light-bulb90% of my ideas are terrible. No, for real. They are really bad. What sucks is that I’m full of ideas. I’m constantly dreaming up how to tweak or completely transform our approach to student ministry. I generate so many bad ideas that my team often just tunes me out. I get the courtesy, That sounds cool with a plastic smile.  Currently I’m doing my best to convince our team that what we need is a ginormous student building with 5 attached houses. I’m telling you it’s the future for so many reasons. Someday when every church has a student building with 5 attached houses and our church missed the boat everyone will realize how innovative I am and promote me.

Here’s the thing about my ideas. While 90% of them are terrible and following them they could lead to immediate dismissal, the loss of thousands of dollars and probable hospitalization, 10% of them are genius. 10% of my ideas could potentially change the world. The trouble is that I can’t predict which ideas are in the 90% and which ideas are in the 10%. You really don’t want to guess wrong because great ideas invent the Internet and bad ideas take you to a Nickleback concert.

My guess is that whether you realize it or not, you also have more bad than good ideas. The thing is, if we could better discern the quality of our ideas we’d save ourselves and our teams a lot of grief. Nothing is more demoralizing than when the team is chasing down an idea that everyone knows is a dead end.

The good news is that somewhere along the line I stopped implementing all of my bad ideas. When? What was the big moment? It wasn’t a big moment but it was when my ideas were forced into community. When my ideas are stuck spinning within my own head almost all of them sound fabulous. However, when having to verbally explain and defend my ideas, 90% of them are revealed for what they are. Dumb. I know you’ve been there, when you realize that the words coming out of your mouth are exceeding illogical and you wish you never started talking in the first place humbling.

Within the context of community (that is well intentioned debate over the validity of ideas) my 90% was revealed to be what they were and my life and ministry was protected from stupidity. The unforeseen byproduct of submitting my ideas to community is that my good ideas were refined and became significantly more awesome. I like this idea that you call the Internets. But what if we could connect our gaming systems and play each other?  And what if you took the off it and just called it the Internet? GENUIS! You might say that in the context of community my 10% became 90% better. If you’re not strong at math I probably lost you right there. I think I lost myself.

The point is, when you have the humility to submit your ideas to your community before implementing them you will uncover the fact that most of your ideas are terrible but a few of them are genius. Failure is not the best way to learn. Realizing that an idea is a failure before failing is a cleaner and less destructive way to learn. The moral of the story is this: if you don’t have an ideas community, get one! Honest community will save you from your terrible ideas and help reveal and refine your great ones.

Aaron Buer has been a student pastor for 10 years and currently serve as a high school pastor at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Read his blog here.

Last week I wrote a post called When One Student Shows to talk about the issue of when only a single student shows up and how to handle it. Let’s look at the opposite problem today.

You have just finished your running around to buy all the food and supplies you needed for tonights big event. You ran through your check-list and have the exact amount of stuff you need to make it all work. You put it all down, organized it then the students start showing up. Quickly you realize all the students your students who are suppose to show are there, but you have another 5 to 10 students (change the values for your church size).

Oh what a problem to have, we always would love to see more numbers but when this moment happens its an uh-oh kind of moment. How are you going to deal with it?

So you have too many students show up and you are suddenly confronted with their eager faces; or their my mom made me come faces. You have to snap into action to make things happen.

A few steps I think are very important to take are:

Be Welcoming
Its not the students fault you aren’t prepared, and they matter just as much as the kids who RSVP’d to the event. If you can take the student do your best to make them feel welcome and bring them into the event.

Have a chain of command
I believe that if you have the volunteers it is important to have roles defined. Make sure you have a person you can rely on to run and grab more supplies or free up a seat in a car to be able to drive (if possible)

Be ready to say no
If for some reason you can’t accept the student for that event, you just have to be able to say no. Stick to deadlines for RSVP’ing if it is a major event that requires pre booking or lots of transportation. But don’t leave it there, be ready to be able to answer that student or parent why they cannot attend

Plan ahead
In my ministry there have been times when too many students have shown up and I get frustrated. I think to myself why can’t they just RSVP?, but I knew there was a good chance extra students might have come. So I have had to think hard about certain events. Well extra people might attend this one, so I make sure each vehicle going has an extra seat so we can fill those up if need be.

Maybe this isn’t an issue for your ministry, for others this can be a huge issue because of budget, number of volunteers or venue space. But one thing we can all learn from too many students is how we deal with people. Could this even be too many ministry volunteers? (In my dreams).

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

…and what I learned. images

Wednesday, I was leaving my hairdresser’s parking lot and pulled over to check my GPS for the nearest Walmart. A car pulled up behind me, so I rolled down my window to wave him by me. There was plenty of room.

Instead of going around, the driver laid down on his horn with a steady blaring.

Now I was juggling a call from my husband’s nurse, the GPS was yacking, and the horn from the car behind me kept on. Then something began to hit my car. The driver behind me had started throwing coins at my car, a few at a time, repeatedly.

I finished up the call with Steve’s nurse, turned off my GPS and got out of the car to go apologize to the driver. (Later, my husband told me that was a dumb move but..whatever.) As I walked back to his car, turns out he was a Papa John’s Pizza dude in full uniform with shirt and hat. But, instead of listening to my apology, he yelled out his window, “You f…ing c…; what the hell is wrong with you?” and tore off around me and my car – which he could have done in the first place.

Wow. As a good Christian Southern woman, I’m not used to being treated like that. Right about then, I looked up and what did I see about 300 ft down in the strip mall? A Papa John’s.

Yes, I went into the store. The driver wasn’t there,  I told the store manager my story and then went about the rest of my day. (In case you’re wondering, no – he didn’t offer me a free pizza. Yes, I received a call from the district guy and the main office people.)

The point? For me, its to examine whether the “hat” I’m wearing matches what I’m saying. I don’t mean the actual clothes. Do I send mixed signals when I’m “off duty” about my faith and my God to the community I encounter? What if I’m rude or impatient to the hotel desk clerk when I’m checking in and then he asks me if I’m there on business and who I work for? That makes me no better than the pizza guy.

Take what you want from this for you and your ministry.






"Movie Poster Freaky Friday"

“Movie Poster Freaky Friday”

Remember the movie, “Freaky Friday?”  It’s the one where Mom and daughter mysteriously switch bodies for a day.   They walk a mile in the other shoes to understand “what it’s like,”  to be the other.  In the “real world” though this swapping of roles is not helpful.  It isn’t about catching a perspective, instead it seems as if the student is acquiring the responsibility necessary to run a household. Whether I am in urban, suburban or rural settings I meet more and more kids who are put in a position where they  seem to be parenting themselves.

My daughter once had a friend she was “jealous” of.   The friend had no boundaries, she could pretty much go and “do” whatever she pleased.  To my daughter this seemed like a joy.  However,  one time in sitting down with the young woman I also found she made sure she got herself to school, ate dinner,  and had her basic needs met.  It seemed as if her parents were ghosts and she was raising herself.  They were there,  but consumed with their own lives to a point, where they were barely parenting.  I wanted to march over and tell the parents they needed to start guiding this young woman.  For what this Freaky Friday scenario was creating was an emotionally lost little girl. Chances are if you haven’t encountered a “Freaky Friday,”  type of parent/child switch, you will soon.

What do we do in these types of situations?

1.  Get to Know the Parent.

Come up with a way that you can have an interaction with your parents on a weekly basis.  The goal is to move beyond introductions to be able to speak to them about deeper things. One friend does a great job of this.  He is in a church environment where parents come to pick up their kids.  He makes sure each parent gets a “touch” every week.  He and his team spread out and meet the cars as parents come.  Sometimes they just bring the parents a small gift (cup of coffee) and say, “Thanks for letting your child come here.”   Our youth are picked up.  So we have to be more intentional.  We call parents and check in on them. Be creative.

2.  Get the WHOLE story.

Remember what we hear from students is just one side.  There is another piece and probably many layers as well.  I have found as I hear a story, I set aside judgement until I hear it all.  Since you have been building a relationship with the parent you now can start asking some questions.  Be careful,  you have been building trust with the teen and you don’t want to barrel in and say,  “Hey so your kid said you go out partying every night,  tell me what’s up with that?”  Also,  whatever the teen is feeling is very real to them.  Our perception of reality,  is our reality.  Sensitively,  approach the parent,  “How are you?”  As you get to know them,  that question will give you more and more information.

3.  Get everyone communicating.

Sometimes I send my students home with “homework.”  I ask them spend 30 minutes in the next week with their parents just being with them.  The greatest frustration in my group is that they feel like they are not heard at home.  THe first time I asked them to do this you would have thought that I had asked them to save the Titanic. One young man came to me later,  “I watched a whole movie with my Dad, he wanted to know what I wanted.”  Kids and parents often give up communicating with each other.   Teach your students how to tell their parents how they are feeling.  Encourage them to share.  If they can’t do it face to face,  have them send a text or email. Then tell them to follow up with, “Did you get my message?” If you talk to the parents suggest they make a move by sending their child a Facebook message.  THEN- sit down and talk to them face to face.  Many times parents shut down and back down because they have no idea how their actions are really affecting their child.  The best person to hear it from is the child.

At midnight on Friday when all is right with the world the “switch” back won’t happen. There is no movie magic in the “real world.”  It’s a process.   However,  as we keep treating the parent like the parent,  it can make first strides towards change.  Sometimes,  it is the very piece that brings a parent into a vibrant relationship with their Savior.

Really enjoyed this take on time off, rest and sabbath from Doug Fields’ blog the other day. If you’re struggling with margin, balance and time away from ministry, read on:

Almost daily I get an email from a ministry leader who is tired and on the verge of burn out. There is so much about ministry-world that is exhausting. I understand this reality firsthand. It’s real and ugly!

Too many leaders don’t even slow down enough to be faithful to God’s call for a Sabbath rest.

When I was a young leader I received great advice from a mentor who urged me to faithfully guard and protect a weekly day of rest. I’m so grateful for that advice and encouragement! Without intentional action, it’s simply too easy for a leader to slip into justifying non-Sabbath actions like, I’m just going to pop into the office, or I’m so far behind, I just need to catch up or They need to spend time with me and I don’t think I can say no.

Sound familiar? Me too! Want to see how he approaches his day of rest? Head there for more!


article.2013.05.08This is a season of transitions in our ministry. In just a couple of weeks the 6th-graders will be moving into our junior high ministry, our new freshman will be entering high school, and our just-graduated seniors will be moving up into the college-level program. It’s a bittersweet time of excitement for the new, mixed with the loss of incredible students who are no longer formally in your care.

Today we hope to provide you with a few keys to make the transitions smooth in your church. As we learned yesterday, the youth ministry handoff can be a time when students fail to make the move up in one of their life’s most challenging times. Here are some thoughts to make them go well.

Work in harmony with the other areas of ministry.
If you work in junior high ministry, you should be in relationship with the children’s ministry leaders. If you’re the new college pastor, one of your first steps should be to develop a relationship with the youth workers who care for your high school students. Know their programs, their wins and losses, and reach down to grab students to pull them up.

Prepare your students for what is ahead.
As recently as this past year we had a few graduating seniors that LOVED our youth ministry but had never been to big church before. We love that they loved us, but it was sad that they only really knew youth group and had not become part of the whole church. Some of those conversations became the genesis of the Worship Together Weekends we’ve talked about so much in the past. (If you don’t know what WTW is, click here for more details.)

Create spaces for questions.
Another simple win is to invite the leaders of the ministry ahead of yours for an informal Q/A with your current students about the ministry they are about to join. This will ease the nerves and help them feel relieved and loved before they move up. Or consider creating a preview night where students can sit in on a full service and get an idea of what it is like when promotion weekend finally does come along.

Celebrate every step of the way.
One of the things I’m (Josh) most excited about next week is our senior Life Group dinners. We’re going to host our small group leaders and their seniors for a special hour-long program to cheer them on beyond high school. Our leaders are incredible so there are going to be some tears, but most of all lots of rejoicing that students have made it and are prepared for what is next.

How do you help ease the transition between grades and programs in your ministry?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.


Weekend Teaching Series: Crazytown (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: 5 Things Girls Wish Guys Knew
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I went after the guys! Had so much fun talking to girls and some college-age women to get some of their perspective and then mash it up with my personal experiences and use God’s Word for the authority of truth. It was SUCH a fun weekend, I was so happy with the student’s response and I was extremely direct, too! We talked through all sorts of practical stuff and hit on some big topics too like objectifying women, boundaries, and more. One of my favorite HSMs of all time!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a hilarious summer camp promo video and a near-perfect game show about celebrity couples. It was incredible and Travis did a great job hosting it. I love it when a game plays out like a skit/standup as well as something the contestants and crowd could participate in. Really strong program.

Music Playlist: When I Was Your Man (Bruno Mars cover), Christ in Me, Take It All

Favorite Moment I loved this weekend in HSM! Excited to turn it into a resource in the future that other youth workers can use in their ministry, too. We tried something new with the stage design, too – notice in the picture above is half physical and half digital? The guys spray-painted gator board so we could light it from behind and then Parker made a digital “extension” of the buildings on the screen with a starry night that moved, complete with shooting stars. Simple, but striking. Perfect atmosphere for the talk!

Up next: Crazytown (week 2 of 3)

Here’s a funny eHarmony dating video our team made for the Crazytown series. Been a great week already – students sure do love to talk about love/sex/marriage/guys/girls!