stumboJohn Stumbo is one of the keynote speakers at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference coming up next month. If you haven’t signed up (I think) you can still get in before it sells out. Super excited to be a part of this event – see you there!

Three decades of serving the local church has been a fascinating ride. Three years of youth ministry drove me straight to the senior pastorate. Middle schoolers. Wow! There’s a real calling. I didn’t ve it. Preaching to people who actually stay in their chairs seemed more suitable. In all sincerity, what an honor to serve Christ by serving His bride. Amazing! I’m a big fan of the local church–crazed as she usually is.

What is one key thing youth leaders can do to help you as a senior pastor?
Stay out of trouble. Stay out of court. Stay out of my office unless I call for you. Uh, that’s what some youth pastor/lead pastor roles look like, right?

Love the students with the love of Christ, preach the Word with humility and passion, care for the broken . . . you know, pastor the flock entrusted to you. It would help if you would do so in a manner that I can defend if I need to. In other words, when you do something that might alarm the parents (or police department), maybe it would be a good idea to not let me get caught by surprise.

And what is the best way for a youth worker to build a relationship with a senior pastor you think?
Tough question. Us lead pastor types are often difficult to get to know. I’d say, “Don’t be discouraged if you’re not brought into the lead’s inner circle. He/she may not even have an inner circle. You can still have a great ministry partnership without being close friends.” I know this isn’t a satisfying answer for some, but strong ministry partnership and strong friendship are not necessarily the same.

One more thought: Get to know the pastor’s spouse. People see me and relate to me differently after they get to know my wife. Besides, she’s very likable. You can’t lose getting to know her!

What are you most nervous about as you plan to speak in the general session at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2013?
Nervous? Just because I haven’t even attended a youth conference in almost 30 years, follow Lecrae in the Saturday session and have what 3,000+ communicators staring at my graying head … why would you ask?

What are you most excited about as you plan to speak?
The way that this night came about … leaders trying to do more than just fill a slot with some big name, but wanting to have a sense that God was directing them . . . gives me a significant sense of anticipation. I’m trusting that God will breathe hope and encouragement into some souls that are fighting real battles of discouragement or wrestling with their own faith. I’m asking God for a night of hope, healing and joy in the midst of honesty and brokenness.

What¹s the craziest thing you can ever remember your youth leaders doing?
I’m pretty sure I never heard the craziest things they did. But I do remember finding out about the middle school pastor who used the 15 passenger church van to go “four-wheeling”. The van was never the same, but rumor has it that it was a fun ride. I was never convinced that using a toilet filled with Mountain Dew was the best place to do a fall festival bobbing for apples event. Duct tape seemed to be overused for one era of youth ministry.  And, whoever thought that combining a youth all-night lock-in with a baking fund raiser (sell cinnamon roll orders to the congregation, make them from scratch at the youth event and deliver them fresh at 7:00 in the morning) was a good idea, was nuts … oh, wait, I was that youth pastor.

The craziest of all: being willing to work for a senior pastor like me!

Simple little video using lots of available footage to promote an upcoming event in our high school ministry. The graphic at the end is sized for Instagram as well. Going to be fun!


The other week we had a senior girl share her testimony at our high school program.  It was powerful.  Afterwards her peers came up and showed her love.  What made the testimony even better was the fact that we recorded and placed the video on our student ministry Facebook page (With parent permission).  In return she received several compliments and words of love from peers, parents and adults in our church.  The next time I saw her you could tell there was an extra bounce in her step.

You are called to walk with students in their faith journey.  During that journey they will face hopeless moments where they will need encouragement to survive.  One of your roles as their youth minister is to cheer them on, affirm their choices and make sure they are being loved.  While there are many ways of doing this five that I would recommend are:

  • Bragging About Them Publicly: At first a teen might be slightly embarrassed but giving them praise in front of a crowd is huge.  It lets them know that they are so great that you don’t want to hide it.  By telling your audience why this person is awesome you affirm them as a role model (especially to their younger peers). 
  • Touch Base Before Something Big: Text them, write on their wall, send them a tweet or take them out for a bite to eat right before something big.  As a kid my mom used to write notes on my lunch bag before a big test.  It was a little embarrassing; however, it was reassuring to know someone was thinking of me.  The beauty of social media is you can let your teens know that you are thinking about them moments before they embark in the battles of teenage life.
  • Call Up Their Parents: One way to motivate teens is to do it through their parents.  When a parent feels supported in the job that they are doing they’ll pass along the extra encouragement to their teens.  And there is nothing better than boosting a teen’s morale through their family.
  • Thank Them For Being Them: They don’t have to do something impressive, unexpected or selfless, just let them know their appreciated.  It will especially means something if you can send a hand written note.  Many times teens are working to be someone they are not.  When you thank them for being simply themselves you show them God’s authentic love.
  • Utilize Physical Affirmation: Next time you see a student give them a hug, shake their hand and let them know you are proud of them.  This is intimidating because of the scandals and controversy out there.  If you are unsure just make sure you aren’t alone (Especially with the opposite sex).  Be consistent; but, don’t be afraid to give them positive contact.  It’s the intimacy they might be missing in their lives.

You can assume that your student’s know how you feel; however, with all the voices they face on a daily basis you need to make your’s louder.  When teens know they are loved, they will feel like they belong.  When they feel like they belong they’ll be more open to hearing the Good News.  Let them know how much they are truly loved.

How do you boost teen morale in your youth ministry?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)


I’m sitting in a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop near my daughter’s college (Azusa Pacific University), anxious for a lunch date with her! While I wait, I’m doing some long-term planning and trying to catch up on some bigger projects that are hanging over my head, the biggest being preparing our ministry for the launch of 12 international churches. Yep, a chunk of my time these days is (or should be) spent on the process of figuring out what, exactly, is necessary for a youth ministry to truly be a “saddleback youth ministry”, and then…unpacking what that looks like in each of our 12 target cities. A job at which I’m dangerously behind and severely unqualified!

So this morning, as I sip a black cherry tea latte, my tired mind is wandering to our junior high ministry…and all the exciting things going on. Here are a few:

- Jesus. We’ve dedicated our entire two-year small group curriculum solely to Jesus. Every small group lesson a 7th or 8th grade student will discuss in our small group system is Jesus-centric. If parents ask us what their child will learn in small group we now simply say: “They will learn about Jesus Christ…in great depth”. I like that!

- School Wars is coming. We aren’t a big “team competition” culture. Sure, we play games and give away prizes, but we don’t do ongoing competitions with points and all that fun stuff…unless it’s the first two Sundays in March each year. Then it’s on, Baby! “School Wars” is our annual 2-week long school-based competition that pits our schools against each other in crazy physical and mental challenges. Our volunteers dress up as gladiators, students come in their school colors and things get entirely out of control for two weeks.

- Grade Groups. A couple of years ago, to make our large group gatherings feel a little smaller, we started Grade Groups. Grade Groups are nothing more than a 10-minute break-out time during our program where students gather by grade and gender for announcements, to welcome guests, and play a quick game or discuss a few questions that set up the lesson. What started out as a short experiment has morphed into a key part of our weekend strategy.

- IMPACT. Impact is our informal junior high student leadership program. Anybody can join and they meet once a month to help plan our weekend services, invent new ministry opportunities, brainstorm how to impact their schools, etc.

- Sticky Faith. We are taking seriously the challenge to create an entire church culture dedicated to helping teenagers own and hold onto their faith after high school graduation, and much of those efforts start in junior high. My new, very lofty, goal is to help Saddleback become a church where the entire body “lives, grows, and gives” together. And by “together” I mostly mean in attitude and appreciation of each other. BUT things like Worship Together Weekend, where we cancel our youth services once a month in order for the whole congregation to worship together, are tangible examples of a church living, growing and giving together.

Gotta go…my lunch date with Kayla is at 12:00 and I’ve got between now and then to figure out what a Purpose-driven youth ministry looks like in Manilla.

Abusing Influence

 —  February 20, 2013 — Leave a comment

Its starts with a pitch, which starts with a few compliments. Hey Geoff, you are a really outgoing guy, you probably have a lot of friends and people in the Church really respect you. It sounds great so far until the words I fear the most come out , “I have an opportunity for you.”

He proceeds to remind me that I probably don’t get paid a lot working in ministry, but I have a lot of people that respect me that would surely get on board with this new business opportunity. He said you could make thousands of extra dollars a month by simply talking to and recruiting people who trust me, who would recruit their friends to sell a product to their families and friends. Its a win-win-win he said.

While the promise of increased income and being able to stay in ministry might sounds appealing, I can’t think of many things that would be more compromising my leadership than using my influence to promote or sell any sort of product or business opportunity. Our students and congregation trust that our intentions are to shepherd them into growing relationship with Christ. They also trust that we are not going to shepherd them into lining our wallets. If you are recommending a resource or book, be sure that it is beneficial to your people ahead being beneficial to you for them to buy it.

As a person of influence you will likely be approached at some point about a multi-level marketing opportunity, but I beg of you to not get involved. You are at risk of being tempted to abuse your authority and influence for your own financial gain. No only is it unwise, unfair, but really unethical.

These worlds can not collide, because when our motives become muddy and unclear, our authority and leadership will suffer for it.

Please don’t abuse your influence.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

Making a Difference in the Bronx! A Webinar about the Big Day of Serving.

Join Jake Rasmussen Wednesday, February 20 for a LIVE CHAT about the Big Day of Serving in the Bronx.

Tune in to this Webinar and discover answers to all these questions and more:

  • What IS this event?
  • Why will your students LOVE it?
  • How do you SAVE big bucks when registering?

This is a fantastic opportunity to learn all about our work in the Bronx this spring!

Check in out Here.

One of the books that I have been recommending a lot to students recently is “Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods” by… Rick Warren. In the book, Rick gives 12 different ways for us to dig into scripture. It is the perfect book for a student who wants to switch things up with their time in the Bible. The methods are:

1. Devotional- Meditate on a short piece of scripture and then find a personal life application for it.

2. Chapter Summary- Read a chapter of the Bible at least five times and then write down your thoughts about it.

3. Character Quality- Pick a character trait that you would like to have/grow in, then look at and study what the Bible says about it. Find out how you can apply that to your life!

4. Thematic- This is one of my favorites! Start by picking some theme of the Bible and write down a few questions you have about them and try to answer them by looking up the theme in various areas of the Bible.

5. Biographical- Choose a character from the Bible and read all that you can about them. Take notes about their traits and character and see how you can apply them to your own life.

6. Topical- Organize a list of scripture about a certain topic. Put it into an outline from that you’d be able to share with another person.

7. Word Study- Choose an important word from the Bible and see how it is used and how many times it comes up. Go and find out what the original meaning of the word is!

8. Book Background- With the use of Bible reference books, study the historical context of a book of the Bible to understand how the history affected the meaning.

9. Book Survey- Read an entire book of the Bible several times to get a good idea on what the book is about and then study the background of the book and take notes.

10. Chapter Analysis- Take a careful look at one particular chapter of the Bible. Take it apart word-by-word, verse-by-verse.

11. Book Synthesis- After you’ve used the Book Survey Method and the Chapter Analysis Method on every chapter of the book, summarize the contents and the main themes of a book.

12. Verse Analysis- Select a passage of Scripture and examine it in detail by asking questions, finding cross-references, and paraphrasing each verse. Record a possible application of each verse you study

I love this book because there is really something in here for everyone, no matter if they are in high school or seminary! Each method is unique in its approach and in its complexity. The methods are organized from simple to complex, so I usually advise that students start in the front and work their way back. So far, students have loved this book! It has helped many of them get out of their quiet time “slumps” because it shakes up the way that they have gotten used to looking at scripture. It is perfect for a student that is looking at taking their time in the Bible to the next level!

Some people that often hit “slumps” are college freshmen. This could be a really great gift for some of your recent graduates!

What is a resource that you have been giving your students recently?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.


Love it or hate, the Harlem Shake craze is here for a few weeks and its high-time to take advantage of it. Last week we decided to make one on Valentines day and students were into it in a big way. Josh has been in Rwanda so HSM team took advantage and made another awesome version of it as well. We decided to tag the information about when and where we meet so that students can share it with their friends and tell them a bit about who we are. These are great youth ministry because it gets everyone involved in something that is fun, sharable and totally different than anything they would be a part of anywhere else.

If your group has done one, please post it in the comments because I will be honest, I LOVE these things!

This is from my Youth Group called Journey here in Surrey B.C. Canada

This is HSM at Saddleback awesome video.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart