There are challenging situations that anyone working with students face and helping a student navigate through the confusion and pain of losing family member can be heart wrenching. For some of us, its not a scenario we have faced, and for others it might be something you have walked through before . So please let us know what  advice you would give this youth worker:

Recently one of our student’s mother lost a long battle with cancer and I am curious how other youth workers have navigated situations like this with students in the past. How involved were you, for how long after were you working with the student and how did you love and support them through the loss? 

Your thoughts on this are invaluable as there is no manual for this sort of situation.


Really enjoyed a post by Len Evans over on his blog Looking Out From My Little Place. It had some great insight on things that youth workers do that usually end up costing them their position. Here’s a couple of the standouts to me, head over there for all 10:

4. Ignoring conflicting ministry philosophies.
Your theological imperatives will drive what you do in ministry, but your ministry philosophy will drive how you do it. So it’s crucial that you and your church agree on the how to’s of ministry. You and your church might both value evangelism, but if you don’t agree on how to do evangelism you’re sailing into a major storm. Also, if your church functionally defines “youth worker” as “events coordinator” but you see yourself as a pastor, you’d better spiff up your résumé because you’ll need it sooner than you expect.

6. Forgetting that perception is reality.
Whatever people think of you, good or bad, is real to them. Make sure they know the truth about you and your ministry, and make sure the truth about you and your ministry is good. If one person decides to believe something insidious about you or your ministry, then shares that belief with others as a “prayer request” or outright slander, you’ve got a battle to fight. And it’s amazing how battles can quickly get out of hand (if your name is Trent Lott, you understand this intimately). You’ll eventually lose the war, so make sure that perception is the truth by confronting misperceptions and “making peace with your enemies” (Luke 14:31-32). When a perception problem springs up, head directly to your senior pastor’s office first so you can clear it up before it gets to him.

8. Marginalizing powerful parents.
When Powerful Parents Attack—it could be a show on Fox, but it’s not entertaining when it happens to you. Your Church magazine ran a series about forced exits a few years ago. They found that it takes only 3 to 4 percent of a congregation to spark a staff member’s firing. Know who the “power parents” in your church are, and do your best to make sure they’re on your side. Don’t succumb to pressure or let them bully you, but bend to their desires when it’s a neutral preference issue, not a core principle.


Random Randomness

Kurt Johnston —  April 2, 2012 — 1 Comment

- Apologies for the lack of blogging the past 2 weeks! A bit of a crazy season for Scott and myself which resulted in the blog going “dark” for a little longer than we intended.

- About 13 of us are up in the mountains for a few days at our annual “JH Summit”. Our guest today was Dann Spader, the founder of Sonlife. We spent the day talking about discipleship and how we might help students and leaders walk as Jesus walked.

- A few days ago, I was told by a youth ministry organization that I most likely won’t be asked back to speak because “you are a male and white”. While I certainly don’t pretend to equate that experience with true discrimination, and what that must feel like, it was the first time in my life I’ve felt unfairly treated due to factors about myself I can’t control. Interesting.

- It’s official. Beginning in July, Saddleback is starting “Worship Together Weekends” which will take place the first full weekend of every month. On these weekends, we will not offer JH or HS programs. Instead, we will encourage families of teenagers to go to church together in hopes of creating a little bit more of a inter-generational feel to our church. More to follow as details emerge.

- Have you heard of Snap Chat? It’s an app that allows you to send texts, pictures etc. that appear for anywhere between 2-10 seconds as determined by the sender. The message then disappears, and can’t be captured. This has some fun….and some disturbing possibilities.

- As I type, I’m sitting next to Scott Rubin. I am using this break to update the blog and he is using it to catch up on work related emails. Those Willow Creek folks never have down time! :)

My friend AC did a great weekend leader training last night and shared some of it on his blog. He did a great job sharing the heart behind the role of the volunteer at a service and gave some great questions for them to use when greeting students. Here are a few of his suggestions, might be good to rip off copy/paste in a note to your leaders this week!

  • What has been your biggest struggle in high school and why?
  • Do you have a crazy coach and how do you manage his/her craziness?
  • What are you planning on majoring in college and why?
  • Are you close with your parents and how supportive are they about (fill in the blank)?
  • What are some struggles you’re having in your walk with Christ?
  • How long have you been coming to church and what’s got you coming?
  • What’s the attitude towards Christianity in your family?

Head to his place for the rest!


If anyone comes to mind when I hear the words “Motion Designer” it’s Barton Damer.  Not only are we facebook friends but I have meet him twice…I feel like we are on our way to being best friends.

If you have any interest in motion design you should click to his blog  If motion graphics are not your thing you should still take 2 minutes of your day to watch his 2011/2012 Motion Reel.  Thanks for creating great work Barton!

GROUP’s March/April magazine is awesome – with their annual youth ministry salary survey and much more. If you don’t get group – why not? Here is my little review of what you will find in it:

Something I liked: I got a chance to meet Jeff Dunn-Rankin at the SYM Conference 2012 and I was impressed. Then I got to read his review of Lee and Leslie Strobel’s book, “Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch” and I was super impressed. Mr. Dunn-Rankin did a great job explaining the book and he has convinced me to read it. One of the key thoughts that he shared was, “We youth workers see the changes (when a kid of a non-believing home accepts Christ) as all positive but we need to understand that too many parents, (these changes) might be threatening, scary, and irritating.”

???: It’s good to see the annual youth ministry salary survey but I didn’t agree with some of the thoughts Tony Myles shared at the end of the article. I struggle when anyone shares that full time ministers (youth minsters or senior pastors) should consider seasonal or special event work to help pay monthly bills.

Key Statement: Great thought from Dan Webster, “Every life is a mystery waiting to be uncovered, not a mistake needing to be corrected.”

Creative Idea: Walt Mueller is one of my favorite researchers. He shared a little idea that I think is awesome. He said, “A great way to begin (evaluating media) is to randomly choose ads and play a quick game of ‘Spot the lie,’ working to uncover the false promise(s) made by the ad.”

There are a lot of different hats that we wear when leading students, from bus driver to fundraising champion, to cook,to first aid attendant, to counselor. But the two hats I find I wear most often are Pastor and Advocate. Stay with me here, because I strongly believe these are two roles that we have to perform, but require different skill sets and both are needed to lead effectively.

Pastor: Although the word only appears in the New Testament one time (Ephesians 4:11) it in many ways is the primary function of what we do. We lead and shepherd our students, leaders and parents week in and week out.  This is such a rewarding and meaningful part of my role in the Church as we get to experience people encountering God is such a real way. I am called to be a Youth Pastor, to invest in our students and champion their cause in the Church. I cheer them on, intentionally pastor their leaders to foster spiritual growth of our students as well. The challenge is that sometimes making decisions that affect people, potentially negatively is difficult with my Pastor hat on because the pastor in me loves harmony and values shepherding, so its then I have to go into advocate mode.

Advocate: When I am in advocate mode, things are different and here is why. My role at the Church is to be the Pastor of High School Students and that means advocating for the needs of each student. The question I am constantly asking is, what do these students need from me, from their leader, from our youth group in order to grow in their relationship with God? I met with one of our leaders recently who had been slipping in his commitment to his small group and the results were obvious. When we sat down, the conversation quickly got to reminding this leader what it is that his students need from him:

-       A leader that calls them each week and checks in and invites.

-       A leader that engages them at youth and takes an interest in their life

-       A leader that commits to praying for them

-       A leader that shows up EVERY week.

I was firm, not harsh but reminded him that I am looking out for the needs of the students entrusted to me, and asked simply, “can you be the leader that these students need you to be?” Its was an honest question, and framed this way that leader could say yes, or no. Had they said no it would be understandable why we would need to find someone else to fill that role.

The same is true with events, retreats and camps as well when we ask, is this event the best things for the spiritual development of our students? Sure its fun, and well attended, but is there something that could be more effective.

When it comes to making tough decisions, its always with my advocate hat on, because when I am in that mode, I am more willing to take on challenges and situations that when I am in Pastor mode I might let linger. We owe it to our students to provide for them what they need, which is not always what they want at the time.  My experience has been that leaders respond well to the challenge and as a team are more understanding of changes when framed within the cause of growth of our students.


Sorry to break it to you but the iPhone Shuffle is not real…but you knew that. I love all the April Fools gadgets and gizmos that fly around the web on April 1st. There were a ton but here are just a few of my favorites.


Assassin’s Creed for Kinect
(stay for the last 10 seconds)

Electronic Hungry Hungry Hippos for iPad

Keurig K-cupâ„¢ 5-Star Meals Video

Google Maps 8-bit for NES

Chrome Multitask Mode

Introducing Gmail Tap

The YouTube Collection

“Starbucks Listens to Customers
Requests for More Sizes”

Introducing Shapes by Toshiba