One of our incredible Life Group Leaders put together a final few week of small group with his guys that was truly incredible. First, he wrote 24 Thoughts for Graduating Seniors – a final hit list of things he wanted them to know as a man and as someone who was finished with High School.

Beyond that, he planned a parent beach bonfire night where dads wrote letters to their sons that was incredible powerful as well. Terry is a great leader and after seeing his notes I asked if I could share them here on the blog – felt like it would be a win for others to read and maybe something other small group leaders could rip-off or adapt for their guys as well.

19) Enjoy Everything in MODERATION!!!  There can be too much of a good thing!

20) When you SIN / Fall Away – Confess your sin to God – He ALWAYS forgives

Prodigal Son Story – “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. -Luke 15:11-32

21) Work hard at a job you love

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

God gives the birds their food, but He doesn’t throw it into their nests.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. -Colossians 3:17

22) Family first

I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.

Nothing can ever take you away from being part of your family.  Love them and care for them – There is no replacement.

23) Change will happen

The key to change… is to let go of fear.

Don’t Forget to INCLUDE God in the change process

This is an excerpt from a letter sent to President Jackson in 1829.  As you may know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed. Martin Van Buren Governor of New York

Don’t be afraid of change – Embrace it and learn through it.  It can be very exciting, it can be very challenging, but change is going to happen.

24) Live Life to it’s fullest

God came to give us a rich and satisfying life.  He has given you everything you need to make the most of your life.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. -John 10:10

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow’s flight, and then young Frank’s tracks meandering all over the field.  “Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.” Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life.  “I determined right then,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”

In Everything Be A LEADER: Don’t let Fear get in the way

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.

Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.

The world needs leaders. who cannot be bought;

whose word is their promise; who puts character above wealth;

who possess opinions and a will; who are larger than their vocations;

who do not hesitate to take chances; who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;

who will be honest in small things as well as in great things; who will make no compromise with wrong;

whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires; who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it”;

who are true to their friends through good and bad , in adversity as well as in prosperity;

who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success;

who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular, who can say no with emphasis, although the rest of the world says yes.


After a long ministry season, things are winding down for the school year and I am starting our usual post mortem on the year and thinking about the all of the things that we would do differently. I think this year more than any other that many of the things I would change have more to do with my heart and perspective than anything we taught or sang. Maybe you can relate to the things I am asking the Lord to work on in my heart.

Pre-service stress: My favourite moment of the night is always right when we start because once things are moving, there is no changing it, we are LIVE! Unfortunately I have made the time leading up to it an often-miserable experience. I find myself wondering what else we could have prepped? Is the message as good as I think it is? Where are all the kids? Did the leaders call their students? I allow myself to worry about things that needn’t be worried about. The truth is, we were prepared but I still allowed doubt to cloud my mind and that has to stop.

Number crunching: I am pretty good sometimes at reading a lot into attendance numbers and can be pretty hard on myself when there is a low night. I feel responsible; wondering if we offended students the week before, or maybe our group is boring, unfriendly, cliquey, and spiritually shallow or any number of things. My colleague Jason was meeting with his grandfather who worked in youth ministry who shared with him this incredible piece of wisdom. “We used to give each other high fives when 40 students showed up, and beat ourselves up when only 39 came.” It’s so true, and I have been guilty being frustrated when students don’t show up and allowing that to distract me of ministering to those that did come and that is a lose-lose situation.

Not trusting: This can be a big one, where I sometimes don’t trust. I don’t trust that our leaders read the curric or called their kids, that the worship team is going to be ready, that my message is good enough. Worst of all, I don’t trust that God is going to make it happen, and when I do that I try and do it on my own. I have been there so many nights where God did crazy things and transformation happened but somehow that doubt creeps in that tonight might not be that night. I know He is in control, and our leaders care so much for our students and sometimes life gets busy for them too.

I am sure each of us have been here at some point, but the Fall is right around the corner and its time to spend the summer focusing on my heart to make sure that next year I do a lot less of these things. It sounds like I am going to read Philippians 4:6 a few more times too I think.


Where are you letting doubt enter your mind and how does it affect your ministry?

Geoff – (Twitter)

Summer came all too fast. I’m not ready yet!! I haven’t checked my mission trip air mattress for holes. I haven’t lost 100+ lbs so I’m swimsuit ready. I didn’t get some glamorous vacation scheduled. I don’t have even a glimpse of a hammock in the shade of my hot Houston backyard. My Group Workcamp programs aren’t all memorized yet.

I’m afraid I’m not ready! ARGGGGGGG!

(From God: Ssshhh, Stephanie. Simmer down a moment. I am ready for you. Remember how at Christmas time you always tell people not to sweat the details that don’t get done? Like the batch of cookies you wanted to bake but didn’t but not to worry…because Jesus still comes. The hush of Christmas Eve still rolls in. The magic of the morning arrives like it always has. Remember how many times you’ve said that??

Its no different with the summer. I’ve gone before you; I’ve prepared a way. The air mattress will be fine; if not, there’s a Walmart on every mission trip corner. Don’t worry about the vacation; I’ll be your rest. You’ll get the programs down when the time comes; you always do. As far as that 100+lbs? We’ll work on it, but don’t let it hold you back from the fun of the sun. And the Son. 

Don’t be afraid, Stephanie. I’ve been down the path. I’ll lead you all the way. I got this covered.)

Thanks, God.


I have been using Instapaper for about a year and I like it.

Instapaper is a perfect aggregator for anything I want send to it; articles, blog posts, webpages, etc. It is all about putting everything that I want to eventually read in one spot to read later (in my living room on my iPad while resting or quickly on my iPhone while waiting in line at the DMV).

Instapaper is supported by over 150 other iPhone and iPad apps! You can even send an email to your Instapaper account to save and read later.

This week Starbucks is giving this app away for free, all you need to do is drop in and pick up a Pick of the Week card.  If you do not live near a Starbucks drop me a message in the comments and I will send a handful of you a code (I grabbed a coupe extra cards).

I was going to more fully review the app but Appstorm did a great review on the top three read it later apps that you should check out.  If you want to know how to use Instapaper take 4 minutes and watch this review/tutorial.

Sometimes the things that are the hardest and most frustrating to deal with end up being the best.  There are really hard times when you are planning your mission trip.  Students back out after committing to go.  Adult chaperones back out (one of the most frustrating things).  The projects you were counting on doing fall through at the last minute.  Your lodging situation changes and you no longer know if you have room for everyone.  I won’t list any more things for fear of bringing up to many bad memories for us all…

But if you’ve done any mission trips you know that things like this can and will happen once you’ve been on a number of these trips.  We’ve facing a situation like that right now with our mission ministry.  There is a location that is proving to be incredibly difficult.  Rules and regulations that don’t exist anywhere else.  Local authorities who cannot think past there own rules.  All of this is conspiring to make this mission trip very difficult for us and the youth groups that will be attending.  It’s hard…

But, I have a sneaking suspicion that God will do something amazing on this mission trip.  Do you ever have the experience where the hardest things end up being worth it?  It’s in those hard times that God tends to show up.  Right there.  With you.  Doing only what God can do.  Making a bad situation good.

Because here’s what I know.  There are people in that community who need help.  Who will benefit from the relationships with the students attending the mission trip.  God has a plan for this situation.  Even though it’s very difficult for us to see it right now through all the difficulty.

And I believe the same thing for you and your group and your mission trip.  Whatever difficulty you are facing right now, God is in that issue or situation.  God has a plan.  I pray that God will bless your trip through the hard things you are dealing with.

In college ministry you will have people struggling with homosexuality in your ministry.  And, if they trust you and you have been paying the price of time and making sure people know you are a safe place, people will eventually share their struggle with you.  But some people are just too ashamed or flat out scared to tell anyone, regardless of how they are treated and loved.  But it’s important to make sure we understand what these people are feeling.

This is a letter written by a previous student of mine.  I included it in a talk handout one night in midst of a series I did on homosexuality.  I love this man.  I don’t spend nearly enough time with him due to geography, but he wrote this while in college and I think it’s a powerful insight into the mind of a college student who is struggling with homosexual attraction.  Here it is:

The Other Side of the Rainbow 

So this is my chance to say everything that passes through my silent mind each day.

Maybe I’ll start with how I feel when I hear the word ‘faggot.’  Or with the fear that you won’t accept me, which leaves me too afraid to be honest.  Maybe I’ll start with gay jokes over another meal with my ‘Christian brothers’.  Or how I feel about the girl who claims she loves all ‘sinners’ yet people like me disgust her.  The guy who is so insecure in his own masculinity that he has to make fun of every non-athletic guy, whom he assumes is a homosexual simply because he doesn’t fit the American ideal of “manhood”.  My dad, who stopped hugging me. The living room, where I sit in silence, watching while my friends debate my salvation.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a slap in the face.  Who said words don’t hurt?  Some celebrate homosexuality as though it was some beautiful blessing sent from Jesus himself.   Then there are those, who are so busy preaching their doctrinal statements, that their ‘love’ is masked by awkwardness, and any kindness means tolerant pity.  It hurts.

Some days I get so angry.  Don’t you see?  Don’t you see it’s me you are talking about?  I never wanted this.  Other days depression seems more an option…  Ironic that ‘gay’ people often aren’t so happy.

As for myself, I don’t know what the future holds.  Maybe isolation within celibacy will be my penance.  I can’t reconcile my faith and being openly gay.  I don’t want this.  Maybe, to everyone’s surprise, my demons will flee from me, and I may wake up tomorrow a happy heterosexual.  Maybe God will change me to the point I can get married.  I live within uncertainty.  So therefore I cannot pursue a lifestyle as though it held my confidence.  Yet I long for assurance like everyone else.  I want my white picket fence.

Those are a few of my thoughts. They are honest, but that does not mean they are innocent.  I am sure some who read this will be all worked up, ready to debate their enlightened opinions.  And curious gossips will try to figure out who is the faceless person behind this.  So I show a fake smile, and shame through silence.  Can you see my loneliness?

In my dreams, I’m free.  From peoples judgment.  From this sin that so entangles me.  From fear of falling out of the closet.  Or being swept under the rug.  That I won’t be alone for the rest of my life.  That I will never find my white picket fence, that I will still be accepted as a child of God.  Men will learn that affection and love are signs of true masculinity.  The church will be a sanctuary.  And I will find freedom from silence.

They say dreams come true on the other side of the rainbow.  I don’t think that’s really true.

Random Randomness

Kurt Johnston —  June 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

- Tonight, we have our 3rd annual “6th Grade Bridge Event”, which is sort of a 90-minute orientation for parents about what to expect from their kids during the next two years of early adolescence, and for kids about what to expect for the next two years from our JH ministry. Believe it or not, our children’s ministry runs the entire event. They ask us to play roles, but they pay for the advertising, the snacks, etc. I’m continuously shocked at how supportive our children’s ministry is!

- On a scale of 1-10, I’m at about a 7 on my desire to buy a Harley Davidson. I rode a street bike in College, currently ride dirt bikes, and have always been a fan of “putting the breeze to the knees”. But mostly, I think it’s because my father-in-law is an avid Harley Rider and it would be a fantastic way to bond with him a bit more as he enters his golden years.

- I’m on a bit of a teaching hiatus in our junior high ministry, and have really enjoyed the opportunity to visit some of the youth ministries at our regional campuses. We currently have 4 full-time regional youth positions and 2 part-time….and all of them are doing a fantastic job. What has been the most eye-opening is in the way each ministry is simultaneously totally Saddleback, yet totally unique and contextualized! It gives me hope that we might be able to accomplish a similar feat as we move into 12 international cities in the next year.

- I blogged and Instagrammed about the book, “Global Youth Ministry”, and was thrilled to get an encouraging email from the one of the Authors, Terry Linhart. Terry offered some insight, some connections and a willingness to help out as we continue to move forward in our 12-city initiative. I haven’t found time to reach out to him, but Terry’s generous response was a true shot in the arm.

- Plans are moving forward for our first “Worship Together Weekend” in which we will cancel our JH and HS weekend programs so families can attend church together. It is slated to happen on the first full weekend of every month, and so far the response to the idea has been very encouraging. It will be a HUGE learning curve for our students and the culture of our church, but I’m hopeful that it will eventually be seen by everybody as a big step toward a more healthy connection to our church among our teenagers.

Almost every week we play a game to get out students talking or interacting with each other.  We have played Trump or Animal a few months ago, you can get the game here for FREE.

For the next two months we are having our Student Servant-Leadership Team take over our midweek program; teach, worship, pray, announcement, games, etc.  The program team wants to play Trump or Animal again but instead of Trump they are going to use replace his name with the last name of the two sisters who will be tag-team teaching that night.  Clever, easy to create, and it is personal…I love it!  Try Trump or Animal for free or create your own version.  I might do one of me called, bald guy or elbow.