How To Stay Creative

 —  November 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

The good thing about busy work is how it helps you feel productive.  Budgets, forms and emails are all tangible tasks with tangible results.  You might hate doing them; however, when you clear that pile of paperwork off your desk or you inbox is empty you feel good.  To get through the busy work you just need to focus.

Then there are those times when youth ministers need to be purely creative.  There are messages to be written, curriculum to be designed and problems to be solved that demand your creativity.  Unlike busy work it’s hard to stay focused on creativity because it requires so much more of our emotions and energy.  To stay creative is a challenge.

To consistently think outside the box is not only a challenge but a skill.  To keep the ideas flowing and to overcome potential roadblocks you need to be consistently:

  • CAPTURING IDEAS: Whether it’s writing them down in a notepad or putting them in your Evernote folder you need to be capturing every thought or idea that runs through your mind.  Even if you do not know how you are going to use it put it down.  Then take some time each week to review those ideas to determine how you might use them.  Staying creative means creating a bank of ideas to resort to later on.
  • EXPLORING STORIES: Readers are learners.  Doesn’t matter if you what you are reading is fiction, an auto biography or a classic read.  Exploring stories written by others will open you to new perspectives and thoughts.  It will give you examples and analogies you can draw from later.  While it doesn’t really matter what genres you are exploring it’s important to mix it up, so that you can continuously challenge yourself and learn from new paradigms.
  • FUELING YOUR PASSIONS: When I hit a writer’s block I love to go out for a run or cook.  There is something mindless; yet, rewarding about those two passions of mine.  If you are stuck on an idea or need a new one, go to the things that bring you joy.  It’s a way of connecting with God that frees you from the burden of a creative cramp.  A true passion is something that allows you to take a step back from the craziness around you, clear out the junk and focus on the idea in front of you.
  • SITTING IN SILENCE: It’s so important; yet, silence is something many people fear.  If you sit in silence either two things will happen.  First: You might discover that you are tired and need rest.  If that’s the case go and sleep because an obstacle to creativity is a lack of rest. Second: You might begin to hear God’s soft whisper.  The reason you need silence is so that you can hear God’s promptings.  He will guide you and direct you.  You just need to slow down to listen.

While there is no exact science to getting your creativity flowing, there are definitely habits you can develop to keep them moving.  Making your creative time a planned part of your schedule; but at the same time give yourself some flexibility.  It will stink when your mind can’t go further, but trust that God will see you through.

How do you stay creative?

Chris (Twitter)


I really liked this simple approach to promoting our upcoming Winter Camp. Simple, clear ask – not super clever or funny but a direct approach to someone who wants to grow spiritually. Love it.


Q&A about 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents
with Liesl Oestreicher and Max Oestreicher

Marko (their dad, read his blog here): Liesl and Max really did write these answers, just like they really did write the book with me (they wrote 100% of these answers, and about 70% of the book). BTW: Liesl is 18 – she graduated from HS last spring, and I currently on a gap-year, living in Ireland at the moment, and heading to India in January. Max is 14 (turns 15 in a week), and a freshman in HS.

OK, first off tell us about YOU!

Max: Drums + ukulele + bacon = Max Oestreicher
: I’m a dirty hippy, loving trees one hug at a time.

OK, now … what’s up with your dad’s beard?

Max:  I think he should go pro.
Liesl: Babies and old, senile women enjoy grabbing and stroking it. It’s true, I’ve seen both happen.

The book is awesome – how did it come about?

Max: My dad wanted me and my sister to write a book about how cool he is. At first I refused, and then he told me I’d get paid.
Liesl: I was sitting in a forest, writing my autobiography, when a glowing figure approached me. The figure told me He was God, who had come down in human form to tell me something. He told me that He had peeked at what I was writing and that it was very good, that it even exceeded the work of the great Mark Oestreicher. He then told me that He wanted me to write a book for teenagers, just like me, about how to get along with their parents. And, of course, I gratefully accepted. I don’t know, maybe I imagined that. Now that I think about it, my dad just sent me an email one day that said my brother and I were going to write a book and we were going to get paid for it.

What’s one thing that teenagers can do to change the game for the relationship they have with their parents?

Max: When you are getting in an argument/fight/disagreement with your parents, don’t get defensive. Respectfully communicate your point of view, and then listen to theirs.
Liesl: Respect their opinions. If you don’t, how do you expect them to respect yours? …or you can just move to Ireland, like I did.

Tell us a story about when your parents screwed up (aka, give me some hope). Make me laugh!

Max: My parent lost me at Disney World when I was three. They let go of my hand and I decided I wanted to go see King Louie.
: Once my mom and I were on a snowmobile on a family vacation. My mom accidentally went too close to a little dip and our snowmobile rolled over sideways. We couldn’t get up on our own, so before he helped us, my dad laughed as he took pictures.

Who do you love more – mom or dad? What do you value most about them?

Max: I think my mom is just OK, but compare her to my dad and she’s amazing.
: I would say my mom, but my dad is more likely to see this, so… definitely my dad.

You have the attention of a TON of youth workers – what would you say to them about their jobs/roles/calling?

Max: I think youth workers should give a lot of opportunities to get involved in a leadership roles as this has been very meaning full to me.
:  It is really encouraging to here your life stories, especially the times when you screwed up. It shows us  (teenagers in your youth group) that it is a safe place to admit to our faults when you do the same.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these! Make sure you check out the book here – might make a good resource to put in the hands of your students this Christmas, too!


iPhone Shortcuts…

 —  November 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

Did you know there is a feature in your iPhone and iPad that will auto complete a specific text entry for you, all you need to do is teaching it a shortcut.  Things I type a lot like email addresses, my home address, phone numbers, etc can be auto entered by creating a shortcut in my iOS device.  I am not talking about auto correct but a feature called “shortcuts.” You can find this under Settings>General>Keyboard>Shortcuts…just hit the “+” and start creating.  If your email address is something like “” all you need to do it train your phone to type that out every time you type “tsd.” This is one of those, “Wow, I am glad this is a feature” features.  Check it out!

This is an inspiring girl.

Read this article about her and watch a few other videos.

There are so many things that the girls in our lives can learn from her (we can probably learn a few things too)!

She faced adversity. She was a voice for others including herself. She valued education for herself and for others. She didn’t back down despite threats. She thought of the future and made decisions based for it not based on the current moment.

While I spend a portion of this blog writing about how hard it is for the girls in our ministries…and it is…the world can be cruel. But everyday our girls go to school without thought. Our girls get to speak up for themselves. I think our girls take this privilege for granted. Which unfortunately makes it easier to buy the shallow lies that the world sells them.

If our girls could begin to think of their minds as a gift from God and if they could see education as a tool for their futures…I think we could raise more world changers up in our ministries.

So, what would happen if we shared this young girls stories with them? I don’t know but I am about to find out…and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Can you think of another girl who could inspire the girls in our lives?

As youth workers, our passion is to encourage students to walk in wisdom. If you are like me, you enjoy giving advice. There’s nothing like seeing a student’s face light up when they figure out the right thing to do.

Over the past few years of student ministry, I’ve noticed that how we give advice is just as important as what advice is given.

First, we are not their Savior. We are simply pouring the love of Christ into their hearts. So when a student asks a question and wants your advice…

You have a decision to make. You either muster up the most amazing, biblical, and thoughtful answer that has ever been communicated in all the history of student ministry! Or you decide to respond with a question.

If we lead students to discover what God says, we are leading them to trust God’s Word. The goal of student ministry is to help students own their faith long after they leave our ministries.

But what about if the student pleads with a pitiful, “Just GIVE me the answer!” Here are some tips on how NOT to give advice and how TO give advice to students.


Don’t respond with the answer, even if you know it. Let the question breathe. Now if they are asking if they can go to the bathroom (especially middle schoolers) you can give them the answer quickly (or you might regret it later!)

Don’t move on to a new question too early. Campout and unpack the baggage they are bringing to you. Ask questions that move from the surface to the heart.

Don’t feel like you have to know all the answers. We are human, and it’s good for your students to see that you are limited. We all know we are but most students can easily put us on a pedestal. A good response to a hard question is, “I don’t know the answer but we can find out!”

Don’t be afraid of silence. Let the student sit for a moment and think. Embrace the awkwardness. I enjoy awkward moments but even if you don’t, learn to enjoy it.


Do value their input. Do whatever it takes to value their input, but do not be artificial with your praise. Be delicate with answers that are clearly wrong. Let them know you hear them but redirect them with another question. Don’t feel like you have to finish, complete, or correct a student’s answer.

Do allow students to embrace the struggle of questions. The only way we grow is by asking questions. Help students know they can safely struggle through questions without pressure. Students want a heart relationship with leaders.

Do build upon the question. Reveal to them that it is a conversation and not a lecture.

  • I can see more of what you mean, can you tell me more about why you feel this way?
  • That is a great question, what do you think God might be showing you?
  • Why do you feel that way? What do you think you should do?

Do know where you are leading them. As you learn to master the art of the question, realize that you are simply guiding them towards God. As you think through a response, point them to their relationship with God through questions. As you fight the urge to simply give them the answer, ask a question instead to help them become leaders.

As youth workers, our calling is to lead students to help them grow spiritually in THEIR relationship with God. If we spoon feed students our knowledge, experience and biblical understanding, we can easily stunt their long-term growth.

Questions are more important than answers. Let students ask and help guide them towards the truth of Jesus.

What are your thoughts on giving advice to students? What about asking the right questions?

Josh Robinson is a the Pastor to Students at Church @ The Springs, a husband and a father. Check out his blog at or follow him on Twitter: @josh_robinson

One of my favorite things to do is meet up with other youth pastors. I walk away from each meeting feeling challenged, encouraged, and/or inspired. I recently got to meet with an awesome youth pastor named Jon from a church that is doing some pretty incredible things with campus outreach. Over some coffee, we talked about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what we’re going to. I walked away with a ton of really great ideas and (hopefully) he walked away with one or two. Here is a little of what I shared about our campus outreach projects:

Sticky-Note the Girl’s Restroom: At the beginning of the school year, some of our student leaders put encouraging sticky notes on every student’s locker and we were blown away by how well it went over. One of our student leaders was inspired by the success of the project and started planning another that was aimed at girls. So she rounded up some friends and put encouraging notes all over the girls’ restrooms at her school. The notes had encouraging Bible verses on them as well as affirmations like “you are beautiful,” “you are precious,” and “you are loved.” It was such a great and easy way to do ministry for girls.

Janitor Breakfast: When we were looking at different people groups that we could be serving on campus, we almost forgot about the janitorial staff. They are some of the most unnoticed/unappreciated people on the campus, so our leaders wanted to make sure that they knew they were seen and loved. Our leaders are planning to get to school before the janitorial staff so that they could serve them a fresh, warm breakfast and spend some quality time with them. I am a huge fan of projects like these because it has students serving and ministering to adults! We are currently making our way through the office approval system (fingers crossed)!

Trash Pick Up: A great way to keep Christian club meetings fresh at school is to mix them up. Most of the time, Christian clubs will sit, eat their lunch, listen to someone talk, and leave. Sometimes that works great, but Jesus called us to do more than just that. We are encouraging our school club leaders to put their club members to work. One of the lunchtime serving opportunities that we came up with was trash pick-up. If you haven’t seen a post-lunch high school campus recently, let me tell you, they are a warzone. Picking up trash not only helps put a dent in the litter problem, but it also makes a huge statement. Let’s face it, litter patrol isn’t a glamorous job and any student that does it is instantly going to be set apart, providing them with incredible opportunities! If a student gets asked why they are picking up trash, than they are getting an awesome opportunity about their love for Jesus and their love for their school!

How is your ministry doing with campus outreach? What ideas can you share about how to do ministry on campuses?

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.

Is your youth ministry original?  Feels like it needs to be, doesn’t it?  When your ministry is original, it’s fresh, and exciting.  In fact isn’t the reason teens leave your ministry due to the fact that you aren’t wowing them anymore?  Yes and no.  While originality is important, it isn’t the only way to shape your youth ministry’s identity.  In fact if you can REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE what you already have, you’ll create capacity to do more.  It’s not always about the activities, message or curriculum present.  It’s about the environments and relationships you set-up.  Unfortunately, if you are constantly worrying over new content and new ideas, you’ll miss out on some of the most important aspects of youth ministry.

To create more capacity, to focus on what’s important you need to make sure that originality isn’t standing in the way.  When you reduce, reuse and recycle it gives you margin.  This is how:

REDUCE: Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles to creativity.  In order to free up new ideas you need to go through your files and folders and throw away the ones that have been lingering around for too long.  Sitting in messiness is also a recipe for a cluttered mind.  If you have time clean your desk, your office and reduce the amount of distractions pulling you from your projects.  To reduce in your ministry create systems when you are storing ideas and then cleaning inboxes, file cabinets and desktop folders.  A weekly habit is best.

REUSE:  Don’t be afraid to duplicate your efforts, especially if it worked before.  It’s easy to just toss something away after you’ve spent hours and days working hard on it; however, before you toss it, archive it instead.  There might be a time when you need to use that same message, that same exercise or activity.  In fact look to pass it on and share it with a youth minister friend who could benefit from your hard work.  It will save time and energy the next go around.  To reuse without sabotaging you reducing efforts, give your reuse folder an expiration date.  It’s on that date you can determine if this idea or activity is still useful.

RECYCLE: Outsourcing is one of the best ways you can do something new.  There are so many people out there with great ideas, willing to share them with you.  In the end you don’t always have to be original.  If you can take an idea here and another there (With permission) and work them together, you’ll find something fresh.  To recycle properly just break the outsourced material into components, separate them and answer the question, “What can I adapt for my ministry?”  Maybe it’ll work well with another resource, but don’t be afraid to try.

When you can save yourself some time on creativity you can give yourself more margin.  When you have this margin you can pour into your leaders, the students and parents of your ministry.  As a leader you don’t have to spend your time sitting behind a desk trying to come up with something new.  Look to your fellow youth workers and to what you’ve done before.  Make sure you set yourself up for success by taking away the junk.

How do you reduce, reuse and recycle in your youth ministry?

Chris (Twitter)