I’ve received a few questions this summer about how we do promotion (students moving up from children’s ministry into youth group)  in our student ministry and thought I would share a few things we’ve done in the past and a few things I’ve seen or would like to try soon:

Everyone moves up the same weekend every year
Promotion in our church is the same weekend for everyone across the board – there are a lot of changes in the family so we try to consolidate them into one weekend. The transition usually takes a few weeks since people may be gone on vacation or miss church that weekend, but we stack hands that throughout the life development years (birth-college) we all move up at the same time. It has been incredibly effective to be aligned from top to bottom – it may be hard to convince (or concede) to a Sunday School Superintendent or Small Group Director that this is wise, but it is well worth the effort.

We choose to move up at the end of the school year
There are pros and cons to which ever time of year you promote students – we choose the weekend immediately following the end of school or right at the beginning of summer. This makes a clean break fo seniors as well as gives freshman an easy entry point into high school ministry. You may want to make a handout or promotion video for the date you’re choosing – because clear warning of big changes ahead is always a good idea.

Promotion Weekend is a big deal
Each department has a BIG to do that weekend welcoming new students. In our High School Ministry we plan a freshman weekend which has a “get to know us” sort of vibe – lots of relational time, a parent orientation meeting, stories, history, food, giveaways, and fun. We do our best to avoid hazing, but definitely try to have some fun at our own expense – like showing pictures of ourselves when we were freshman which is incredibly embarrassing, too.

Hand over the info!
Passing along family information is critical at this stage – if you have small group information, parent emails and text numbers, get it now. In our specific case we  get incoming 7th graders info and we give the contact information of our graduating seniors to our college ministry so they can work to integrate them immediately as well. If your church is tech-savvy, this will be a dream. In some cases where data integrity isn’t a value, be prepared to get handwritten attendance sheets or worse yet, nothing at all!

Plan a big welcome event
If you’ve got a bunch of new students moving up – plan something relational for them where they can get to know some volunteers and upperclassmen. Creating a sense of community and friendship is the key to helping with transitions. Could be as simple as a Scavenger Hunt (with a freshman require in each car, for example) or a giant overnighter to kickoff the summer and welcome the newbies.

Some age groups get a Preview Weekend
In some cases, your church may decide to do a preview weekend – for example letting 6th graders come see a junior high service. Usually it is planned to acknowledge the next level of students and to give them a painless taste of what is to come. If someone is hesitant to transition usually it isn’t a big deal through the summer – but heading into this time of year (fall) the transition should be complete.

Would love any questions you have about the process in the comments – or if you do it a different way please share!


Connecting college age people to older adults certainly has challenges.  And as I’ve written much about this subject in previous books, we need to find connecting points.  Well, vocation is one of the best (if not the best) avenues for this connection to be made.  Here are some reasons why connecting people with this common interest is easiest:

1. It puts the older person at ease.  This puts an older adult in a position where they can speak from their own experience, which tends to be most comfortable for people.

2. The ‘spiritual meter’ is lessened.  Sometimes starting conversations with other Christians is just plain awkward, because we feel like we need to be spiritual.  This allows people, who potentially don’t have any history together, to come into a conversation and simply talk about practicalities of life…first.

3. College age people’s interest is at its peak.  College age people are extremely interested in the practicalities of the workforce.  And to be able to sit down with someone with this as the focus is intriguing to say the least.

4. Expectations are low.  Going into a conversation that simply begins with two people who have similar interests in life is easy.  There is much more likelihood of a true relational connection taking place with minimal expectations on either side.

5. Practical theology.  If the older person is a maturing believer, the aspects of how faith is lived out in the workplace comes naturally.  It’s not forced and the conversation didn’t necessarily start there, which is how why sometimes it actually gets to the point of talking about spiritual matters.

For the next couple weeks, I’ll be confessing what I struggle with most in ministry.  As I’ve been thinking about these things that frustrate me and tend to hold me back, I believe it’s the pretty similar to what I struggled with in church ministry…

How do yo define success?  Is it numbers?  Is it lives changed?  Is it growth?  Is it the sense of simply God’s will being accomplished?

I struggled with all of these actually.  Each and every one…

We have goals and dreams for our mission ministry.  We believe in what God has called us to.  We believe so much that we want as many people as possible to be involved.  We hope and pray that our ministry grows.  We believe God has given us a mission.  We believe it’s something worth doing.  Something that’s good enough that it should grow?  Is that success?

Instead of simply counting people, sometimes we talk about the number of lives changed.  The number of people positively impacted by our ministry.  But… how do you count that?  Is it people starting their relationship with Jesus?  For us, is it the number of people served because their lives are changed by the service?  Is it just the total number of people involved because we trust that they are experiencing Jesus?  I don’t know.  I love the idea of tracking #’s this way but I don’t know the best way to do it.

I struggle.  I struggle tracking #’s.  I struggle with reporting #’s.  I feel “up” when #’s are “good” and “down” when #’s are bad.  I stress about why #’s aren’t “better.”  I want to have a healthy relationship with #’s and our ministry.

Here’s where I’ve come to believe is a healthy way to look at #’s.  It’s a good way to keep account of your ministry.  You can track how many are involved overall, by event, compared to the beginning of the year, from the last time you checked, etc.  It’s fine to look at #’s as part of that overall evaluation.  The downside is when it is the only way you’re accounting for your ministry.  If all you’re worried about is how many students you have, how many went to the last event, or how many more you have then when you started.  That’s not a great way to exclusively evaluate the work God has given you to do.

This year, our ministry has taken on a stronger focus on campus outreach. The main way that we are ministering to the local high schools is through our students, more specifically, our student leaders. Luckily, our student leaders already had a passion for ministering to their campus, all we needed to do was focus that passion and turn it into action.

In order to do that, we had a student leadership meeting that focused only on school outreach. We split them up by high school and gave them one sheet of paper. Each school had to work together as a team to answer five questions. But before we had them fill anything out, we gave them 20 minutes to have a quiet time and reflect on the things that Jesus has done in their lives or is doing in their lives. A huge aspect of focusing passion is to help them discover/remember why they are doing ministry. They need to fully put their faith in Christ and trust that He is still working in this world. They need to recognize that what they want to be doing at their school will be impossible to execute apart from God.

From there, we had them answer the five questions. Below are the questions we asked and the answers we got from a student at a near-by Catholic private school:

1. What are the unreached people groups at your school?
a. Kids who grew up in catholic homes, but their parents so not follow the religion, so they do not know what to believe
b. Kids who don’t have many friends
c. Transfer students

2. What are the needs of high schoolers?
a. Friends, to take away stress with family and school etc
b. Family, to always be there and provide
c. Acceptance

3. Do we believe that we are called to meet those needs? Why?
a. Yes because as Christians God has called us to share the good news, and by helping students fulfill their needs, we are shining the light of Christ.

4. What has been keeping you from meeting these needs in the past?
a. Don’t want to bring it up because it feels awkward
b. Feel like I will be asked a question I couldn’t answer
c. Most of the kids grew up non-practicing catholic and it is hard to talk to them about Christ because they do not think that there is anything more to their relationship with Christ.

Our mission is to redefine what is means to be a follower of Christ and make the students at my school’s religion a relationship with Christ rather than a task

Note: We had our homeschooled students answer these questions about their personal lives, writing a mission statement for their life. We are SO stoked to see what our students do for their schools this year!

How is your ministry helping students minister to their schools?

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

Real-life #YOLO Tweets:

  • Just biked in front of a car to scare them #YOLO
  • eating ice cream for breakfast because #YOLO
  • Just ran a red light right beside the police station #YOLO
  • Drunk driving to get my buddies home #YOLO they will thank me in the morning

I’m sure most people who are online, working with social media or spending any time with students have heard the term YOLO. If you don’t know what it means, its an acronym for You Only Live Once.

I constantly hear my students saying YOLO, the problem is that this statement isn’t connected with doing anything to achieve something in life, its used as an excuse for things we probably shouldn’t do and often when they have had near tragic accidents.

My desire is to change this mentality: I want to take the idea that we only live once so it’s okay to do something stupid and transform it into the fact that we only live once for yourself, but you can live for Christ.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25

I want to encourage my students to live life not for themselves but for Christ. Wouldn’t it be awesome if instead of students using YOLO as mistake metaphor, if they used it to talk about their sacrifice for God.

Dream YOLO Tweets:

  • Stayed up late last night leading my friend to Christ #YOLO
  • Reading my Bible with breakfast #YOLO
  • Bringing three friends to church today #YOLO

Now I realize these tweets are probably a little on the long shot side, okay a lot. But wouldn’t it be amazing for students to be living their life for God and declaring it on Twitter or Facebook?

So now its our turn, Fall is starting and our students are back in classes. While they’re getting bombarded at school with #YOLO what message are you going to be giving them?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.

Kickoff for the fall, there is nothing like it.  Everyone is focused on getting plugged in, connected, signed up and registered.  The summer dreams have come to an end, school is back in session and the thought, “Here we go again.” races through your mind.

For some of us the beginning of the year stresses us out and for others it excites us.  There is so much to do, so much to get done and then BOOM! The year starts and we are off.  It’s like a marathon where the anticipation before the race is killer; however, once you get moving you settle down.

Kickoff is a season that can race by; however, it’s also a season that needs to be embraced.  On top of fun memories of moon bounces and wild games, it’s really a season when you can strengthen your foundation.  It’s a season when you need to:

Recruit New Ministers – The best time to recruit other ministers is when the program is in full swing.  That way potential volunteers can:

  1. See the program in action.
  2. Talk to actively serving ministers
  3. Ask questions they might not have known to ask if inquiring during the summer

When you recruit new ministers right after kickoff you’ll have a positive excitement that will be contagious.

Invite More Teens – It makes sense to invite someone to an event before it happens; however, your ministry isn’t an event.  While you want to build up hype and momentum before the program begins you’ll want to put more afterwards.  By continuously inviting teens to your program your creating an open enrollment feeling.  So many times we give up on a class or a program because we miss the first session.  Ministry should be treated like any relationship, where you can step in at any time.

Build Margin – Once the year begins we feel our margin slip away; however, there is no better time.  You should be letting your leaders loose, let them fail, succeed and problem solve.  As the point person you should be able to take a step back, observe and take in the experience.  As soon as the year gets going, slow down and find that pace because it’s going to be a long year.

Kickoff is not the end of summer and it isn’t just the beginning of your ministry year.  It’s a mile marker that you should utilize to grow stronger.  Look for the opportunities in every situation and continue to move forward.

What other opportunities do you see during kickoff?

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.

Lots of people are commenting on anything and everything about the upcoming election. Some people should be…but I’m not one of them. Maybe you’re not either. There are beaucoup youth and youth workers in my world who watch what I say or do and I don’t want this to be a stumbling block to them in any way.

From my point of view, too many posts and comments are hurtful and divisive, even when they’re not meant to be. I’m speaking mainly of church ministry friends who are making their thoughts abundantly clear about which way they’ll be voting come November. That’s OK…but so many of the comments leave me feeling as if I’m stupid for thinking a different way. Worse yet, many of my ministry friends and mentors I look up to have posted thoughts like a line’s  been drawn in the sand between me and them. Somehow, the black/white comments leaning this way or that make me wonder: would I be less loved by them if they knew which way I’m voting? I’m glad I’m confident in my place in the Kingdom but I worry that others will be negatively affected by seeing what Christians are criticizing each other about on Facebook or Twitter.

I’m going to stay out of it in social media form. Oh believe me, I have strong opinions and worries and thoughts on this election. But they’re mine and I’ll only discuss them with friends when I am sure that what I say won’t leave the other person feeling less affirmed about who they are with me and with the Kingdom.

Unless free Starbucks for all becomes part of a candidate’s platform. Then all bets are off on everything I just said.