article.2013.03.12One of the questions we are often asked is: How do you get it all done? To be honest, no one gets it all done. But, we have come up with a few techniques over the years to help us squeeze more into each day. This week we want to take a little time to help you boost your productivity.

Turn off notifications
Notifications are the derailment of getting stuff done. And while you may pride yourself on giving quick answers and having instant follow-up, what you are actually doing is interrupting continued focused thought in one particular area. Try prepping your next sermon using iA Writer ( and see if the focus helps you prepare faster and more effectively.

Do email in bursts.
Similar to the “turn off notifications” idea: Only check your email a few times a day. This one is harder than ever with that little “new email” icon or unread number calling out your name to check it incessantly all day. Stop the email madness! Do email in the morning, noon, at the end of the workday and just before bed and you can knock out a bunch in one block rather than let it persist all day.

Never eat alone.
Everyone has to eat lunch! So make your productivity matter even over your lunch hour. Spend time with a mentor, a student, a volunteer, your spouse, one of your kids—make every meal count.

Manage your meeting times.
It doesn’t take long for a meeting to turn into a marathon, so master the subtle ways to help move them along. Ask good questions, make sure there is a clear objective beforehand, and don’t be afraid to help bring it to a conclusion so you can be on time for the FCA meeting or volleyball game coming up next.

Get out of the office.

Have a secret location that no one knows about where you go to “get stuff done.” Starbucks by the church is a little too obvious for me—I (Josh) love a little Boba place around here that is quiet, has free wi-fi, and no one has any idea where I’m at for a few hours to crank stuff out. I can be ultra productive there and get totally in the zone.

Open your door/close your door.
I love the “open door policy” of our church, but there are certain times it just isn’t a realistic option. Don’t be afraid to close your door 20% of the time to help you get things done without interruption.

What is your best tip for productivity?

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.

Easter Sermon Video

 —  March 22, 2013 — 1 Comment

skitguysThe SkitGuys as always a huge hit at SYMC, why not invite them into your youth group or church this year via video.  Check this out, might be a great purchase for your easter sermon.

SYMC2013If you were at SYMC this year you experienced a ton of cool things in the general sessions.  Simply has place a lot of freebies from the event out on their site for you, so go get downloading.  My personal favorites are the pre-show slide, these are a fun add-in to anything you have scrolling on your video projectors before your ministry night starts.

FREE STUFF LINK HERE! turned 1 today!


The pendulum swings, and it almost always swings back. It rarely swings all the way back to its original starting point, but tends to come to rest someplace in a new, healthier middle. Here are a couple examples:

* Chick-Fil-A: Chick-Fil-A gets on the radar for donating funds to organizations that support traditional marriage (or oppose same-sex marriage). When questioned about it, Dan Cathy, the President and COO defends his company’s decisions. Suddenly, the pendulum swings. the initial swing of the pendulum created headlines, got people excited, sparked debate, etc. But the pendulum eventually swang back to a new, healthier middle. The swing of the pendulum, as uncomfortable as it was, actually served to create a few steps of progress and understanding, at least for those honest enough to recognize it. You probably didn’t read this story, because it doesn’t fit the narrative of either side but it shows that the pendulum principle is true in the Chick-Fil-A case:

* The Accusations Against Youth Ministry: A few years ago Researchers, bloggers, professors and “thought leaders” suddenly began to focus on an issue that has always been an issue: Faith abandonment in churchgoing teenagers after high school. Because these people have avenues to distribute these new findings, because juicy topics get attention and because many youth workers have, in fact, grown far too comfortable with the status quo…and the pendulum swang. Suddenly youth ministry was broken. It was the primary cause of faith abandonment. Paradigms, programs and attempts to attract teenagers to church were attacked and questions such as “is youth ministry even biblical to begin with?” began to dominate our landscape. But the pendulum is already beginning to swing back to a new, healthier middle. The initial swing forced many of us to ask tough questions, challenge our assumptions and make some overdue changes; changes that without the initial swing of the pendulum would have seem to big or unnecessary.

Here are some thoughts about how to lead when the pendulum swings:

* Thank God for the “Pendulum Pushers”! Without men and women pushing the pendulum, most of us would never change. The status quo is a safe place. Pendulum Pushers don’t play it safe. They force issues. They make us uncomfortable. And that’s a good thing.

* Respond, don’t react! A sudden, knee-jerk, reaction to the initial swing of the pendulum is almost always the wrong move. Instead try to discern what factors caused the initial swing, and how/if you should wisely respond to those factors. The issues causing the initial swing are usually warranted….but the first swing is usually too big and reacting to it can result in decisions you’ll later regret.

* Take a few steps toward the new, healthier middle. To ignore a significant pendulum swing, and the progress it might help you make would be a mistake.

Would love your thoughts. Where have you experienced a pendulum swing? What lessons have you learned?


The makers of the backyard game of Spikeball are giving away a combo pack of the incredibly epic game to one lucky MTDB reader! It is honestly one of our favorite summertime games in our high school ministry! To get in on the action, leave a comment on this blog post and you’re in the running to get a full set. Never heard of the game? Check out their website to check out how it works and use promo code DIVE35 to get 10% off if you want to get one of your own, too!


What I love about youth ministry is how you can get away with some things that you could never do in adult worship.  When you fail or mess up teens will be a little more forgiving especially if they see that you are trying.  While youth ministry has it’s uniqueness it has it’s dangers if it is totally isolated from the movement of the adult congregation.  If not connected to the flow and movement of adult ministry and worship it can be an obstacle to the entire church.  One of our responsibilities as youth ministers is to make sure that we are IN UNISON WITH “BIG CHURCH”.

The reason you need to build synergy between teens and adults is because it:

  • Encourages Conversation Between Parent’s and Kids
  • Enables Outside The Box Thinking
  • Equips a Vibrant Generation to Take Ownership

When the church is in unison it becomes a movement and it’s relevancy increases.  Unfortunately, there are road blocks that stand in the way that will cause friction.  To remove that friction and synergy between youth and adults you need to:

Make Your Relationship With Leadership A Priority: Not always the easiest thing to do; however, it has the biggest payoff.  When you can communicate to the pastor your needs and your situation he can serve as an advocate on your behalf.  If this is something that’s impossible you might need to reconsider where you are working. (Click here to learn more on leading up)

Preach On Similar Topics: If you can be ONE CHURCH ONE MESSAGE then you give families a common ground for their conversations.  While it’s not always appropriate to talk about the exact same topics as the adults you can pull from similar themes and readings.  If your church teaches in message series consider following along.  Fuel the conversation at home.

Encourage Teens To Serve Alongside Adults: Building intergenerational relationships are essential in building your capacity as a leader.  When you empower teens to serve alongside of adults you give them role models in faith.  It gives the teens an opportunity to be influenced and encouraged by an adult who sees the importance of serving the Lord.

While there is power and benefit to creating unique opportunities for teenagers, it’s important not to lose sight of how they are connected to the local church.  Work on the relationships you have with coworkers, invest yourself in what the adult ministry is doing and strive to be one church of many generations.

How do you work to be in unison with “Big Church”?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

My family has one show we all watch together,  “Once Upon a Time.”  Whatever your feelings on the show,  it is a great picture of good vs. evil,  how our hearts and wills are pretty complicated,  and “magic” is never the answer to solving problems.   This past week had a scene in it that really struck me on how so many of our teens feel about life.

If you have never seen the show the basic premise is that all of the residents of “Fairy Tale Land,”  were put under a curse by the “evil queen” and sent to a little town in Maine called Storybrook.  At first the curse meant that everyone forgot their true identities and lived in Storybrook just going about their daily business.  However,  they did not know they were really princesses,  Red Riding Hood or the like.  This season a portion of the curse was lifted and they have “remembered” themselves.  For some reason though,  while some can “travel” between the two worlds over all they are “stuck”  in Maine.  The greatest feud remains between Snow White  (Mary Margaret) and her “Evil Stepmother,”  the Queen (Regina).

In this week’s episode Regina (the queen) was bent on killing Snow White (Mary Margaret.)  She was going to cast a spell,  but through a series of events, changes her mind.  (In this particular instance “Snow White” deserves the vengeance.) The last scene of the show has “Snow” standing on the porch of “Regina’s” home to beg the generational dispute be ended.  Instead,  the queen reaches into “Snow’s” chest and pulls out her heart.  Holding the glowing beating orb in her hands she points something out to the not so innocent “good guy.”  In the center of  her heart is a black spot.   The queen cackles,  as she tells Snow that they are now equals and she has “won.”  “This spot will grow until it takes over your heart.  Then all you love will shrivel and fade away,”  she is told.  Snow White’s eyes grow wide,  as she knows what she has done to create this space in her heart.  Sobbing she begs the queen to kill her.  Over and over again she pleads, “Crush it,  put me out of my misery.”  Instead the queen (Regina) puts the heart back, declaring that Snow White is now evil too,  and soon she will lose everything because of it.  Snow White is beside herself,  as the episode fades away.


The stark symbolism immediately struck me.  Yes of course there was the Ezekiel moment talking about our hearts of stone needed to be replaced with a heart of “flesh.”   There is the idea of none of us being “righteous” or good enough to deserve Salvation. Even the pristine Snow White of fairy tale makes bad choices.  Yet, what stood out to me was the reaction of our “heroine.   If there was even one dark spot,  she was doomed to a life of evil and shame.

Isn’t that how so many of the teens and families we work with view life?  They take a look at their heart and are fully aware of the mess that it is.  Then the next natural step is to believe that is all they will ever be.  One mistake,  and  this snow balls because they feel there is no other choice.  I feel like I look into the eyes of so many who have simply “given up,” because they feel,  “this is just the way it is.”   In a moment of weakness they feel like they just “mess everything up.”

Admittedly some of the problems seem too large.  There are times when those of us who are walking out life with these students and families feel the pressure to “fix” it.  We can see just like the audience of  “Once Upon A Time,” that the story is much bigger than what any of us can see. Like the innocent bystander we feel helpless, while at the same time responsible to make it better.  However, it is not our role,  (or our job) to fix the situation.  We can’t take the black spot away anyway.  It is not our job to touch a heart.

I wish I could now give you three to five points of how to best help in these times.  I wish there was a tried and true formula for helping the “Snow White’s” in our paths.  While I have no idea how the story on “Once Upon a Time” will end,  I know we can’t “make” anyone listen.

So here is what I do know:


Our job IS to keep letting those who think it’s over, know it’s not.  All we can do is let them know truly  NONE of us are good enough.  (That means we aren’t either.)  Be vulnerable and share our story.  Some days all we have is to let someone know we will pray for them,  and offer to pray with them.   That means we tell them:


Jesus is the truth.  We need to tell them about his love,  how extravagant it is, &  how  it will bring them freedom.  The reality is any of us may have to deal with the repercussions or consequences of an action.  However,  when we admit what we have done,  when we ask for forgiveness,  he always does.  The truth is we can’t do anything to eradicate that spot ourselves. That spot has a name:  SIN.  However, through His death and resurrection Christ took our place doing what was necessary to make it go away. We can’t.  He can. All we can do is show them through our actions and tell them what this means.

None of us are without that “dark” spot.  Snow White believed she didn’t have it,  she is now crushed by the reality that she does. Having a relationship with Jesus not only washes the spot out,  it changes the heart completely.  All we can do is allow those in these situations of despair to know there are more than two answers: giving in or death.  There is Jesus.  Does it mean we never do anything to create a spot in our hearts?  Nope- life is complicated and the “right” answer is sometimes unclear. However,  as our Snow White learned,  being good didn’t make everything better either.  A sense of “morality” isn’t any more helpful than giving in to a doomed life.  Other times we get selfish and just want to live our own way.  Yet- when we have that relationship with him,  in those moments when the “Evil Queen” wants to point out our indiscretions,  He is there.  He steps in, takes the heart and says,  “That belongs to me.”  He breathes life into it again.  He forgives again.  He replaces it made whole.  The cycle that screams,  “Just crush me,”  is done away with.

That is one thing we all need to know.

What about you?  What do you tell your teens that think they are “too far gone?”