The top 5 captions submitted for this picture will win.

Back In The Saddle(back)

 —  February 17, 2009 — 2 Comments

After a really great vacation, I’m feeling refreshed and excited to be back in the saddle. The last season of ministry (the last year or so…) has been an extremely busy and taxing one and I allowed myself to go far too long without taking care of myself physically, emotionally and, to some extent, spiritually.

I may have shared this before and if so, consider it a reminder that you may need as much as I have recently: “TIME OUTS” ARE A REALLY IMPORTANT THING!

Think about a football game. In each game, teams are given three timeouts per half, or a total of SIX per game. When used wisely, these timeouts help teams re-group, re-fresh, re-strategize and re-focus for the task at hand. I think the same is true in our personal lives….we all need to call Time Out once in a while. Admittedly, I’m not the best at taking my timeouts, but I do have a strategy I try to follow and it looks something like this:

Daily Time Out: Two or Three short, 20 minute breaks each day to clear my head and think about something….anything….other than the daily grind.

Weekly Time Out: A true sabbath every week. Not checking emails, not “dropping by” the office for an hour. A day to relax, refresh and re-coup.

Monthly Time Out: One day a month to escape from the office for a “mini-sabbatical”. I read, pray, dream, journal etc.

Yearly Time Out: Actually, I try (but don’t usually succeed) to take three weeks off per year: Two traditional vacation breaks with my family, and one that is “Kurt focused”. This past vacation was an example of a Kurt-focused timeout. I went on two separate camping/dirt bike trips, laid around a lot, and took my wife on dates to restaurants of my choosing.

Your Time Out plan certainly doesn’t need to look like mine, but I would encourage you to have one.

Our leadership team has been asked by Pastor Rick to focus a great portion of our ministry energy this year in two key areas: “Connecting” and “Equipping”. Josh Griffin, our high school pastor and blogger extraordinaire, and I have spent some time brainstorming creative new ways to connect students to each other and our ministry and to equip parents, students and leaders. Our goal was not to simply create new programs, but larger strategies that will stay in place as various programs come and go.

I’m almost certain Josh will post about this stuff in greater detail, but I thought I would steal some of his thunder and beat him to the punch! Of the eight or nine ideas we came up with, here are my three favorite:

- An Online “Campus” For Students: Our church has four physical campuses, but we want to create an online “campus” for students who have to miss a weekend due to travel, blended families, etc. Our hope is that students will be able to tune into a live feed of our JH and HS programs complete with an adult volunteer “pastor” to interact with. Stay tuned.

- Parent Campus Connections: Certainly some of you are already doing this and can give us some input. Our hope is to get parents of “Same grade/Same school” to form little prayer/support/school action/etc. groups.

- The Starting Five: We want to strategically partner-up brand new volunteers with a veteran volunteer for the first 5 weeks in our ministry.

There’s much more to share, and I’m sure Josh will. But he will do so knowing I am the superior blog updater guy.