This week our Xbox 360 crossed 58,000 in Gamerscore – thanks in part to the next installment of the Halo franchise. Took a break from gaming this week to give you a few quick reviews:

  • Jetpack Joyride (A+): One of the funnest iOS games makes its way to Windows 8 and is incredibly fun on a laptop. Such a great game – play it on whatever platform you can, the game is genius.
  • Halo 4 (A+): This may very well be the best Halo game ever made. As a fan of the franchise since the beginning, it was fun to pick up a copy of the game and play straight through it in 4-player co-op. Incredible cinemas. Epic multiplayer. Unreal graphics. Fun x 1000.
  • LEGO Batman 2 (A-): Another winning installment in the LEGO video game franchise. Such a fun game – my kids ate it up and have already beaten it several times. Super, super fun family game!


This week Kurt and I are going after a youth ministry fail in our lives in the past season of ministry, and sharing what we learned from the incident. You got to revel in Kurt’s mistake yesterday—here’s mine:

I was teaching a few weeks ago in youth group and during the talk we had a disruptive student. It was a little disruption at first, but a few minutes later we had a full-blown problem on our hands. A student was making all sorts of comments and noises from his seat—students were staring, whispering, and generally completely distracted by the situation. We found out later the teenager has a special medical need and didn’t have any control over what was coming out of his mouth. But the point is our team didn’t know what to do…so no one did anything.

FAIL: We weren’t ready to handle this situation. I’m left on stage trying to teach while this disruption is occurring and everyone is frozen or in a silent panic trying to figure out what to do.

LEARNING: The next week we put into place a simple 4-step process for dealing with disruptions during youth group:

1) The speaker never addresses the situation. Whoever is on stage models grace and pretends like nothing is going on. Motor through.

2) Don’t wait. Will someone else jump in? Let’s just take the “wait and see” approach to see if it gets worse. No…take action when any disruption occurs. From the giggles in the back of the room, to a full on meltdown, do something; don’t just stand there.

3) Take it outside. Ask the student to step outside of the room with you as discreetly as possible. Usually a knowing look or a fierce glare from a youth leader corrects poor behavior. When those don’t work, invite them to the exit for a talk.

4) Investigate what to do from there. Could this situation be fixed by simply reseating the person? What discipline is needed to correct this behavior? Handle each situation with incredible amounts of care and grace but balance firmness.

General rule of thumb: don’t let one ruin it for all. Where have you failed and what have you learned recently?

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. Tomorrow look for a special guest post on ministering to a student with special needs that will be helpful to unpack that area for ministry as well. In hindsight it would have been wise to use another student as an example in this post. #FAIL

I used to be jealous of our children’s ministry because I thought they were getting all the attention. Space in our church needs to be shared; therefore, everything needs to lean towards “CHILD FRIENDLY”. Just like the teenagers I serve I would grow embarrassed by the “KID-LIKE” décor that filled the walls. I would wonder, “Do teens want to come back after seeing that?”

I eventually matured and realized that as a youth minister I need the children’s ministry in order to succeed. They are the future teens you will mentor. They are laying the foundation for what you do, and if they fail your job will be that much harder. So, what does that mean?


How are you supposed to invest in the children’s ministry in order to create a better student ministry?

Not sure what the relationship you have with your children’s pastor looks like but it needs to be healthy. This means getting to know them as a coworker and a person. Schedule a weekly or biweekly meeting where you can discuss obstacles, share stories of success and challenge one another. The more you get to know them the more you begin to trust them.

I found that much of my frustration with the children’s ministry was due to old expectations. I always compared it to the misconceptions I had about children’s ministry. All this did was create suspicion. By observing the children’s ministry you will see how it is serving your student ministry. You will also be able to give your children’s pastor an outsider’s perspective.

Just as you need multiples of volunteers, so does the children’s ministry. One thing you can offer them that they can’t offer you is a teenage workforce. Encourage your teens to give what they have been given. Your teens will not only be youthful and energetic, but a positive role model for the kids.

While you may want a bigger budget, make sure it doesn’t come at the expense of the children’s programs. On top of finances, help them recruit leaders and help them communicate to parents about what they are doing. By serving the children’s ministry in your church, you are building the foundation of your future teens.

It’s easy to grow jealous of others if you are only focused on yourself. The way that your ministry will grow is if you learn how to grow with others on staff. After your pastor the best place to start is with the person running the children’s ministry. It’s not only your future but also your foundation. Help them succeed.

What are you doing to invest in the children’s ministry at your church?

Chris (Twitter)

From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog that feels like we could answer together rather than me alone. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about effectively ministering to parents? Weigh in!

I’ve been trying to minister to parents as well as volunteers and students – have had NO luck with anything for parents. I make resources available to them, no one shows up for my monthly meetings, everything I do seems to be met with “meh” … it is killing me and I can’t help but feel like a failure. Do you guys have parent stuff that IS working? Because I sure don’t!

Your turn, MTDB community … I’ll be back later this week with a few of the things we have planned in our next season of parent ministry – honestly I think it is time to overhaul a little bit and launch some new things, too!


Over Memorial Day Weekend, 2008, I became a minimalist.

My journey into minimalism was not entered into as a fad, experiment, or temporary life adjustment. Nor was it just for the purpose of moving, getting out of debt, traveling the world, or quitting my job. My decision to intentionally live with less was born out of my desire to line up my life’s pursuit with my heart’s deepest desires. It was about creating space for faith, family, and friends. It was a decision I knew would influence the rest of my life. And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Over the past five years, we have removed 60-70% of our personal possessions, we have moved into a smaller home, we have removed ourselves from the hollow race of American consumerism, and we have completely changed our habits of consumption. As a result, we have found more time for the things that are most important. In short, we have been finally able to start living the life we always wanted to live.

This journey towards minimalism has been far more life-changing than I anticipated. The possessions in our lives define who we are on a far deeper level than we know. And as a result, the process of removing them teaches us valuable truths about ourselves.

But the most important life lessons I’ve learned can be summed up like this:

1. Possessions weigh down our lives more than we realize. They are heavy and cumbersome. They slow us down. They demand our time, energy, attention, and focus. They need to be purchased, transported, organized, cleaned, sorted, fixed, and managed. They keep us from the ones we love and from living a life based on our values. Ultimately, they cause us to lose our life rather than find it. Life is indeed better with less.

2. Our lives are just too valuable to waste chasing possessions. Society has told us our greatest dreams should consist of “doing well in school, getting a high-paying job, and buying a really nice house with lots of cool things.” That is a shame because we can dream bigger dreams. We can dream better dreams. Our lives can be far more valuable than the things we own. Our lives are meant to be built on the things that really matter: love, faith, hope, charity, relationships, influence, significance, spirituality…. not the physical things that will always perish, spoil, or fade.

3. Living with less provides the freedom to pursue our greatest passions. The removal of excessive possessions and the intentional decision to live with less offers countless benefits. In exchange for removing the clutter, we are rewarded with newfound finances, time, energy, freedom, and mental capacity. Our lives are lived with less stress, less anxiety, and less burden. Our finite resources become more available to us… and we are freed to pursue our greatest passions—whatever they may be.

4. The external decision to own less has a positive impact on our journey inward. Owning (and buying) less has allowed my heart to change and adopt values I have always admired in others. Through the process, I have learned contentment, generosity, gratitude, self-control, honesty, and appreciation. These attributes were difficult to discover during the pursuit of more… but the intentional pursuit of less has allowed room in my heart for them to surface.

5. Jesus had it right all along. When I removed the accumulation and pursuit of possessions from my life, Christ’s teachings on money and possessions began to take a new hold on my life. I began to realize his teachings to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” and to “not hoard up treasures here on earth” are not instructions designed to make my life miserable while on earth. They weren’t given as some means of forced sacrifice on our lives. They are an invitation—an invitation to live a more abundant, meaningful life—just like everything else Jesus taught. This abundant life is available to anyone who begins to believe that Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about… even when he encouraged us to give away our possessions and pursue something greater instead.

Joshua Becker has served in Student Ministry for 14 years. He blogs at Becoming Minimalist where he encourages others to find more life by owning less. And his new book, Living with Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness, is written to inspire teenagers and young adults to discover the simple truth behind Christ’s plain teaching on money and possessions.

I believe that the most effective student leadership programs (and ministries in general) are the ones that empower their students. And I mean, actually empower them. In youth ministry, empowerment is rooted in the belief that students can actually make a difference in their church, community, school, and even the world!

If we were to ask ourselves if we believe in students, believe that that they could change the world, most of us would say yes. However, if some of us were to really think about it, that might not be fully true. I think we might sometimes say yes out of habit or because we feel like we are supposed to, but the real answer lies in the actions of our ministry. We can say we believe in our students all we want, but if our ministry isn’t empowering students, than we might need to reevaluate our answer. For some, their ministry used to be powered by a belief in students but, somewhere along the way, empowerment got lost in the shuffle. For others, empowerment might not have ever been a main priority in their ministry. But if we want to see students serving their church and community, we need to make it a priority.

One of the first steps in getting a student to serve is getting them to believe in themselves, and we can’t expect students to do that if we don’t believe in them first. We need to believe that God has called and equipped the ENTIRE church to serve. Each of us has been gifted for ministry, even our students. Our student leadership programs, and our ministries as a whole, needs to communicate this belief. Where are we taking a chance on students? While it is awesome to let students pass out pens and bulletins at the beginning of service, we need to be providing significant opportunities. Sometimes this means letting go of a certain aspect of your ministry and allowing a student to own it. If you have a student that wants to be a pastor and has the gift of communication, let them speak at a weekend service. If you have a student that has a heart for the elderly and the gift of leadership, let them start and lead a elderly care ministry. At the end of the day, God believes in our students and our ministry needs to reflect that.

Does your ministry communicate to students your belief in them? Does it empower them?

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



You aren’t the lead youth worker at your church? That doesn’t mean you can’t powerfully influence the lives of teenagers!
Thanks to her 25 years of experience as a youth ministry volunteer, Danette Matty thoroughly knows your world: part-time hours, full-time passion—and no-time pay. But she also knows that you’re an integral part of God’s work in the lives of students and in your church’s ministry to teenagers.
This book will help you discover how to maintain your spiritual vitality, lead from the middle, serve through all the seasons of life, and do what you do best. You’ll also gain insights into working well with teenagers, parents, church leaders, and other volunteers.
Danette’s goal in 99 Thoughts for Volunteers is to encourage and equip you—the volunteer whose commitment, hard work, and dedication are essential to a healthy youth ministry. She’s eager to deflate the “just a volunteer” mentality and inflate the truth of the primo skills and qualities that you as a volunteer bring to the team!

Check it out here!

Thank you to all the volunteers! You are changing and influencing more lives than you realize!


How do you leave a youth ministry role with honesty and grace?

The leading voices in youth ministry have said for a long time that when it is time to go … leave well. To be honest, I think I’ve even said that phrase myself in the not-so-distant past. But the more I process it … I’m not sure its possible.

Leaving well implies that it is possible to finish perfectly and that every relationship will be restored and at peace when you go. That everyone will sing songs in your honor when you leave, laying down palm branches in your driveway as your Hyundai backs out for the last time. In my experience and seeing a ton of other youth workers walk through this: transition is tough.

The good news: I do think there are a few ways to leave without adding to the pain of transition. Want to leave with honesty and grace? Here’s how …

Leave at the right time
It isn’t always possible, but leaving at a natural break is best. The end of summer is ideal but not always possible. But even more than leaving at the right time in the calendar, pray through leaving at the right time in the church culture as well. Stay too long after you know you’re done and it’ll be painfully obvious, leave too soon and blindside people.

Make the transition short
I understand the need for a transition time to help prepare students or ensure a peaceful exchange of leadership – but there’s nothing worse than a “lame duck” who is out but still in. Pray through the timing of your announcement and the timing of your last day – typically I wouldn’t put these more than a month or two apart at the most.

Protect the pastor

Don’t cause division in the church – you will only hurt God’s body and leave students and volunteers hurt in the crossfire of departure. Know that God will use that church for His glory, even if you are no longer a part of the leadership. You can’t leave perfectly, but you can minimize damage by controlling your tongue (and ears for that matter).

Leave better not bitter
Take a long hard look at yourself. Don’t jump right into your next position. Take some time to get alone and debrief with your spouse or mentor and get alone with God. Leaving is tough on a church; know that it will leave some scars on you, too. Leaving better means choosing not to divide the church, to walk away … and to work on what God reveals to you in the process.

It is impossible to leave without hurting someone. Even if you leave in ideal conditions people will be hurt to lose you as part of the church. Leaving is messy. Leaving isn’t easy. I’m not sure you can leave well … but you can leave better.


Related articles: How to Leave Well, 3 Things to Do When You’re Leaving and Thoughts About Transitions