rut [ruht] – noun
a narrow or predictable way of life, set of attitudes, etc; dreary or undeviating routine

There have been many days, recently, where I have found myself staring at my office walls thinking, “I wonder how many youth workers find themselves in a rut. How often does this occur (for most)? How do they avoid it? How do they get out of it?”

I imagine most of us didn’t get into youth ministry for the promise of a narrow, predictable, dreary, or undeviating experience. And, like the women’s restroom I accidentally walked into the other day, we want nothing more than to get out of this position.

What I am discovering is that sometimes the best way to get out of a rut is to revisit what got me excited about youth ministry in the first place.

Here are a few of my rut busters…

1) Get with students: As our ministry grows and we focus on forming relationships between students and leaders, unfortunately, I feel less and less connected. This is difficult. I need to pray and look for my own opportunities to connect. The other day one of my former students came to me and said, “Hey, do you think we could get together and study a book in the Bible?” I wanted to jump out of my skin! Heck, yes, I do! It gets even better. Then he said, “Oh yeah, and do you still want to come to one of my football games? I’ll get you a schedule.” Is that the Hallelujah Chorus I hear? I’m there! If only all of my students showed that kind of initiative.

2) Get with Jesus: In the first 11 verses of John 15, Jesus uses the word “remain” 11 times. I know that the best version of me is found in Him; it’s just a matter of getting there.

3) Get in community: Ever since the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, I always wanted to be a part of a great team. My best times in youth ministry are when I am sharing life with a team of people, focused and committed to a common goal. My loneliest and most monotonous times are when everything in our ministry comes from the idea bank of me.

4) Get creative: We serve such a creative God. When I accepted the call to communicate God’s love to students, I longed to reflect even a fraction of that creativity. In a rut, creativity is one of the first things to go. I need to allow myself the time and space to get creative.

What about you? What have you found to be your greatest rut busters?

Bryce Gernand is the Middle School Pastor at Jackson First Church of the Nazarene in Jackson, MI where he has served for eight years.

This month I got to contribute another Slant33 article on the topic of leaving a youth ministry. There are a couple of great responses to the question, wise words from Tash McGill and Ian McDonald. Here’s a clip of what I shared there as well:

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 you’ll 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.


Got a chance to listen to the new tobyMac album this past week (full disclosure: EMI sent it free for me to review) – Eye On It landed on iTunes a couple days ago and I’m pretty sure my kids already have the whole thing memorized. I grew up on DC Talk way back in the day (isn’t it about time for a reunion tour or something?) and as always tobyMac delivers some catchy pop-candy tunes and a little dubstep for good measure.

Best tracks on the new album:

Forgiveness (featuring Lecrae) – Great song and great message about making mistakes and forgiveness. Love it, sure to be one of the most popular on the whole album.

Mac Daddy – A hilarious song about a kid trying to get his dad to buy him a MacBook. Fun, catchy song. Easily my personal favorite.

Me Without You – this is the first single from Eye On It, getting tons of play on Christian radio right now. Not sure if it is about his wife (like the later track Made For Me) or if it was about God. They both work for interpretations and is a great crossover song.

Steal My Show – a great song about God taking over a concert and His Spirit showing up. Great thoughts in here about less of us, more of Him. I like this one a lot, reminds me of my place on stage.

All in all … a great album to recommend to your students with a couple of great tunes that should immediately go in your pre-youth group playlist. Good stuff!


A question many church-based leaders of college ministries face this time of year and throughout the fall is: should I connect my students to a campus ministry on campus or a local church ministry?  There are a few tensions here that need to be recognized:

1. Everyone says we need to be involved in a local church, but many lose contact after engaging with a campus ministry.  Also many, although it’s tough to put numbers on it, who attend Christian colleges that provide everything a local church does (chapels, accountability partners, small groups, bible classes, etc) also lose touch.  This is just a fact.

2. I have noticed most campus ministers say they value the local church, but tend to develop structures on campus that hinder people from engaging in a church (although not intentionally) versus structures that are pushing people to be involved and to be connected to one.  I recently wrote about this in my column in Youth Worker Journal.

3. Those that disconnect from the local church during their college years, even though they are engaged on campus with Christian community, tend to have a hard time reconnecting back into the local church after they graduate.

So, here are some thoughts for those who are church-based:

  1. Continue to encourage people to be involved on campus.  There is amazing peer-to-peer connections to be made and huge evangelistic opportunities on secular (and even some Christian campuses) to be had.
  2. Continue walking alongside students, even if they are thousands of miles away.  Keep in touch, call, text, email, Facebook, tweet, instagram….use this resource, keep in touch and allow them to see there is someone in a local church context that believes in the local church and still cares for them.
  3. My advice is, and you may disagree here, if a student has to choose between being involved on a campus ministry or a local church ministry for whatever reason, tell them to be involved with the church.

This summer of ministry has been incredible! There have been some incredible highs and some … great learnings for us as well. So picking a few favorite moments has been incredibly difficult but thought I would take a crack at it. Here are a few of my top moments in ministry this past summer:

Having Pastor Rick at Midweek
Midweek for the past 3 years has worked incredibly well for us. In the summer we pause small groups to let host homes and leaders recover before they re-up for the next season. In place of Life Groups we run a 7-8 week summer series called Midweek. This year we had Rick Warren come and teach one of the nights – it was incredibly fun and powerful way to start the summer. My favorite moment that night was gathering around him and laying hands on him as a student ministry and praying for God to bless him, to give him wise leadership and to grow his faith.

HSM Summer Camp
The gang over at Christ in Youth (aka CIY) did an amazing helping us pull off our Summer Camp this year. I love the environment of camp, the energy, the passion, the decisions, the baptisms. Summer Camp works SO well for us – it is a huge platform for our leaders to relationally minister to students, it forms new small groups, it connects incoming freshman. Simply incredible all the way around.

Guys Trip
We brought back this event from forever ago called Guys Trip – we took a smaller group of students up into the mountains for some total dude time. I wrote quite a bit about it here, but in general terms it was one of the most original and fun couple of days all summer. There’s something special about getting away with the guys and no distractions (read: cell phones and girls).

Working with Summer Interns
I love summer interns! This year we had 5 of the most incredible interns that made me smile all summer long. They are great youth workers, awesome friends and worked incredibly hard. I think learned a TON this summer, I certainly learned from them as well.

How about you – what were your highlights of summer 2012?


I was just checking out the Simply Youth Ministry website and ran across this closeout deal on a mission trip resource from LeaderTreks that looks super promising called Prepare Go Live. Of course, I’m a sucker for a good deal, too! Anyhow, might be something you would be interested in, too!


At anytime there are Churches all over the world in the process of searching for a lead pastor or recovering from the departure of the last one. It’s not an easy place to be, but the statistics would say that many of you reading this have been through this or are in the middle of it right now. I am currently entering the 15th month in my church without a lead pastor and it has been a challenging season for sure, but I thought it might be helpful to share about the good and bad of a time that each of us will likely face at some point. For some, this transition period is healthy, and the successor simply steps into place taking the baton and running with it but many on the other hand are sudden departures, with no one to fill the position in the wings and it is these transitions that are the most challenging and painful, mine has been the latter.

The obvious challenge of being leaderless has been a loss in momentum of the Church as despite the effort of our team, losing the “face” of the Church has meant a partial loss of identity and we have spent many months trying to regain lost momentum. For us loss of momentum came with a noticeable migration of attendance and the subsequent drop of in giving. It was not long before budgets tightened and decisions became tougher to make.

There have been staff casualties; hours cut back, positions not filled after departures increasing the amount of work to be shouldered by a decreasing number of people. In the midst of these challenges and growing collateral damage of the reality of Pastoral transition, I am thankful that of all the groups in the Church, our students have remained almost unaffected by the process. Even as parents decide to move churches, students have remained where their friends are.

While the youth have remained fairly unscathed, the same cannot be said for their volunteer leaders and quite frankly myself. It has been very challenging to lead in this uncertain time, with no clear voice or vision to execute; it has taken a great amount of patience and trust in the Lord believing that there are better days ahead. I have had to manage my expectations of what decisions can and will be made in the past 14 months. Even changing obviously broken systems is not easy in with out a leader.

Much of what has changed in the past months has been incremental as stability is often the focus in times like this, and thus a young, passionate leader can become frustrated when we have to put a pause on new initiatives and programs for an indefinite period of time. For some churches it could be 6 months to find a new leader, for us we are going to be 16-20 months at a minimum.

In the midst of a growing portfolio of work, I have had to remind myself that my first priority is my students, their spiritual growth and shepherding. When I look at the relative health that has remained in the youth group, I am actually excited because I am deeply convicted that from this health is an opportunity to shape the future of our church and to be an encouragement in a discouraging time.

Working in a Church without a lead pastor is challenging to say the least, its often difficult, and could seem like a logical place to jump ship. But please, please, please consider what you have been called to. Like a marriage, I chose to work at my Church in sickness and in health and it is not until the moment I am called away that I would even consider leaving no matter how challenging the circumstances.

Chances are each of you will experience a time of lead pastoral transition, I pray for you that it is not as long as ours. Stick with it, trust the He has better days in store for your Church. The workload may seem like too much and the road too tough, stick with it and serve the Church. The refining process for lack of a better word stinks, you feel overwhelmed with work, disheartened by declining attendance and longing for the day when the right leader arrives and takes the reigns. In the mean time, I have to stay faithful and love my students, my Church and focus on doing what I can to lead well in a challenging season of ministry.

PS – If you are in the midst of this and want to chat sometime, email me! We are in this together

-Geoff (Twitter)


Power To The People!

Kurt Johnston —  August 30, 2012 — 11 Comments

In my recent, highly controversial and edgy post (which, as suspected, resulted in a spike in traffic), I made this statement:

“Men and women in full-time local church youth ministry ARE the experts. There I said it…and it feels good! No, you don’t have to be in full-time ministry to care about students, to make a kingdom impact, to have opinions and a level of expertise; but let’s be honest for a minute: The people who spend 50 hours a week neck-deep in the local church youth ministry world do have a little bit more to say on the subject. Let me tweak that statement. They may not have more to say, as there is obviously no shortage of stuff being said about youth ministry, but what they do have to say carries more weight….especially the stuff said by people in average-sized churches doing average stuff! Sadly, most of these youth ministry experts don’t have a way to voice their expertise!”

I’d like to help change that in some small, baby-step, ways. Here are four:

1) If you are a full-time youth worker in a local church setting and have a blog that you update regularly, PLEASE leave the URL to your blog in the comments section, and I’ll begin to frequently feature a blog from “The Youth Worker Nation” here in hopes that it will give attention to folks with good stuff to say that aren’t being heard like they should. Being featured on this blog isn’t a big deal (certainly not as big a deal as being featured on the BIG DOG BLOGS like Griffin, Fields or Marko) but…it’s a baby step in the right direction!

2) If you don’t have a blog, but have something to say….write a 600(ish) word article and if it passes our highly intricate approval process we will post it here for you! Send your article to and put “BLOG” in the subject line.

3) You’ve probably seen these but don’t know that you likely qualify to write one! The “everyday youth ministry” line of books from Simply Youth Ministry includes books from the well known experts, BUT is also the place Simply/Group is giving a voice/power to the in-the-trenches youth workers who might normally not have an opportunity to get published! These books are shorter, less polished and often a tad bit grittier than what you would normally expect, and that’s because they’re mostly written by youth workers who are neck-deep in local church ministry. If you have a proposal for a book that would fit this line, shoot Nadim an email at and he’ll give you more details! Here is one of my favorites. And another. And another.

4) It’s a secret….can’t tell you right now….give us a few months….it’s awesome.