So here’s one more idea in my march towards equipping small churches for Grad Sunday. Funny that it’s so on my mind, since I don’t have any grads this year. Oh wait, I do. Whew! Glad I remembered. Anyway…

A fellow consultant with Youth Ministry Architects, Syler Thomas, wrote a great book to give your high school grads. You can get it on Amazon for like $11! Its a thoughtful gift to send students off packed with ways to sustain their faith.  
Go to and check it out.


I really like using Instagram, it takes cool pictures, has great filters, and it posts to my favorite social network sites.  There are a few things I would like to see added to Instagram like more control over the tilt-shift feature (they had it then took it away…weird), a “save original image to album” feature, and a better site that can be browsed.  I guess I can use other apps for those features but I love the simplicity of Instagram.  Because I use it so much I thought I would share a few of my favorite “Insta” sites on the web.

  • Extragram is a site that allows you to brows all you Instagram photos.  Forgot to save them?  No worries, just sign up and browse away. I also like Once you sign up you can give out your own personal web address and let others browse too. (FREE)
  • Instaport is a great find.  I have not saved all my past photos, not a problem with Instapost.  Sign up here and you can download all your pics in one simple zip file. (FREE)
  • Postagram sends your pics from your iPhone or Android directly to someone’s mail box. Check out this post I wrote last year on this great app. ($.99 covers printing and shipping)
  • Looking for cool pics from an event you wish you were at?  “Search Instagram” is a great site for taking a look at the bigger picture. Check out these links; SYMC, Cubs, youthministry.  What to move through the pics more quickly? Click the “stop stream” and then you can scroll.

What are some of your favorite Instagram sites and uses?

Got a great question this week at YSPalooza in Orlando – do we allow parents to be small group leaders in our own ministry – specifically for their own teenagers? Our answer is yes at our church. We don’t prohibit or discourage it in any way. I do totally get the concept and value the idea of another adult Christian modeling faith and mentoring our children, so I get why some ministries may choose a different way. Vote now!


So thankful for the guys over at Magnum Clock who donated a killer TT4040-C (the same one we’ve got!) as a giveaway here on the blog. All you had to do to win was enter your senior pastor’s average message length in the comments of the post. The winner, chosen at random was Charlie!

Thanks to everyone who entered and be sure to swing by Magnum Clocks and check out their awesome gear that might help keep track of time in your youth ministry or church!


Jason Rollin emailed me a while back looking for a way for his team to evaluate him as a youth pastor. I didn’t really have something to point him toward, so he did something pretty awesome – he made his own!

Jason opened himself up for evaluation from his volunteer team in order to make improvements in his ministry and leadership. He’s offered up the form he used for anyone to adapt as well. You can download it right here and see if it is something you would like to do as a leader, too.


The other day I was sitting in my office, when a teenager I did not recognize knocked on my door.  He said, “Hi, I think I’m supposed to talk to you, but I need someone to sign these forms saying that I did service here.”  I took the forms from the teen and saw that the forms were for his school’s service hour requirement.  There is nothing unusual about this; several times a year (especially Fall and Spring) I get the mad rush of teens trying to complete their requirements for the school year. What made the situation odd is:

  1. I barely recognized the teen.
  2. What he wanted me to sign off on was something he did 3 years ago.  

The reason I knew it was three years ago was because we hadn’t done that type of service project at the church in the last three years.  Like I said, I’ve done a ton of recommendation letters and service requirement forms, and usually it’s for teens I know and I can confidently say have earned my support.  But, once in a while a teen or a parent I’ve never seen walks in and asks me for “This Favor.”

Ideally, you would want to have a conversation.  You would talk about how you don’t feel comfortable vouching for someone you don’t know or something you have never seen.  And then you would develop a plan to get the student more involved so that you could be confident in putting your name down, right?

In theory that’s what we would like to do; however, many of us are guilty for just signing off and enabling the situation because we are:

Too Busy – Often times we give a student a pass because we are just super busy.  I can’t blame you, there is a lot on your plate and when something like paperwork hits the desk, you look for the quickest way to process it.  If this is you, you need to come up with a system where you allot time for situations where you don’t feel rushed to just GET IT DONE.  The teen (or parent) might plead to get the form, letter, etc. back as soon as possible; however, you need to be their youth minister and sometimes that means holding them accountable to what they are requesting.

People Pleasing – You just can’t say no, you don’t want anyone to feel bad and you just hate conflict.  You’d rather a teen have pleasant encounter with you than feel rejected by the Church.  In fact isn’t that the reason people are leaving?  They feel rejected?  I believe teens crave structure and someone with a strong foundation.  Yes, you may upset the teenager; however, if you follow the NO with love and care, they’ll respect the fact that you are looking out for their best interests.

You Agree With It – You see things like recommendation letters and service hours as something small.  It doesn’t matter if you know the teen, it’s just a part of the system; therefore, having a conversation with them about whether or not they really earn this letter is mute.  You believe that as the youth pastor you have an obligation to do what the congregation asks of you, even if the teen isn’t a full-blown member.

While the situation may seem insignificant it does say something about your ministry.  It’s circumstances like these where we have a real opportunity to talk to teens about investing in the local church, especially if we don’t know them or they rarely get involved.  By signing these forms and writing your letters your vouching for your ministry, so you want to be as truthful as possible.  By signing for them, you are vouching saying they are a representative of the Church, and that is saying a lot.

What are your thoughts?  Is this a big deal in your ministry?  Do you have any solutions to fixing it?

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.

Creative, innovative and environmentally friendly!  This pizza box is manufactured from 100% recycled material. The top breaks down into convenient serving plates, eliminating the need for disposable plates. The bottom converts into a handy storage container, eliminating the need for plastic wrap, tin foil or plastic bags.

Maybe it is not the best but it is FREE.  I really like the idea of “Open Source” software and “Freeware.” I have a few lists here of some things that can be very helpful. That said, not all FREE software is great…just FREE. Here is a well organized layout of open source downloads. Some of this is better than stuff you pay for but sometimes you get what you pay for…