BOOST 2013 Edition

 —  January 31, 2013 — 2 Comments


By the time most of you get around to reading this post, our student ministry team will be on our way to our 3rd annual “Staff Camp”. Staff Camp is a two-day working retreat with our paid team dedicated to long-term planning, dreaming, vision casting, story sharing, and laughing.

Each year, I introduce a few areas in our ministry that I would like us to “Boost”…these are typically aspects of our ministry that already exist, but need to be re-focused, re-tooled, re-emphasized and given a little boost to take them to the next level.

Here, in their rawest form, are the areas that our student ministries (junior high, high school and college) will be asked to “boost” this year:

How can everybody benefit from what you do best?
What changes might we make to help facilitate collaboration?
how we spend our time….
how we arrange our suite….

Re-tool and re-introduce classic FE
Create a culture of evangelism

Christian/Jesus worldview
Helping them understand basics of faith/apologetics
“anchored” in truths of scripture
How well we accomplish #3 will radically affect #2.

“Parent Hub” website
Becoming more Proactive than Reactive
Adjusting team roles accordingly

QUESTION TO PONDER: Now that you are one month into the new year, are there pieces of your ministry that you know are being neglected? What can you do this year to boost important areas of your ministry that need a little extra attention?

Random Randomness

 —  January 30, 2013 — Leave a comment


- I’ve really enjoyed reading Adam Mclane’s blog posts the last couple days concerning a return to programmatic youth ministry….or if not a full blown return, at least a discussion about the benefits of programs, strategies, intentionality, etc. My ongoing challenge when I read Adam’s stuff is figuring out when he actually believes what he is writing, when he is just “thinking and processing out loud” and when he is simply trying to stir the pot.

- Just bought Seth Godin’s new book, The Icarus Deception, and can’t wait to dig into it.

- Tomorrow morning we leave for our 3rd annual Staff Camp; a two-day working retreat with all of our paid JH, HS and College teams from all 7 of our campuses. We’ll pray, remind ourselves of why we do what we do, dream, play and get to know each other a little better. I started it two years ago with the hopes of doing it every-other year but it was so well received and so beneficial that we decided it needed to be an annual event.

- Yesterday in our executive leadership meeting my boss, Rick Warren, spent 30 minutes working us through some very specific stuff he’s been learning about organizational leadership. I was so impressed and inspired by his humility, willingness to admit where he’s weak, and desire to truly learn from somebody else. Here’s a guy who is arguably “America’s Pastor” and he’s still in full-blown learning mode. And, he’s not just learning, he’s doing it enthusiastically…he was like a kid in a candy shop sharing the stuff he’s been stretched by.

- My 8th grade small group continues to be the best part of my week. Not always the easiest part….or always the most fun part….but the BEST part. Paul, my 50-something co-leader who runs the group with absolute genius and perfection, wasn’t there last night so it was left up to me and Cody, our 19 year old college age cohort. Good times! No genius or perfection present…but good times.

My Favorite Game

 —  January 25, 2013 — 1 Comment


This past weekend in our junior high service we played one of my favorite games of all time. It is super simple, timeless, and requires almost no prep (my favorite kind of games J). Students absolutely love it and think it is the most hilarious game. ggWhether you are in a small group setting or a crowd of students at camp I promise it will become a favorite among your people.

The game is WHY/BECAUSE.

Here is what you need:

  • Small sheets of paper in 2 different colors.
  • On one color write the word WHY at the top and on the other color write BECAUSE at the top (you can print these ahead of time or have students hand write them just before you play)
  • Pens or pencils

Here is how you play:

  • Give each student a WHY card and a BECAUSE card (you can give more than one of each depending on the size of your group-you want to have a good sized stack to choose from).
  • Give students a few minutes to write any WHY question and any BECAUSE statement they want to.
  • Give the some examples – most junior highers need a little inspiration from you to get going. See examples below.
  •  Literally any WHY questions or BECAUSE statements.
  • Collect all of the cards from students
  • Make 2 piles. Sort through and take out duplicates, filter anything inappropriate, and mix them up.
  • Have 2 volunteers read the cards in no particular order. One reads a WHY question and the other answers with a BECAUSE statement. Keep going back and forth until you run out of cards…or you feel as if the game is done.
  • It’s super random and super funny.



Why do girls go to the bathroom in groups?

Why is One Direction so awesome?

Why is Scott single? (my intern)

Because Bigfoot has never been spotted.

Because the radiation levels are too high.

Because I had a dream last night that One Direction worked at my local butcher.


“This Is A Football”

 —  January 24, 2013 — 3 Comments


The great football coach, Vince Lombardi, was known to start practice drills and instructional talks with five simple words: “Gentlemen, this is a football” as he held an old pigskin in the air for all to see. He was known for his insistence that it was usually being really good at the fundamentals that separated winners from losers.

In junior high ministry it can be tempting to get overly concerned with pretty important stuff:
- Do I have a well developed theology of JH ministry?
- Do I have a clearly articulated purpose statement and goals for the year?
- Does our ministry have a well structured volunteer recruitment, interview and placement process?
- Have I thought through the sociological implication of calling it a “student ministry” instead of a “youth ministry”? (yes, I recently read a THREE page article on this very topic.)
- Etc.

While all of these issues, and many many more are worthwhile, I often wonder what Vince Lombardi’s approach to junior high ministry would be? My hunch is he would try to get folks like you and me to be really good at the fundamentals….the “footballs” of junior high ministry. Stuff like:
- Do I notice when a junior higher has missed a couple weeks in a row?
- Do I remember names?
- Do I ever follow up with one of their prayer requests? “Hey Brianna…last week you ask for prayer, how are things going?”
- Do I ask open-ended questions and truly listen to the wonderful answers they come up with?
- Etc.

Today’s NFL teams are pretty complex and millions of dollars and countless hours are spent to outwit, outsmart and outplay the opponent on a given week. But at the end of the day, it’s a simple game: “We have three or four plays to move the ball 10 yards and they have three or four plays to stop us.” After all…it’s just football, and if you can’t move the ball 10 yards or prevent the other team from doing so, it doesn’t matter what else you do well.

Questions To Ponder:
- Are there seemingly important things that are taking your time and attention away from some of the basics in your ministry?
- What junior high ministry fundamentals are you really good at? What have you neglected?
- Is there stuff you do really well that doesn’t really matter…even though it may look impressive?

My Top 3 Short Reads

 —  January 23, 2013 — 2 Comments


I like to read….especially short books. I’d rather read two or three short books than one long one. The reasons are simple:
1) I get distracted easily and rarely finish a longer book.
2) Most books are too long and wading through the filler to get to the “gold” is tedious (why? see #1)

So I thought I’d share three of my favorite short books:

- The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. In this book, the authors challenge the notion that “Nice guys finish last” and share how they succeeded in business by playing it nice.


- A Tale of Two Youth Workers by Eric Venable. This is still one of my all-time favorite youth ministry books. In this fable, a youth worker wrestles with the idea that there is perhaps a different way of doing things…risky, but rewarding. In my opinion, this book was a few years ahead of its time and should be read by everybody who works with teenagers.


- The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard. A classic that I’ve read a dozen times. Despite how much I love the book, I rarely implement the management tips Blanchard proposes. But when I do, I’m reminded of their effectiveness.


And finally, This little jewel: Here, for a fee, you can get sent abstracts of books that you would normally probably not take the time to read in their entirety. They do the hard work for you by providing a one page summary of each book. Pick you membership plan (different annual fees depending on how many books you want), pick your book categories….and you are all set!


If I were to give our parent ministry at Saddleback a grade, it would have to be a “C”. I’m sure we go about it better than we could, but not nearly as well as we should, or as well as we are capable of given our manpower and resources.

For years I’ve said about larger churches that at a certain point, they have the resources to do whatever they choose to do…a particular ministry focus (or lack of) isn’t a resource issue, it’s a priority issue. So, I have to hold myself to that same standard: Simply put, the reason our parent ministry is average is because we have put an average amount of effort into it. But that’s about to change. In both our high school and junior high ministries, we are cranking up our efforts to minister to the parents of teenagers in our church and, hopefully, our community.

I’m noodling on all sorts of ideas….here are some of them in no particular order:

- A “mantra” that declares: “We partner with parents and try to provide them with hope and help as they raise their teenagers.”

- A “Parent Hub” website that consists of: book recommendations, articles, follow-up questions they can ask about the weekend lessons, basic “how to” tips and tricks, links to other parent ministries, blogs etc.

- A “Been There, Done That” ministry: This ministry would be made up of parents who have already navigated troubled waters with their teenagers and are willing to encourage another set of parents going through the same thing: We can match up parents who had a child get caught up in the party scene meet for coffee with a set of parents whose child is doing the same thing. A parent who had a child run away meets with a couple with a child threatening to do the same thing. A set of parents who had a teenager go through a serious illness meets with a similar couple….etc.

- Parent Newsletter: This would be short, sweet and simple….but sent out every week. Mostly pointing them to the website for current information.

- A (very) occasional parent workshop….twice a year.

- The usual social media stuff like twitter, instagram, text message subscription etc. that some of the younger parents will utilize

- A person from each team who has parents as a primary part of their job description…not just an “add on” to everybody’s that nobody really pays attention to. To ensure at least SOME of the above ideas become a reality!

How would you grade your ministry to parents? Do you have something that is working really well for you? Would you be willing to share it with the rest of us?

Volunteer Love

 —  January 18, 2013 — Leave a comment



A few weeks ago we gathered all of our volunteers leaders together for training, community, and encouragement. One of the best elements of the night was a series of student videos we showed. I  wanted to encourage some specific volunteers and say thank you for the roles they are playing in our ministry. So, we enlisted some help from their students. Below is an example of one of the videos we shot. It was a quick, easy, way to give our volunteers something meaningful.

Other simple ways to encourage your volunteer leaders:

  • Go old school with a note card. Adults love getting mail that is not a bill!
  • Program cell phone numbers in your phone and send encouraging texts each week.
  • Schedule your volunteer’s birthdays/important dates into your calendar and follow-up.
  • Shoot a 30 second video from one of their students on your phone and send it to them.

As youth workers, we can get so focused on the needs of our junior high students, that we forget to encourage our partners in ministry who are helping us to meet those needs! Your volunteers need encouragement. It can be something quick yet meaningful. Something small yet thoughtful. The way you pour into your volunteers will not only fill their tank, but it will set an example for the way that you want them to love and encourage their students.


The best part of my ministry week is, by far, the 120 minutes or so I spend every Tuesday night with a group of 14 8th grade guys. And, the fact that my co-leader really does most of the hard work (like planning the lessons, communicating with parents, etc.) makes it even better!

Like most junior high small group gatherings, ours is ALWAYS a hodge-podge of unrelated conversations. Last night was no exception. Here, in no particular order and not confessing how much time was spent on each topic, is a partial list of what we talked about last night as we gathered together in our host home:

- English teacher attire: Specifically one who prefers fancy blouses with yoga pants, sandals and socks.
- The discussion of appendix removal (one of our guys had his removed last week) followed by a 5 minute appendectomy video on YouTube.
- Italian speed walkers using performance enhancing drugs.
- The parable of the unforgiving servant.
- The cute girl in math class and the temptation to “multiply”.
- Jelly Beans
- iPhone apps we’d like to see….of the hilariously absurd sort.
- John 3:16 and the reason people hold up that particular passage on signs at sporting events.
- Scripture memory tips.
- Whether or not dinosaurs would make good pets.
- And after we were finished…after we closed in prayer…we watched the appendectomy video again.