This one is tough: How do you tell students you’re leaving the church? There’s no easy way to break the news, but here are a few ideas to consider when you’re in this situation.

Tell your inner circle first.
Gather up your key volunteers and break the news to them first; no doubt some of them will be disappointed, discouraged, or even frustrated/angry, but they deserve to hear it from you first. They trust you, so they trust God’s Spirit in you, but leaving is difficult on everyone—and it will be especially challenging for them. Take in the moment, share in the tears, and give them the privilege of hearing it from you and first.

Tell the rest quickly.
Don’t make those faithful few carry it for too long—plus, once it is out there word travels extremely fast. Have a resignation letter/statement already prepared and work with your leadership to figure out the appropriate channels for distribution.

Prepare for a few common questions.
It wouldn’t hurt for you to think ahead of a few questions you might experience in a follow-up meeting or conversation. A few things that we’ve been asked:

  • Why are you leaving?
  • Do you love them more than us?
  • So what’s the real story behind you leaving?
  • I feel betrayed by your decision. Can you help me understand how God led you to leave us?
  • What’s going to happen to the youth group without you?

Understand the real pain your students are experiencing.
You may be excited about you departure, but before you deliver the news, understand the genuine pain this causes many of your students. You are leaving. You are leaving us. You are leaving me. You’ve had months to process it, but they’re hearing it for the first time. Let them process the news, too, and be prepared for tears, anger, and confusion. This is a great chance to show grace under fire.

Give words as your parting gifts.
Instead of giving into the temptation of taking shots when you leave, work hard to give words of affirmation and belief to the students, volunteers, and church as a whole. If the church chooses to honor you for your time serving the church, turn it back on them and praise them for doing the work of the ministry that will long outlast your tenure.

Help them follow Jesus, not the youth pastor.
Sometimes students get this confused, so point them to Jesus every day while you serve and continue to point them there as you leave. When we follow a human, only one thing is for sure: We are going to be disappointed.

Any other words of advice/experience to share with those that are about to tell their students the news?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

I’ve done youth group on different nights of the week throughout my years in youth ministry – thought it would be interesting to get a quick pulse on when you do “youth group” in your context. Vote in today’s poll!


Mission Trip Musts

 —  May 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

Doing mission trips with college age people is an incredible experience, for sure.  Over the next few posts I simply want to lay out a few things I believe we should include in our trips.  Here is the first aspect:

1. Have an aspect of exposure. 

Many people, especially in America, have huge misperceptions of what it means to be a missionary. Our students were able to see people with a four-year degree volunteering in the nursery, holding, changing, and feeding babies. They were able to see a guy from Sweden who was there to help with computers. They saw some Germans who were there to teach orphans the construction trade, or people from Switzerland who taught the kids to be mechanics. They were exposed to just about every vocation in one way or another and saw how any trade can be used in the “mission field.” Suddenly these students saw how their “field” of interest could potentially be used for the benefit of someone else rather than just for themselves. Not to say that they would need to move to Romania to use their vocation for God, but it helped them think through their vocation very differently. This was one of the biggest long-term impacts of our trips. Far too many people feel like they have to abandon a particular field of ministry to “do something for God.” That couldn’t be more false.

I even did some trips where we limited the serving aspect of the trip and focused almost solely on this exposure aspect. I’ve led these types of trips in Cambodia, India, and Vietnam. These trips were designed to simply expose college-age people to as many different types of missionary work as possible. They would see anything from a music teacher volunteering in a Cambodian orphanage to a guy who started a church and seminary in India. They would see a mechanic training orphans in that trade, a second grade teacher on a mission base, or a stay at home mom. The goal was to get those who went on the trip to think through their vocational perspectives and life direction differently. And by exposing them to all kinds of people, trades, and stories perspective is easily changed. Even if they don’t move overseas, this is a life lesson we can teach: you don’t have to abandon a profession or field to live your life for God.

 [sample taken from College Ministry From Scratch]

My friend Jason pointed me to a website I can’t get enough of right now. When I’m looking for inspiration for a set design or stage theme – this is where I look. Some are incredible, some will inspire you to create something fantastic for your youth ministry, some are good lessons on what not to do.


I know for sure that the buzz is not bunch of wasps or bees… But sometimes that all I’m sure of.

The activity level around our office has just been cranked up a notch (or 20).  Stuff is happening in earnest.

Final details or being, well… finalized.

Youth Groups are starting to send their forms into our office.

Lodging stuff is coming together.  Food, who’s preparing the food, who’s buying the food, where’s the food going to be stored?

Projects are in their final stages of preparation.  The organizations we partner with are making sure everything is ready for when we show – ready to serve.

The last touches on the spiritual growth programing and worship are being made.  Presentations being put together.  Tech equipment being tested.  All the outlines of the worship programs are gong to print.

There’s a lot going on.  Maybe we’re just cranked up to 11 (that’s for you Spinal Tap fans).  But it feels like we’re giving it all she’s got (Star Trek reference).  :)

And we know for you out there in youth ministry world, it’s just as crazy.

You’re busy wrapping up a another school year of ministry.

There’s graduation Sunday to plan for.

All your summer plans are now just weeks away (no longer months) and everything needs to be ready for summer camp, summer retreat, your mission trip, etc…

It’s busy and details for flying around your office also, just like ours.

Sometimes it feels like we’re all Iron Man (in the first movie).  Those first flight scenes where he’s bouncing off of everything and crashing more than flying or landing.  That’s how it can feel.  Controlled chaos… just barely.

And yet…

Isn’t that ministry.  All the hard stuff is done so no one else has to know.  All the crazy detail tracking and mountains of paper and sleepless nights – that’s because we just want to see our youth encounter Jesus and their lives to be changed because of that encounter.

The former leader of Group Mission Trips, my boss for 8 years, had a great, goofy analogy for all this.  He said we’re like ducks.  Ducks look like the smoothest, coolest animal in the world paddling around a calm lake.  But in reality, it’s a complete craziness of motion under the water.  Feels really true sometimes in ministry.

So to all you ducks out there – Paddle on!  God bless all of us as we scramble to get all the “stuff” done.

A rut I was in early in ministry was to seek out the books that were trendy instead of choosing the books I should actually have been reading at the time.

Now I think all reading is good development – you could even read the Hunger Games and it could help your ministry and stretch your mind. But I think we have to be careful not to chase after the trendy books (Christian and secular alike) when the best stuff we should be reading sits idle on the shelf or gathers digital dust at the bottom of our Kindle.

I appreciate the larger conversation that takes place in Christianity when someone stirs the pot with a book that all of us our reading – but my encouragement to you today is to make sure you crack open that book that will really help you.

So what should you be reading? My first thought was to push you toward a few books that I would consider must-reads, even classics in youth ministry. But instead of doing that … I think you already know your next book.

So put down that latest-and-greatest book from whoever the hot author is right now and pick up the title you should be reading. An incredible you is waiting at the end of the book!


What’s wrong with this commercial?

Yikes, yet another commercial that sends all the wrong messages about teen age girls. Mean, judgmental…even grown men should be afraid of them.

What one company thinks communicates humor actually may be giving permission to culture and to the girls within it to behave not as they are but as they are expected.  And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen or heard this same message from a commercial…I can’t even begin to list the other forms of media that communicate that exact same thing. It’s okay to be mean…because you are a teenage girl.

Ironically, we are surprised when girls bully and tease other girls. We can’t believe it when girls use their words to hurt another so badly that they would consider taking their own life.

We need to…

TALK about kindness


MODEL kindness.

I believe girls can be different than what the world says about them- let’s help them discover it!!

So, what do you think is wrong with this commercial?

Weekend Teaching Series: Worship (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence:
The power and purpose of music.

Service Length: 78 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend our Student Ministries Worship Leader Taffy took over the services in HSM and created a fantastic weekend talking about the purpose of worship, the power of music and the trigger and emotion of what we listen to. It was a FANTASTIC weekend that carried incredible power with students understanding and participating in worship music.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend was typical for this time of the year – we’re typically down in the Spring but this weekend had great energy. We had a hilarious boy band parody video to kick it off, and a fun “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” type element in the middle of the message. Lots of students involved, a great student band, lots of weekend leaders, lots of fun.

Music Playlist: Divine and Holy, Grace, The Stand, We Shine

Favorite Moment: I love Taffy – he’s the best pastor at Saddeback and this weekend was the culmination of years of hard work caring for, pastoring, training and discipling students. SO proud of him!

Up next: XXXChurch (series premiere, week 1 of 2)