My daughter, Kayla, is 19 and a sophomore in college. She has become a big fan of the writing and speaking ministry of Bill Hybels’ daughter, Shauna Niequist. So I really wasn’t surprised to see her mention and link to one of her recent blog posts. But I have to admit, I was a little surprised, and almost instantly started sobbing like a little baby, to see which blog post she linked to, and her comment about it.

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Raising children in church ministry is tough, and there is no perfect formula. But there is hope! Your church isn’t perfect and neither is mine, but there is hope! Your parenting style and skill set isn’t perfect and neither is mine, but there is hope! Your children aren’t perfect and neither are mine, but there is hope!

For years, people have asked Rachel and I for insight into raising kids in a ministry setting, and for years we’ve been having little coffee shop conversations with couples here and there but hesitant to do much more than that. But with your permission, which includes an understanding that there is no prescription to healthy parenting and our way is only that….our way…and that our kids our still wrestling through what it means to follow Jesus as young adults, I’ll begin from time to time to post a few things we’ve learned over the years that may serve as some hope and help for you as you attempt to raise your children while ministering in a local church setting.

chapstickI have chapped lips right now.

For real. It’s bad.

Never in my life have I uttered the phrase to anyone, “I need Chapstick,” but I finally crossed that line. My wife gave me something comparable and I can feel the healing happening.

My lips are dry because my body is distracted.

I’ve been sick the past week and my body’s been focused on fighting off dumb stuff inside of me that doesn’t belong there in the first place, It’s literally made me dry all over in places that aren’t even sick. Consequently, my lips will start bleeding whenever I try to do anything beyond mumble… so all I want to do is mumble. Even the few times tonight when I found myself beginning to laugh at something, my lips started bleeding. So I stopped myself from laughing.

Ironic, huh?

God calls the Church a body, and when the Body gets distracted it ends up fighting off dumb stuff that it shouldn’t have to worry about to begin with… and the whole Body gets dried out, including parts that you wouldn’t expect to. It begins to bleed when it should be laughing. It resorts to mumbling instead of having real conversations.

Catch the metaphor yet?

  • How have you seen this in your church or the Body of Christ at large?
  • Does this explain a change in some of the people around you who suddenly seem drier than usual?
  • What is the dumb stuff you see the people around you wasting time over?

P.S. Got any “Chapstick?”

god-is-in-control_4534_1440x9001. It’s all ministry.

2. God’s in control.

These two phrases have had me thinking a lot about how little I have to do with how God uses me, and how there ‘s more to ministry then what we traditionally understand. God has been showing me that there is no limits to what He can do in us and through us. I’ve had situations where a student shared with me that 8 months ago that a hug I don’t remember giving was the catalyst for his life change. I’ve also received text messages about how something I said in passing changed a students life for the better. I had a conversation with a student about an invitation they casually received from a leader to go to summer camp. Well, that ended up kick-starting the students walk with Christ. I’ve had students share their testimony with their parents, and their parents come to Christ through it. This is why the phrase it’s all ministry and God’s in control exists. And if you think about your ministry I sure you can think of some stories of unorthodox life change.

Sometimes when we don’t recognize these two phrases, we run into issues and begin to think:

  • I need to make this program, message, song, conversation and event perfect because that’s how students come to christ when things are done right and perfect.
  • Let’s make God do more by praying harder.
  • If only I can put the right words together they will change.
  • It’s just a conversation, smile, high five, coffee, remembered name, hug, ride, invite, or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram post of encouragement. None of that is real ministry.

When you understand that everything we do as youth workers is ministry and God’s in control you begin to think:

  • I’m going to be intentional about the small things because I know God uses them.
  • I will strive to do my best and allow God to do the rest. It may not be perfect, but it will be worth it, If I serve from my heart.
  • God is not a genie in a bottle. So I won’t petition HIm as if He is.
  • The Holy Spirit will give me the words to say. I just need to surrender to him and allow him to use me.
  • God help me see every opportunity I have to share my faith and your love.

I used to think that God worked in a certain way, because of tradition, I used to believe that ministry was confined to a certain area of life. I was sadly mistaken. God wants to use every part of our life. He wants use our strengthens, weaknesses, failures and wins. He won’t let anything go to waste. Also, we must come to terms with the fact that ultimately God is in control. I would even say rest in the fact that God is in control, because it’s a good thing. Would love to hear how you are stretching yourself to think outside the box when it comes to ministry. Also, what does (God’s in control) mean to you?

hope it helps,


free-stuffI am contractually obligated to tell you that the 8 hours of SYMC workshops I am teaching will be SICK! (That’s a good thing)

I am NOT a programmer. I am NOT a developer. I am a resource person. I am a Goggling machine! I find stuff and think…Hmmmm, how can I leverage that for my ministry. I have a couple thousand dollars worth of giveaways that I will be spreading out among those 8 hours. Stuff that works in my youth ministry and I think will work in yours.

My goal is to deliver practical, affordable, and doable content that will help youth workers engage students and connect them with Jesus. If you are a tech guru I trust you will come out with a few nuggets. And if you want to use tech more in your ministry but just don’t know where to begin, let me assure you, these workshops will not be over your head.

In addition to these training sessions I will be powering through 2 Brand New 30 minute micro-trainings in the resource center on Sunday. Check out “Maximizing the iPad for Youth Ministry” at 8:15 am and “Basic Tech Tips” at 1:45 pm.

The tech workshops begin at 1:15 Saturday afternoon with a peer panel called “The Best Tech Games in the Universe.” You wont want to miss it!.

Send this post out via Twitter and Facebook (click below) with #SYMC and #SYMCTECHSTUFF. Saturday around noon I will randomly choose one winner who will receive a $125 games prize pack from

Brandon Early

Introducing Micro-trainings, happening in the Resource Center on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at #SYMC 2014!

Don’t miss out on these times below! There are 2 options for every 30-minute time slot.SYM sunday 1_15

Here’s the breakdown of the times, and then find the descriptions of each micro-training underneath:


4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.     - Fundraising for the Big Event with Toby Rowe

- Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Overview: Helping You Work Smarter  with Jake Rasmussen

4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.    – Life Long DiscplesThrough Short Term Missions with Brent Bromstrup

- LIVE Curriculum Demo with Matty McCage



8:15 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. –   Fundraising for the Big Event with Toby Rowe

- Tips for Developing and Deploying Student Leaders by Jeff Wallace

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.  -  Domestic Missions with Brent Bromstrup

-  Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Overview: Helping You Work Smarter with Jake Rasmussen

1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.  -   Go Big, Go International: Making Overseas Trips Happen with Students with Jobe Lewis

-  Simply Youth Group Q&A with Toby Rowe

4:45 p.m. –  5:15 p.m.  - One Day Missions with Jeff Thompson

- Engaging Conversation with Jeff Wallace

5:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.  - Convincing Parents That Mission Matter with Jake Rasmussen and Tony Myles

- Simply Youth Group Full Demo with Toby Rowe



8:15 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. -   Domestic Missions with Brent Bromstrup

- Maximizing the iPad (in your Ministry) with Brandon Early

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.  -  Go Big, Go International with Jobe Lewis 

- Maximizing Your Time: How to Be More Productive Without Pulling Your Hair Out or Dropping the Ball with Melissa Rau

1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.  -  Using Service to Create a Servants’ Hearts with Toby Rowe

Tech Tips Every Youth Worker Needs to Know with Brandon Early

4:45 p.m. –  5:15 p.m.  - Transform Your Community: Host a Mission Event with Jeff Thompson

- Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Team with Jake Rasmussen

5:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.  - Designing Epic Mystery Trips with Tony Myles

- Establishing a Youth Ministry Teaching Calendar: Create a Plan for Long-term Impact with Melissa Rau

Micro-training Descriptions:

  • Quick Connect on Domestic Missions, with Brent Bromstrup and Workcamps and Week of Hope (Brent, 30 minutes)

Join this quick, informative conversation and learn how your youth group can change lives and impact communities across the US. You?l hear about options, details, best-practices in preparing, and have time for Q&A. Featuring the ministries of Workcamps and Week of Hope.

  • Quick Connect on International Missions, with Jobe Lewis and Lifetree Adventures (Jobe, 30 minutes)

Considering heading outside the US on a mission trip? Bring your questions, concerns, and curiosities to the resident experts on international mission adventures. You?l leave this time with the information and excitement you need to experience the mission adventure of a lifetime with your students.

  • Quick Connect on One Day Mission Events, with Jeff Thompson and The Big Day of Serving (JT, 30 minutes)

Is there an area of your town or city in need of desperate help? Or a recent disaster that is more than your church can handle? Come and learn how the Big Day of Serving can come along side your church or community to rally hundreds of people to be the hands and feet of Jesus and grow in their relationship with him at the same time.

  • Convincing Parents that Missions Matter (Tony and Jake, 30 minutes)

Struggling to get your parents as excited about missions as you and even your students are? Stop in to learn the best strategies, tips, and answers to overcome even the most stubbornly opposed parent. And we? l talk about the big prize becoming parents?partners in pointing their teens toward Jesus.

  • Fundraising for the Big Event (Toby, 30 minutes)

Don’t let the fear of fundraising keep your group from going someplace big! Come and discover successful fundraising strategies for large trips that will put your checkbook in the black. We?l share our best ideas for raising money from sources outside your congregation, learn how to create a fundraising plan, and more.

  • Making Lifelong Disciples through Short Term Missions (Brent, 30 minutes)

Your next short term mission trip can be the beginning of a lifetime of following Jesus. In 30 minutes, you?l learn how to make that happen through careful planning, intentional times of reflection, and effective follow up.

  • Go Big, Go International: Making Overseas Trips Happen with Students (Jobe and Robin, 30 minutes)

Feeling like you want to take your kids on an international mission trip, but don’t? have the know-how or expertise to get it done? Your students and the people you? l serve will thank you for spending these intensive 30 minutes learning the best practices and preparation for leading a trip beyond our borders.

  • Using Service to Create a Servant’s Heart (Toby, 30 minutes)

Discover ways to transform the hearts of your students through immersing them in service. Together, we?l explore ways to shape a Jesus-focused and others-centric youth ministry. The result a youth ministry that has the heartbeat of Jesus as it changes the world.

  • Transform Your Community: Host a Mission Event (JT, 30 minutes)

Have you ever thought about bringing the impact and influence of a mission trip to your hometown? Stop in to learn what it would take to host a mission event, from one day to a full week, or more. You can begin the process of transforming your community with this one conversation.

  • Simply Youth Group – How-to and Q&A (Toby and Matty, 30 minutes)

Learn how Simply Youth Group can help you have an awesome youth ministry while freeing you to spend time with your students. We’ll cover what it is, what it does, what to expect, and how to best use it. Q&A time included.

  •  LIVE Curriculum Demo (Matty, 30 minutes)

Want a conversational curriculum that guides teenagers toward a Jesus-centered life? Then come check out LIVE a workable, adjustable framework that can be adjusted to the unique characteristics of your church.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Overview: Helping You Work Smarter (Jake, 30 minutes)

Learn how to use TOOLS to free you up so you can spend time doing what matters most. You?l get the big picture of how all the TOOLS resources fit together and how they can benefit you and your ministry.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Communicate: Ensuring Your Message is Always Heard (Jake, 30 minutes)

You need volunteers right now – to fill in the gaps in your youth ministry. We?l help you with the process of gathering, screening and training a stellar team. Includes a TOOLS Team demo. Discover how to best use the current avenues of communication to get your message to students, parents, volunteers and more. Includes a TOOLS Communicate demo.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Team: Discover Amazing Ways to Recruit, Screen, and Train Volunteers (Jake, 30 minutes)

Learn how to let TOOLS keep track of who? attending and who? missing, so you know who to follow up with this week. Includes a TOOLS Events demo.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Events: Don? Let Students Slip Through the Cracks (Jake, 30 minutes)

Learn how to let TOOLS keep track of who? attending and who? missing, so you know who to follow up with this week. Includes a TOOLS Events demo.

  • Simply Youth Group Full Demo and Talk Back (Toby and Matty, 60 minutes on Sunday)

Walk through an entire program of Simply Youth Group. Experience the fun, the thought provoking content, and the deep, Jesus-centered discussions that can be delivered to you every week. And give us your feedback that will help shape future SYG programs.

  • Tech Tips Every Youth Worker Needs to Know (Brandon Early, 30 minutes)

With new tech gadgets, apps, and tricks coming out faster than anyone can keep up, how is a youth worker supposed to know which to implement and which to ignore. Stop in to learn the essential and most effective tech tips that will keep you and your students connected and moving forward in ministry. Time for Q&A and how-to.

  • Engaging Conversation and Great Questions: The Keys to Limitless Spiritual Growth (Jeff Wallace, 30 minutes)

Your students (and probably your entire church) have moved past the days of hoping for another great 45 minute message. But leading open discussions is hard, and every time you ask your teens a question, they just sit there! Come and learn the skills of how to guide your students to a deep connection with Christ through conversations and questions.

  •  Establishing a Youth Ministry Teaching Calendar: Create a Plan for Long-term Impact (Melissa Rau, 30 minutes)

Give your students the best shot at growing closer to Jesus while making the greatest impact through your teaching and content. How? By learning the art of creating a teaching calendar. Join us to see how a daunting task can be made simple in a few easy steps, and propel your kids into a deeper faith.

Reclaimed-WoodI am not on Pinterest much, but I do click over there when I need a little inspiration for a project, experience, or sermon series graphic.  Check out these 5 Pinterest boards and add some of your favorites in the comments below.

Simply Youth Ministry

Sermon graphics

Youth Room Ideas

Youth Ministry Games

Stage Design


Brandon / @uthguy9

NEW RELEASE to help navigate real life! Read Chapter 1 now...



by Shawn Harrison

Practical Help for Youth Workers and Families

Ministering to Gay Teenagers is filled with wisdom and practical advice, for leaders and parents, on how to respond when a student comes out and how to help the teenager’s family through that journey, too.

READ CHAPTER 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . BUY NOW

Thanks for loving students!

Team SYM

Call Jake at 866.9.simply with questions


Thanks for Loving Students!




There is a new book out that I can’t wait to read. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I have written no less than 1/2 dozen posts here on the LGBTQ conversation. There is a world of complexities when dealing with this issue – and they are NOT all black and white. One of the worst things we can do to another person is make their struggle a universal black and white issue.

There is a black and white issue here that we should recognize, but it’s one that, unfortunately, few people articulate. The issue that we should be concerned about in our churches is not one of homosexuality, but one of porneia. This is the Greek word translated in most cases as, “sexual immorality.” It speaks of any sexual promiscuity outside God’s design for marriage. Homosexual behaviors can fall into this category, but the truth is heterosexual behaviors are addressed at a much greater length in scripture than any homosexual behaviors are. That’s black and white.

To point out one porneia behavior over another may be done out of ignorance by some, but sadly in many cases it seems to be little more than bigotry. On the other hand, discipling people who are gay is not for the bigot, but for the follower of Jesus. For those of us that want to lovingly guide people toward the ways of Jesus, in any issue, we understand discipleship as being much more than walking people through a curriculum once a week. It’s every bit of the word, “messy.”  It’s anything but black and white. Everyone is different. Their fears, concerns, and questions are unique…and befriending gay people is no exception.

I recently read an article that expressed some of the growing complexities we are seeing in our context. It was written by a gay man who just found out his partner was a trans* woman (a man in transition to become a woman).  He was concerned about what this made him…heterosexual now? It was complex, but it was honest. It was an article that explained the emotional complexities this man was going through and the questions he was honestly wrestling with.

Now, this may be an “extreme” case for some of us, but make no mistake about it – every gay person is riding a number of emotional roller coasters that are unique to that individual – and especially those in the Church.  If we want to lovingly relate to people, whatever their struggle, we need to pay the price of time with them. That’s when we become certain that this is not black and white.

There is a new resource out through Simply Youth Ministry that I am looking forward to reading.  It’s called Ministering to Gay Teenagers: Practical Help for Youth Workers and Families.  I would recommend checking out the video from the author (Shawn Harrison), reading the description, and purchasing the book.  I don’t personally know the author, but I am looking forward reading his book.

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