Weekend Teaching Series: Workshop Weekend (1-off)

Sermon in a Sentence: This weekend we had 4 messages – students got to choose which one they would hear.

Understandable Message: This weekend we had a couple videos and a couple songs, then divided up the students into1 of 4 workshops for them to hear about a topic they chose for the weekend:

1. The Comparison Trap: A workshop about the dangers of comparing yourself to your siblings, classmates, celebrities, etc. Learning about how to appreciate who God created you to be. Even showed the Dove video.

2. Modern Day Compassion: Learning to have compassion on other people because everyone has a story. Everyone has their own struggles. They went through Bible stories of compassion and learned how to compare them to everyday life.

3. Judging: Good or Bad? We all have heard about judging being wrong. It can be hard to live out. So they took an in-depth look at what the Bible says about it. Learn how and why God calls us to stay away from judging.

4. Self: Compassion: Learning how to let go of what you’re holding onto. God has forgiven you, and you should forgive yourself as well. The workshop helped students understand God’s love better through teaching them about God’s compassion for us. It is hard to have compassion on others if we can’t have compassion on ourselves.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Didn’t have much in this department this week – pretty straightforward service for sake of time. Good stuff!

Music Playlist:  Holy Moment, Like an Avalanche, All I Am

Favorite Moment: Seeing students and leaders team-teach the workshops was SO cool. LOVED this idea. It isn’t sexy or flashy like some of our other stuff, but I like it a lot.

Up next: Crazytown (series premiere, week 1 of 3)


In addition to the normal youth group happenings, a typical weekend in our student ministries includes any number of youth pastors popping in for a visit. Sometimes their visit is with several others as part of a planned visit and sometimes it’s a youth pastor and his wife who are vacationing in Southern California and he managed to persuade her to spend a vacation morning sitting in our youth programs.

And I always find myself “apologizing” up front for what they are about to experience. “We’re so glad you are with us! I’m afraid you are going to be a little disappointed, though. We’re not a well-oilded machine. In fact, there’s not much happening in our group that isn’t happening in yours”, I routinely say. But I’m learning that this isn’t entirely true. There is something happening in our junior high ministry that I have assumed happens all over the place, but I’m learning I’ve been mistaken.

If you had visited our ministry this past weekend you would have seen a worship band made up entirely of junior highers (with one HS vocalist struggling to keep everybody on key!), three junior highers in our tech room running the cameras and directing the “shots”, two junior highers running our sound board and lights (we probably could have used a little adult intervention on that one), and an 8th grade girl sharing about the ministry she founded that sells cupcakes to help kids with cancer. And you would have probably happily paid $1 for one of her delicious home-made goodies at the booth she set up in the back of our gymnasium.

What you wouldn’t have seen much of is excellence; at least not in the way it is traditionally defined! The worship team struggled quite a bit, the guys in the tech room were consistently a slide (or two or three) behind at any given moment in the service, My microphone kept popping and getting feedback, and Saturday after church our cupcake girl shared that she wouldn’t be able to be there on Sunday….and hoped we’d still be willing to sell her cupcakes (which we did, of course).

Our visiting youth pastors are rarely impressed with the level of excellence they witness. I’m surprised, though, at how often they comment on the level of student involvement and ownership happening.

I share this to remind you that as you lead your junior high ministry you have a decision to make, and how you answer is determined mostly by what you value. Do you want your ministry to be marked by excellence or by ownership? In high school ministry, and certainly in adult ministry, these two values can coexist but that isn’t really the case in ministry to young teens. Ownership almost always means a lack of excellence, at least as it has been traditionally defined.

But maybe it’s time to redefine “excellence”. Maybe excellence doesn’t mean every note is on key, every cue is hit, every mic is turned up on time, and every announcement is given flawlessly. Maybe Ownership = Excellence.

resources-books-for-students-graduation-gift-setI have given graduation gift to graduating classes for years. It has usually been in the form of a Bible or a gift card to a local Christian book store so they could get an item they might want before they leave for college. I have come to the conclusion that they already have a Bible, if the first Bible they get is their senior year I probably have not done a great job communicating the need for a Bible the past 4 to 6 years, and forget the gift card…I want them to have something I think they NEED. This year we are moving towards getting our graduating seniors a few books that will encourage and grow them beyond our walls. These two bundles below each have 3 great resources…$25 worth of books for under $15, you got to like that! What do you gifting your graduates this year?

Thrive, 99 Questions Jesus Asked, and Living With Less Bundle
Graduation Gift Set 2 - Physical
Live Large Be Different Shine Bright, Creative Time With God, and 99 Thoughts for College Students Bundle.

Graduation Gift Set - Physical

I would like to say that when I was young and single that I enjoyed all the margin that was in my schedule to the fullest. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Just like now I had responsibilities, obligations and burdens that constantly made me wonder, “Where did all the time go?”

Doesn’t matter what season of ministry you find yourself in, time management can be a struggle. The problem comes when you do not monitor the amount of responsibilities and obligations that cross your plate. What it does is create a unnecessary and debilitating tension. In order to be successful in youth ministry and manage all that is in front of you, it’s important to step back, look at your calendar and:

  • Focus On A Few: There is this pressure in youth ministry to do it all; however, all that leads to is ineffective ministry. Focus on those few things that you, and only you can accomplish. By focusing on what you are best at doing you’ll have the greatest impact for your ministry. Delegate the rest to your volunteer and leadership teams to create more capacity.
  • Learn To Say “NO”:  It’s flattering to receive invitations and offers especially when they can lead to big opportunities. While it’s not always easy to say, “NO.” what it will do is protect you from overcommitting. To discern what to accept and what to turn down, figure out what will move you towards your vision and what will pull you away.
  • Prioritize:To stay efficient you need to know what is Urgent, Important andExpendable. By sorting tasks and responsibilities in their proper category you won’t have to worry about tangents tearing you away from your vision. Make a list, write it down and revisit frequently.
  • Build Safety Nets:Find people to share your schedule, and goals with. Ask them to hold you accountable and check-in. It’s also important for you to schedule in (Even if you don’t have time) to just connect with God. When you feel as if you have no time, the best you can do is pause and wait for God’s direction.

You always have time, the question is, “How are you using it?” Consistently look at your schedule, review your responsibilities and trim what is unnecessary When you can add margin to your schedule you allow room to recover, refresh and enjoy what God has called you to do.

Which of these habits is hardest for you when it comes to making time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)


It was almost ten years ago at a camp that Sarah had decided that she was choosing Jesus’ ways but she needed help. I agreed to be her mentor. When we got to church after camp I took her home…she had some stuff that she wanted me to help her get rid of…her pipe and her stash of weed. I was young and 5 months pregnant driving home from her house to mine with WEED in my car. I was freaking out…it was a first of me.

We started meeting weekly. We walked through Life Hurts, God Heals together for over a year.

And then she walked away from it all.

It wasn’t the first time…and unfortunately it wasn’t and won’t be the last time a student walks away.

I am guessing you have experienced the same thing at some point.

When this happens…I remind myself of these things:

1. Don’t Give Up

We need to continue to reach out. If they go missing for one week, one month or even a year or more, we keep reaching out. Thanks to social media it isn’t hard to do this with most students. I am also a big fan of snail mail. Everyone LOVES getting mail. We can’t give up.

2. Let Forgiveness Come Easy

I am not sure we are always willing to admit it but students can’t hurt us. Sometimes when they walk away they leave with words that aim to hurt. This is one of those times were we get to be the mature adult believer. (Let’s be honest…this sucks sometimes!) But we need to let forgiveness come easy. Don’t make them work hard to earn it…give it away. Let the same forgiveness that Jesus freely gives to us flow to the students that walk away from us.

3. Keep an Open Door

Don’t stop at forgiveness- welcome them back. We talk a lot about the front and back doors of our ministries. Here is my concern that our front door stays open even to those who have walked away from us. Don’t judge them when they come back or don’t make them feel like an outsider.

4. Pray for Another to Water 

There are times where we plant the seed and we pray for another to water it. As much as we hope and pray that they will come back to our ministries…we pray that another believer or another youth worker will come into their life and continue point them to Jesus.

5. The Final Word is LOVE

Let’s follow after our Savior and let love win. Let our final word to our students be filled with love. Even when we feel overwhelmed, discouraged and wounded…we choose love. If our students last moments with us are their reminders of who Jesus is…let it be love.

About 8 years later, Sarah showed up at church. It was good to see her. You could tell her life was filled with pain and lots of confusion. She wasn’t back for good but she ran to me and gave me a big hug. I am glad. I hope she remembers a young mom who loved her despite the fact that her life didn’t change like I had hoped…and I hope someday she comes back for good.

What do you do when a student walks away?


This is going to be a fun and simple series of videos to help promote HSM Summer Camp. So excited!


PS: If you missed last year’s Hunger Games parody … you’ve got to see it, too.

Have you been wondering just how “Everybody’s Urban” can relate to YOU!!  everybody 2

Phil Bell over at “,” was willing to interview Leneita about our newest book,  “Everybody’s Urban: Understanding the Survival Mindset of the Next Generation.” It sums up our perspective on how this book can help you!

Click On The Interview Here!

The reality is more and more churches have corporate executives and inner city single Moms sitting next to each other in the pews. If they aren’t in the churches our communities are becoming a mash up society of suburban, urban and rural. We must learn to engage this emerging culture which we are identifying as the new urban.
  • We see more and more developing what we would call a Survival Mentality.
  • As a Christian Culture we have seen most are engaging either the suburban OR the urban OR the rural
  • Our strength is the ability to not only know how to engage and include ALL who come (urban AND suburban AND rural) we are passionate about providing coaching, training and resources to others who want to learn how to bring Christ to those in their pews and organizations.


We would love to engage YOU in this conversation! Would you consider bringing a group of youth workers togethers where we can come in to coach and train in this new generation?


NEED A REFRESHER?stress-workplace-top-reasons

There is no doubt that the month of May is one of the most difficult in youth ministry. We are trying to finish well, a spring semester whose rhythm is typically syncopated due to the frequent school holidays and spring sports and the exhale after Easter. At the same time, tis the season to be recruiting our adults for the summer and next school year, putting the finishing touches on our summer calendars, and preparing ourselves (and our families!) for the weeks that we will be out of town at camp and/or mission trips. This is a high-stress season of ministry! It’s during these moments that we wonder why we keep doing what we do and begin asking again, How can I do it this year in a way that keeps me from wearing myself out?

Why do I keep doing what I do? While some of us address this question as if it were directed at our methods, most of us are likely trying to remind ourselves why we are in ministry…especially this type of ministry. Because this is not the best (or healthiest) time of year to begin planning your exit, you will best serve yourself and your ministry by taking a deep breath and moving forward. I’ve found that the easiest way to move forward in the midst of these vocational quandaries is to pull out a list (or better, your directory) of your young people, to visualize each one’s face, and to thank God for the ways that each has been a blessing to you. Then, ask God How are you inviting me to bless her/him this summer? This may not settle the long-term questions of vocation, but it will help to direct your next few steps forward.

How do I keep from wearing myself out? Rest, rest, and rest some more! I find myself in countless gatherings of youth workers, and hear often how worn out my colleagues are. When I ask about the last day they took off, they laugh. If Jesus needed to take time between his teachings, miracles, and other ministry moments, there’s a good chance that we might have that same need. Find a movie, find a book, find a hammock…just find something that will refresh you before the summer gets here; it’ll be here before you know it!

(STEPHANIE: From my friend, Brent Parker, a small church youth guy and fellow Texan – which makes everything bigger and better, of course!)