Do you have a mission/purpose statement for your youth ministry? Vote in today’s poll! And if you wanted to go an extra step – copy/paste yours into the comments to share it with others, too!


I was asked to contribute to the fantastic Slant33 blog this past week – the question was, about practical help for observing the Sabbath and rest. Here’s a clip of the answer I wrote, be sure to check out the other thoughts on the subject over there, too!

NONNEGOTIABLE: A DAY OFF. Try to reach me on a Monday. Go ahead. You’re probably going to be disappointed! Monday is the day I sleep in, making sure my phone is turned off and disconnected from the needy ministry world around me. From Sunday at about 2:00 p.m. until Tuesday morning’s team meeting, I’m disconnected. Sometimes I’ll even leave the house for the day just to not be around if someone drops by. I’m crafty like that. If I’m going to be in ministry for years, I’ve got to take some days along the way.

NONNEGOTIABLE: TIME WITH GOD/CHURCH. I go to church every week. Worst-case scenario, I watch it online or listen to the mp3. Part of my Sabbath has to include being fed, despite complete exhaustion after teaching youth services all weekend myself. I remember, in the early days of our ministry, we even sneaked away to other churches on off nights to worship in places where no one knew me as pastor. It was glorious. Again, so sneaky, I know.


There will be seasons when life gets crazy.  Maybe that time is now as you are dealing with the wind up for the fall.  Your schedule is filled with meetings, you have message after message to plan out and you are shooting out emails like there is no tomorrow.  At the end of the day you feel wiped and you look for things to slow down.

Then there are those seasons where you don’t have anything major on your plate; however, the energy is still at an all time low.  Your creative juices are depleted and each day feels like moving through sludge.  You reach for the caffeine, but the energy isn’t there, what can you do?

Here are five simple tips:

1. Turn Off The Noise – If your mind is feeling cluttered it means there is too much in there.  Turning off the noise means taking a step back from the monitor, and turning off the technology.  As a writer if my mind is blocked, I’ll close down my computer and resort to a good ole pad of paper.

2. Plan Your Breaks  - When all you are doing is going and going it’s easy to grow tired and even get sick.  Breaks are hard to take because you don’t want to fall behind; therefore, plan them far in advance.  When you can take moments to breathe, you give your body time to physically, spiritually and emotionally heal.

3. Get To Sleep – If you walk into your day tired, you are already in an uphill battle.  Getting good sleep means resting your mind and starting the day with a fresh perspective.  It can be difficult to get a good night sleep if you have a small child or a noisy roommate; therefore, do your best to make sure you take advantages of naps during the day.

4. Eat Light – Eating heavy in the middle of the day can put you in a lethargic mood.  If you are going to go big, save it for breakfast and go light at lunch.  And, it’s not just about eating less, but foods that will boost energy.  A great suggestion is something with lots of veggies and fruits.

5. Do What You Like – There are always things that we hate to do that we have to do as a part of our job.  When you are doing what you don’t like it will wear you out.  Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day try to do something that brings you joy.  Maybe it’s a run, a little knitting or cooking a meal.  When you have a hobby it’ll help you feel productive and when you feel productive it’s easier to get through the hard stuff.

What energy boosting suggestions do you have?

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

Here’s the final highlight video for the whole week from HSM Summer Camp. Such a great, exhausting week!


One of the first life lessons that we learn is that conflict is inevitable.  We are a fallen people and, because of that, conflict is a part of our life.  Whether big or small, conflict is able to make its way into every one of our relationships.  Unfortunately, our ministry relationships are not excluded from that reality. Whether it is with a parent, a volunteer, another department of the church, or the head pastor, we WILL eventually have conflict.

As believers, we are called to confront and resolve our conflict. That being said, if we don’t approach reconciliation appropriately, conflict can be incredibly destructive.

Today my friend (who works at the same church as me) and I were debriefing a confrontation he had that afternoon.  He was frustrated with a miscommunication he had with a member of another department, so he talked with them about it. Long story short, it did not go well.  Their relationship took a huge blow and both walked away more frustrated than they were before.

Thankfully, they are in the process of repairing their relationship.  But it is important that our confrontations don’t produce similar outcomes. If you are deciding whether or not you should confront someone about a conflict, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Did I pray about it? At the first sign of conflict, pray. Pray for guidance and discernment as your navigate your next step.  Search your heart to find out what you are truly upset about.  Say someone isn’t responding to your e-mails or phone calls, are you upset at their laziness or are you upset that they aren’t valuing your time?  Finding out your true feelings about your issue will help you effectively communicate your frustration.

Is it worth it?  Finding out your true feelings will also help you pick your battles.  Frequently communicating small issues is discouraging to others and has the potential to alienate you.  Not communicating important problems can severally damage your ministry and even your church as a whole.

Am I considering the entirety?  Take some time to think outside yourself (outside student ministry), and consider the “big picture”.  Remember that you and your ministry are only small pieces of a large puzzle. Are you looking out for our own interests, or the interest of the Church?

What are some things that you consider before you approach a confrontation?

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.

Rick Lawrence’s great little book 99 Thoughts on Jesus-Centered Living is on sale today (Saturday) only for 50% off!

As you read the pages of this book, you’ll encounter habits for changing the way you relate to Jesus, ideas for pursuing a dependent relationship with him, strategies for moving away from our culture’s false ideas of him, and questions to chew on as you realign your life into a Jesus-centered orbit.

When your life truly revolves around Jesus, the people around you will find rescue from pain and worry and hopelessness and emptiness and loneliness and purposelessness. Instead of a boring, predictable exercise, life will become a grand, breathless adventure. And if your orbit comes so close to Jesus that you can see him and taste him and smell him, watch out—your world will change forever.


Our friends and partners at Simply Youth Ministry have launched a new website!  It’s simply packed with great stuff for you to use in your youth ministry.  Be sure to check out the new site.

As thanks for touring the new website and giving them any feedback you have.  They are offering FREE shipping on any order or $99.  Just enter the promo code: BOOM

Rick Lawrence is the editor of Group Magazine and author of the new book Shrewd. It releases August 2nd and he was kind enough to take some questions about the upcoming book! 

Because “shrewd” is not a commonly used word, could you expound on its meaning?

In my book, I describe “shrewd” this way: “It’s a weapons-grade relational tactic—a way of thinking and acting—that Jesus long ago urged His followers to use in their uprising against the powers and ‘spiritual forces of wickedness’ of this world. Shrewd people (and Jesus is the Exemplar) first study how things work, and then leverage that knowledge to tip the balance in a favored direction. Shrewdness is the expert application of the right force at the right time in the right place.” Most Christians have a negative reaction to the word “shrewd,” but Jesus not only exemplified this way of relating to others in His redemptive mission on earth, He gave us a mandate to grow much, much more adept in our practice of it. The point of His “Parable of the Shrewd Manager” (Luke 16:1-8) is specifically to highlight the behavior of a lazy, lying, good-for-nothing servant who has no qualities we’d want to emulate except for one: his shrewd way of saving himself from the consequences of his terrible behavior. Jesus highlights this anti-role-model for one purpose: “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Later, in preparation for sending out His disciples on their first ministry journey without Him, He tells them to take nothing with them (no clothing, money, or “insurance” of any kind)—instead, He tells them they need just two things: 1. Be as shrewd as a serpent, and 2. Be as innocent as a dove. The word He uses here for “serpent” is the same one He uses for Satan. And the word He uses here for “dove” is the same the Bible uses to describe the Holy Spirit. He’s telling His disciples to be as shrewd as Satan is, but as innocent as the Holy Spirit is. Shrewdness, then, is a way of living and relating that Jesus first modeled for us, then commanded us to do likewise.

Would Jesus’ disciples in New Testament times have found this a startling command?

Absolutely. When Jesus told His disciples the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, they were surrounded by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law—their own private “wolf pack” encircling the “sheep.” In the midst of this pack of predators, Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them this startling, scandalous, but crystal-clear story—a story that challenge everything we think we know about Him. He chooses His words, and His setting, well. He’s essentially pointing to the “pack” and outlining for His disciples exactly how to defeat its tactics and innate superiority. They are, He asserts, just like sheep—an animal that is wholly helpless to defend itself against predators. When Jesus ends His story with a pointed reference to “the people of the light” and their “shrewdness deficit,” He’s not only telling them something that is shocking to their sensibilities, He’s likely offending them with His assessment of their abilities.

Why was it important to you to write about this concept?

Five-or-so years ago I was locked in what felt like an all-out war over a ministry dream that was in danger of dying, because a man who was much shrewder than me was bent on stopping it. One day, in my grief and fear and anger over what was about to happen, God sort of “sat me down” and challenged me—it was clear that my “frontal” way of dealing with this situation was not going to work, and He was asking me if I was going to have the courage to move more shrewdly. I asked Him to teach me what I needed to know about shrewdness, and He (of course) brought me to Jesus, the source of all good things. Unlike us (by His own assessment), Jesus is “more shrewd than the people of this world,” and that means He’s perpetually taking what His enemies intend for evil and morphing it into good. Jesus is always and everywhere out-leveraging Satan and his allies, using the destructive momentum he creates against them, like a martial artist.

Your last book was titled Sifted. On a lighter note, do you look for one-word titles in Scripture?

People have joked with me a lot about this—believe me, I have plenty of suggestions for my next one-word “S”-titled book. There are endless possibilities, if you think about it. Salt, anyone?

You been the editor of Group Magazine for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Does your youth ministry side show up in the book?

I’m still deeply embedded in the world of youth ministry. This year marks my 25th year as editor of GROUP Magazine. Youth ministry has been the perfect community for learning about the confluence of life and the power of the gospel of Jesus. I’m around people who, every day, are working to translate Jesus’ life and message and calling into real-world situations. In the end, the key to an effective youth ministry is in making Jesus the “orbital center” for everything you do—and my role in youth ministry (and in the rest of my life) is to reveal the beauty and worth of “the pearl of great price” and “the treasure in the field.” Once you understand the inestimable worth of the treasure, it’s simply human nature to “sell everything you have” to buy the field where that treasure is buried.