Why Be a Team Player

 —  October 29, 2012 — Leave a comment

Matt McGill (who has been on a blogging streak lately) posted some great reasons why your youth ministry should be aligned with the whole church and not just a siloed ministry. Here’s 1, 3 and 4 – head there for the rest and be sure to subscribe to his blog, too:

1. The youth ministry is not the church–it may be the best part of the church, but it’s still just a part.

3. Greater alignment usually means greater impact. Being a team player increases your alignment with the bigger picture.

4. Lead by example. You know how friendship works: if you want a friend, be a friend first. There will be days when you need help from the rest of the church. Be the first one to serve so that they are more eager to serve you. Obviously, this can be twisted into a game of politics, but you don’t have to go that far with it.


I had a chance to sit down with Jason Ostrander, the man behind the incredible Simply Youth Ministry Conference this year – easily one of my favorite weeks of all time. This year we’re in Indianapolis in March – going to be really, really fun:

What is the heart and vision behind SYMC?
The Simply Youth Ministry Conference (aka. SYMC) has always been unique in the landscape of youth ministry conferences in that it is, by design, a conference “by youth workers –for youth workers”. In all aspects of the conference youth workers are an active part of both its development and implementation. The true heart behind SYMC it is to be a place where youth workers from around the world can come to learn, connect and recharge and the vision is always to support the local youth worker in every way possible so that they can thrive in youth ministry.

There are a lot of conferences out there, maybe now more than ever – why choose SYMC?
This is a great question.  My immediate response takes me back to when I was a youth worker attending SYMC –I remember that everyone I met seemed to identify with me as well as my journey.  It felt good to be known (and remembered year after year!)  As the conference director, I would say that SYMC works very hard to cut through the fluff of youth min conferencing so that we can fully engage youth workers right where they are.  I have been a part of some SYMC Lead Team meetings in the past few weeks where we’ve cut out potentially “good” things to make room for the “most important” things that we should be offering to youth workers.

When is the best time to sign up to get the best deal?
Of course the deepest discount for SYMC would be the early bird registration ($40 off the regular price) –which ends THIS WEEK on October 31st!

Hmmm … I should have seen that one coming. Well, youth workers love freebies – give us a deal or secret freebie just for MTDB readers! 
OK…how about a secret MTDB gift bag that includes: a $25 coupon for the SYMC Bookstore, a special early-entry pass for the nightly General Sessions (and other free SYMC-related resources)?  If you register with the code MTDB you’ll receive your gift when you check in at the conference!

Hahaah that’s the best! See you at SYMC!


Its that time of the year! When some of the volunteers that committed to serving this year, committed to leading a small group and investing in the lives of a student decide…. JUST KIDDING! That is probably a bit unfair to say, but it is pretty common time for volunteers to recognize a few months in that they might have bitten off more than they can chew and decide to step down from their role. As disapointing as it is, we need to quickly change our focus and try and recruit someone new to fill that role.

I can remember a time I was meeting with a youth worker who was in serious need of youth leaders after a few leaders on his already skeleton staff stepped down mid-season. He shared a very real feeling of desperation and a feeling is natural and reflected often in the Bible, through people like Moses or David in Psalm 142 amongst many others. Desperation is a part of ministry and I am thankful that I was able to encourage him, pray for him in his desperation as he asked God to bring him new leaders. He was not alone in the hunt the Church had his back, and Sunday after Sunday they announced the desperate need in the Youth Ministry for volunteers. Yet week after week no one stepped up and I have a feeling of why this might be the case.

When I think back to the days in high school when I was a single fella, and what woud I have done if a girl from my class announced that she was single. Not only was she single, she was desperate for a boyfriend, I mean DESPERATE for a boyfriend. Lets just say I would be running in the other direction. Desperation is not an attractive trait, and when I hear that a ministry is desperate for volunteers, my mind starts to wonder why? Is there dysfunction or unhealth? Why does no one want to serve? There are lot of questions that would go through my mind. I am convinced that people are more likely act on an opportunity to serve than to react to a desperate situation. Framing it in a positive light as a challenge and not a problem will be much more invitational because people take on challenges, they avoid problems.

The feelings of desperation are legit, having a complete reliance on God is essential, but be careful how you communicate your need. You want the right volunteer to feel called to serve that is a long term solution, not a plug in a hole in your ministry for a short season.

-Geoff – (Twitter)


We start each student leadership meeting with what we call, “celebrations”. Celebrations, a tradition inspired by our weekly staff meetings, is a time where our student leadership team reflects on the things that God has done in the weeks since we last met. Students will share things like a great conversation they had with a classmate, a powerful moment they had at the small group they lead, a story from an event they threw at their school, or even them getting into a college! This is one of my favorite parts of our meetings because we are able to slow down, take a breath, and acknowledge all of the great things the Lord has done through our team. Through this reflection, the Lord continues to work and helps us build a great community and teaches us some really great leadership lessons.

Community Building. Through celebrations, students are able to identify with each other; they see that they aren’t alone in the trenches and that they have a community that is there to support them with their projects, ministries, or events.  For example, Delaney shared that the Jr. High small group she leads finally opened up to each other. McKenna (who is also leading a Jr. High small group) revealed that she was having trouble getting her girls to be open and honest and asked for help. One by one, other students who lead small groups began to share advice and things that they had been learning. It was awesome to see a community instantly built through one student sharing about what God did in her small group.

Leadership Training. Celebrations are also an awesome way to teach applicable leadership lessons. I love this because we get the opportunity to teach on more than the book we are going through or the podcast that we listened to. For example, Lauren shared that the event she threw at her school was a huge success. She went on to admit that she was really scared at first and almost backed out completely. She shared that she knew God was calling her to lead the event but she felt like she wasn’t the right person for the job. But then she remembered the story of Moses and that God provided for him each step of the way, and that God was glorified through Moses’ weaknesses. Boom! A student just taught an incredible leadership lesson that anyone can identify with!

Our “celebrations” have really grown us as a team. I think a lot of the success comes from how organic it is. We get to learn and get closer together without a structured lesson or game. It just feels like a group of friends laughing together, supporting each other, and loving each other. A total win!

What activities is your ministry doing to build up your student leadership team?

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

Water Sunday

 —  October 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

Came across this cool project it might be fun for some youth ministries to get behind – it is a clean water project called Water Sunday. I asked the folks over there for some details on the project and how others could get involved. This is part of a conversation I had with Nic, part of the team responsible for getting the word out:

1. What is Water Sunday?
Water Sunday is an initiative of Water Missions International, inspiring a movement within the Church to respond to the global water crisis. Together, we can be the solution. Water Sunday is the start. The participating churches will have a Sunday to educate their congregation about the Global Water Crisis as well as help them to find ways to implement things they have learned to transform lives around the world. Check out our website here.

2. How did you get involved, Nic?
When I was in high school, my aunt and uncle visited Charleston, SC and told me about Water Missions International.  They live in California and had heard about Water Missions there.  They were excited to get to actually tour the facility while they were here – and invited me along.  I was really impressed with the organization’s ministry.  In college, I did a presentation about Water Missions International for a youth ministry undergraduate class.  I’m graduating in December and requested to do my senior internship with them.  Working with this team as an intern has been one of the highlights of my program.

3. Is this something a youth group could participate in?
Yes, we’ve had many youth ministry programs get engaged with Water Sunday. In particular, they’ve been impacted when participating in the water fast. Youth leaders challenge their students to drink only water for a set period of time (2 weeks or so) and donate the money they save by not drinking other beverages. The student’s really come to realize how vital water is to their everyday lives.

4. There are so many important social justice issues, why water?
In John 4:10 (NIV), Jesus tells the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” WMI provides clean drinking water to communities without – and by doing so, has the opportunity to lead them to Jesus, the living water. 1 in 8 people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. This crisis kills one child every 15-20 seconds. What makes water so powerful for your youthgroup is (1) it’s easy to understand, we drink water ever day and (2) it’s solvable. Water treatment options have been around for a long time, we have a solution! Your church/youth group be part of the solution

5. Do you have a good story of a community that has been impacted?
Last year, churches that participated in Water Sunday were able to help provide safe water to four communities around the world. One of those communities was Kimmi Island, Uganda located in Lake Victoria. 3,000 people live on Kimmi, the majority of the population is made up of fishermen. Besides rain water harvesting, the community members use water from the lake for all their daily needs. Drinking this water causes dangerous illnesses – typhoid, cholera, bilharzia’s, stomach pain, and diarrhea. These ever present illnesses affect all aspects of society. It was awesome to see the pictures come back from the community safe water celebration when the water system was fully installed. Thousands of people were present to participate in boat races, soccer, singing, tug-of-war, ribbon cutting and accompanying speeches. Seeing the faces of the children and statistically knowing that by providing safe water, you are saving some of their lives, really touches the heart.

Be sure to check out the Water Sunday website here!


Every few weeks, I hear about youth workers who need new jobs.

  • Sometimes they leave because they want to
  • Sometimes they’re asked to leave. We call this a forced resignation.
  • Other times, they’re outright fired

When I started to learn about how devastating the effects of youth worker turnover are for the local church, I started doing some research. I discovered several themes – the easiest and most common factors that cause good youth workers lose or leave their jobs. Make sure you’re not one of them

If you want to stay in youth ministry for the long haul, don’t do these five things:

1. Mismanage budgeted money. Depending on your theology, it’s either God’s money or other people’s money. Either way, it’s not your money. You’ve been given the responsibility to be a good steward of some of your church’s resources. You might not know what you’re doing yet, but you’ll need to figure it out soon. (This link contains all kinds of good information about managing your church’s money better.)

2. Fight with your Senior Pastor – especially publicly. One problem with working in the Church is that many of your friends will come from the congregation. We all like to vent about our bosses, but if you’re venting to a fellow pew-sitter, you’re in the wrong. If you’re in the business of creating division in the Church, you won’t be a staff member for very long.

3. Show up late for your own events. Parents have their own jobs with their own responsibilities. They know exactly what would happen to them if they slept through their alarm more than once. You can expect the same thing to happen to you.

4. Work way too hard and never, ever take a break. Your own soul care ought to be a top priority. When you’re worn down and hurting, you’ll be less effective as a youth worker. Less effective youth workers frequently become baristas. Besides that, a lack of soul care is the easiest way to make sure you run yourself out of youth ministry. The church doesn’t have to fire you if you get exhausted and quit.

5. Refuse to participate in the larger life of the congregation. You’ll appear much more dispensable if the rest of the congregation never sees you – or your youth group.

Find ways for you and your students to become a crucial part of everything the congregation does. Crucial people are much more difficult to fire.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

The excitement of fall kickoff has subsided and now you are in the meat of your youth ministry year.  It feels good because most of the rust is off and you are just turning that wheel to keep things going.  Most times it’s easy to think, “Okay, smooth sailing ahead.” But that rarely works because after a while obstacles, responsibilities and distractions will build up.  Ministry will get harder, people will find more reasons to bail and the momentum that was created in the fall will be completely gone.  How do you keep it going?  How do you build momentum in the middle of your year?

Change Things Up – You want to show that your ministry is willing to change without showing instability.  That means changing up the topics in which you talk about, and possibly rearranging the format of your program.  Just as you are supposed to change up a workout routine to stimulate new muscles, you’ll want to change a few things up in youth ministry to stimulate new faith growth.

Pour Into Your Team – Half way through the year your team is going to grow tired and even a little burned out.  Maybe their small group hasn’t maintained the attendance they wanted, or they could be dealing with a teen in crisis.  It’s even possible that a major issue in their personal life is going on.  Even if it’s a one-day mini retreat, pour into them, and cheer them on.  Give them the motivation they need.

Doing Something New – Whenever something or someone is new a little excitement forms.  Whether it’s a new video game in your hangout space or a new speaker delivering the message, take advantage of its freshness by promoting it.  While it might not be the most mind blowing achievement, new always brings about some momentum.

Pace Yourself As A Leader – When the craziness of a season subsides it’s important that you as a leader take the time to cool down.  That might mean revisiting your schedule and working within the limits.  It could mean taking a day of Sabbath to reconnect with God.  If you aren’t ready for the long haul, neither will your ministry.  To maintain momentum you need to be willing to push it when it is needed, so rest up.

Ideally you want your ministry to consistently grow on the same trajectory over time; however, that isn’t realistic.  You are going to find obstacles and distractions and that’s why it’s important to rest.  You will face hitting a rut and that’s why it’s important to shake things up.  There is no exact science to how much newness, change or motivation one should pour into their ministry; however, if there isn’t enough momentum will slide.

How do you build momentum mid year in your ministry?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

I recognize that by addressing zombies in a youth ministry blog, it’s like pouring honey on my head and using a short stick to poke a bear.  However, on Oct. 14th, the Walking Dead had its season 3 premier with 11 million viewers.  Never before has a basic cable channel seen these types of numbers.  In addition, the Fall Harvest Season is upon us.  In our area there are billboards for haunted houses, zombie mazes, and all sort of stuff to scare you.  This might be a good opportunity to talk with our students.  They are watching it and many of them love to be scared.

The premise of the show is not that unlike other zombie apocalyptic stories.  Some disease/illness has broken out and caused a flu-like virus to travel quickly through people.  It takes their life, and when they come back from the dead, they look like a dead version of human being, however walking around.  I know, Walking Dead…who would have thought.  They then have the ability to infect others with the same disease that took their life.  They are not only dead, but reproducing death.

As absurd as that may sound, are any of us any different sometimes?  Every day we get out of bed, get ready for our day, interact with our family and people in our lives (maybe), do our daily jobs (occupation or school), come home, shove another meal into our face, watch a little TV, complete our obligations, maybe pray (if we are super spiritual), and then go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  The next day comes and we do it all over again.  That isn’t living.  We too, are walking dead.

If left unchecked, I can go through an entire day, or sadly an entire week, and not have much to show for it.  I haven’t taken myself out of my comfort zone or done anything new.  My relationship with my God, my family, and my friends are all totally stagnant.  These were all by my choice.  I am recognizing that if something is not done about it, I am going to slowly slip from life to death.  I will never even get a proper funeral for people to mourn the loss of my life, because it looks like I am still alive and kicking.

Eph. 4:1 says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”(ESV)

I am not suggesting we start a “Walking Worthy” campaign.  (However, if anyone does, and they make Christian t-shrits and sell a lot of stuff I have © on “Walking Worthy”.  I think I get a nickel every time someone uses it.)

Let us never forget the calling that God has placed on our lives.  As I speak to other youth pastors, it is good to remind each other that we have a high calling.  One that not many should aspire to, as it says in James 3:1, because it is such a high calling.  A calling where God, in His mercy, sees fit to use me to help change the spiritual trajectory of a child of God.  That is a high calling.  I forget that when I have to return too many emails.  I forget that when I am told I am not doing my job well.  I forget that, though I am fortunately paid for what I do, my church and elder board is ultimately not my boss.  I answer to a Holy God who I will have to stand before some day.   I desperately pray, He will tell me “well done good and faithful servant.”  (Matt 25:23)

So then, if we are actually living worthy, we need to instill that into our students as well.  To help them see past SAT testing, school sports, family troubles, church troubles, friend troubles, work, social calendar, and then find time for a church event or two.  It’s almost enough to kill us, or at least take away a desire to walk worthy of our calling.

Ephesians goes on to say that we do this by living in humility, gentleness, patience, supporting one another in love, and in unity with the Spirit.  So again, it all comes back to our own spiritual health and the relationship that we have with the Creator of the Universe dwelling richly in us.

I pray for us, that we don’t become infected with this disease called day-to-day living.  There is more for us, but if we become infected with the “daily grind”, our spiritual deadness and apathy will only reproduce spiritual deadness and apathy.  Don’t allow your life to take away your desire to live as God has called us.

Jeff Bachman is a husband for the past 11 years and a father of three amazing kids.  He is the High School Pastor at ROCKHARBOR Church just up the road in Costa Mesa, CA.   He loves emails at jbachman@rockharbor.org, twitter interaction, and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.