Avoiding Carless Comments

 —  November 15, 2012 — 1 Comment

As I write this post, my wife and I are driving the New Orleans to Tallahassee leg of our “Exploring the South” road trip from San Antonio to Miami and we are having a great time. When we are on vacation, Lavonne and I have a few fun traditions including me getting a haircut, taking selfies at borders / state lines but one our favorites is taking the opportunity to visit other Churches and just being in the congregation. We go in, eyes open and hearts open to what God wants to teach us and seeing how other Churches do Church. I always learn a lot and appreciate something new about life at home when I am there.

So this time we decided on Sunday to visit a large Church in Texas that is well know for sure. I was excited to see how they do things, how a new person is received, how they do media, worship, connection etc. I was all ears and eyes trying to take it all in. I posted a photo of the sanctuary and mentioned that I was going to Church there tonight.

Within minutes there was two comments on my Facebook wall, with criticism of the Theology and leadership of the Church that I was visiting while others were amazed by the grandeur of it, and other asking how it was. I was struck by the critical comments, not because of what they said ;after all they were comments I had heard before and knew of going in, but because I realized who was going to read them. I deleted the comments this morning for two reasons.

It confuses Students: For my students who logged onto Facebook last night they saw that I was at a Church, I work at a Church, they attend the Church I work at, so in their eyes its just more of the same. So when they log in a read that I am attending a Church that a friend of mine is criticizing it cause a disorientation that is not necessary or helpful to their walk.

It confuses Non-Believers: For my friends on Facebook who are non-believers, hearing a critical comment about a Church could be just another reason not to believe or to increase disillusionment with the Church. For them, just like students it can be confusing to hear Christians being publicly critical of another Christian group.

Its very important that we as pastors be informed, that we understand what we believe and why, but be constantly mindful of the side effects of sharing that opinion in a public forums online or even in coffee shop, people are listening to what we say and reading what we are writing. I am going to follow



What does it mean to be a student leader?
Leadership isn’t about popularity, or a title, or a position. It’s about making a lasting impact by following the call of God, taking appropriate risks, and challenging other teenagers to follow Christ.
Doug Franklin wrote this book because he’s committed to seeing people develop a leadership heart. He knows what it takes to help you reach a place where you move beyond your comfort zone, where you solve problems that seem impossible to conquer, where you wholeheartedly serve other people. Doug’s passionate about this stuff!
As you read through 99 Thoughts for Student Leaders, you’ll encounter thoughts and ideas that will inspire you, challenge you, cause you to think, and help you develop your creativity. Ultimately, you’ll discover the courage to become someone who leads others in making a difference.

Risk, Serve, Love!



I’m pretty excited about where we get to take our parent ministry in the coming year. Kurt Johnston (Saddleback’s Student Ministry Pastor and my boss) and I recently met with the guys over at ParentMinistry.Net and started to talk about using their tools and resource to help us boost our parent ministry. With as much as we’ve got going on we can’t seem to get a ton of traction really empowering parents. Time for a change!

As we’ve evaluated our ministry and made some D6/Sticky Faith transitions (read more on that here) we also realized we were doing a great job of informing parents, but not really equipping and resourcing them. And as a parent of a 5th grader myself, I’m pretty excited about the Rites of Passage Experience to use as a dad!

Here’s some of the ways I’ve thought about using the ParentMinistry.Net resource – stay tuned for more details as we roll stuff out in 2013:

  • Communicating monthly with parents via newsletter (we’ve done this for a while)
  • A free resource of the month offered to parents (started this last month)
  • Creating a “web hub” of monthly online training seminars
  • Making the Rites of Passage available to parents
  • Physically gathering parents together a couple times a year (hit and miss for us in the past)

For a while we’ve focused on a couple important audiences: ministering to students and empowering volunteers. I hope soon we can say we do a great job of equipping parents in the future, too!


Have you ever felt that your job was like running a marathon through a swamp?  No matter how hard you worked, you just feel like you are sinking and bushwhacking through mess after mess?  When you turn on the lights of your office in the morning you groan at the piles of paperwork?  You ever just want to delete all the messages in your inbox?  And you wonder, “How am I going to get anything done with all these meeting?”  Yep, that can be youth ministry.

If you feel like you are stuck in circles or never going anywhere in your youth ministry it could be for a variety of reasons.  Some are as simple as taking a vacation, while others are something more serious like a conversation with the pastor.  But, before you can follow through on the solution you need to understand the problem.  To move forward you need to know what’s actually slowing you down.  The reason you could feel like you are running through mud is due to a:

  1. Lack of Organization – Do you have a plan for your week or day?  When you walk into your office you need to have a strategy to how you are tackling ministry, otherwise it will be tackling you.  Too many times youth ministers are reactionary to what is going on around them, all this creates is chaos.  By having a plan (With some flexibility) you can create systems that will keep your inbox empty, your creativity flowing and your ministry healthy.
  2. Shortage of Accountability – While you want a pace that’s comfortable for you, you need people who are going to push and challenge you through the difficult times.  When you face problems solo, the burden will slow you down.  You need someone to share your triumphs and trials with.  You need a support team that will help you move forward when you can’t do it on your own.
  3. Drop In Communication – Lousy communication means lousy ministry.  If your emails are rants, your messages are ill-prepared and you only say things once, be prepared to find yourself frustrated.  When you clearly practice effective communication you begin to learn the power of delegation.  You will see how your words impact productivity.  You will grow as a leader.  Effective communication is one of the keys to mobilizing your ministry into a movement.
  4. Disconnect In Spiritual Growth – If you don’t have a healthy relationship with God, then what do you really have?  This is the easiest place for a youth minister to be hypocritical.  You tell your teens to engage in scripture, to tithe, to share the Gospel and go to worship; however, you don’t even do it yourself.  You can struggle with those habits; however, if you are not at least engaging in them, you’ll find that you’ve lost your calling.

In order to approach all these areas you need to find the time to address them.  That means scheduling an hour or so each week to look at your organization, relationships, communication and spiritual growth.  If you aren’t taking the time to analyze these areas, then you will once again find your productivity and effectiveness take a hit.

What else could slow down your ministry?

There’s a student causing a commotion in the room – what do you do? This simple and easily-remembered punch list (I think the first 3 are of Kurt Johnston origin with a new 4th “R” from me) will help you or your volunteers handle the situation well:

Request – this is the simple ask for improved behavior. This is almost always the right first step. I like one comment yesterday to a post saying give them “the eye” as a ‘pre-talking to’ move.

Reseat – move them closer to the leader or away from their partner in crime. I like to think of this as “within reach factor” or where a swift elbow to the ribs will bring him into line.

Remove – you may have to remove them from the situation. Remove them for a few minutes, or the rest of youth group, maybe take them home, or ask them to take a few weeks off. Removal is a necessary part of handling something like this. Lead with grace here and you won’t have regrets.

Relay – involve the parents. Make sure the parents are in the loop and ask them to partner with you on making sure the disruptive behavior doesn’t happen again.

If it is a new student, show more grace while they learn the culture of church and what is expected of them. Be quick to discipline a known offender, be slow to disciplining someone who you don’t have a relationship with at all. You may want to check out this older post called How to Remove a Student from Your Small Group as well. Other thoughts – remember they have to start with R?


I recently read an article called #FAIL in youth ministry and how to deal with distractions while preaching (you can read it here). Students need to understand the rules and when they don’t follow them during service, a youth leader needs to come along side and correct that behavior.

The illustration that was used in the article turns out to be a special needs student who was the distraction.  Granted, the youth pastor or the leaders didn’t know about this student at the time, but the lessons learned from this situation didn’t reflect that they were a special needs student who couldn’t control their actions.

So here are some lessons that could have been learned:

1.  Our youth service is not more important than people.  I don’t know of very many churches that accept special needs children and their families.  If they do, they are very rare.  My son, who has special needs, makes all kinds of noises in church that would definitely count as a distraction, but people have grown to accept my son and love on him every time they see him.  ::You should see him worship God :D::

2.  We can use that situation as an opportunity to teach students to love and respect everyone.  Teenagers love to be in their groups that are comfortable.  Let’s get them to get out of the coziness of their friends to reach out in love to these students.  This is not a one time love, but it has to be shown over time.

3.  After knowing that the student has special needs, why not create a buddy system for these students where a student would be with them the entirety of the youth service.  It would create a sense of peace in the parents to know that someone cares about their child, and buddy would be able to help curb the response of the peers wondering what is happening.

These are just a few suggestions.  I am still trying to figure out how to minister to special needs students and their families.  I know that it is a huge mission field for sure. If my oldest son didn’t have the needs, I might have reacted the same way.  It is my world that I live in all the time, and for a church to rally around these students would shine brightly for Jesus.

Bill Peterson is the youth pastor of Crossfire, a ministry of the Worship Center in Leesburg, VA.

on saturday i was speaking at the You Lost Me LIVE tour with my good friend David Kinnaman. he had asked me to speak previously at their Seattle event and then again to join them here, in Portland. if you haven’t read his book, You Lost Me, i would recommend doing so.

anyway, he asked me to speak about reaching Millenials in the church context. i shared 4 thoughts. here they are in summary:
1. View them as people, not a stat.  this may seem obvious, but it’s sadly not as common as it needs to be. this generation is talked about (which means they are looked upon) as more of a demographic than human beings. i get how talking about a generation in general terms can be helpful and even necessary, but this balance needs to be watched very carefully. if you view them as a target to hit, you will surely miss.
2. Give them belonging.  a sense of belonging only comes in/through the context of relationships. no sermon, no programming, music, black clothe or candles…none of this gives a sense of belonging to a person. people feel like they belong when they are relationally connected to people. period to reach them there must be a relational focus of ministry. millenials go missing when this type of connection is missing.
3. Blame it on the gospel.  we must continue to call people to embrace the gospel, which at its very core, is a life of selflessness (Mark 8:34). we tend to be good about teaching the benefits of the gospel, but not as good as pushing people to embrace the call of the gospel (self denial and actually following the selfless example of Jesus). embracing the call of the gospel is the only thing that will serve as a motivator for people to focus on others, reach out, and adapt where necessary so that others can become more like Christ (1 Cor. 9:22).
4. Embrace accountability. holding people to the standards of scripture is not an option for spiritual leaders. investing in other people (i.e. discipleship) is not an option or a good suggestion in scripture. it is, in fact, a command as a lead pastor this is part of how i’ve asked to be evaluated by my elders. if i am not helping older adults invest in younger people, i need to be fired.

Been doing a lot of thinking about parent ministry recently – we’re about to revamp our stuff soon and help go beyond newsletters and calendars! Wanted to take a quick poll today and get an idea of what you are doing that you consider “parent ministry” – vote now!