If you are a parent or a youth worker…than you have heard these four little words before:

“Everybody is doing it!”

You can choose your it…sex, alcohol, swearing, cheating, gossiping…Pick your poison!

Take sex for example…in this past week, I have found that in THEIR world…those words can be true. Just a few highlights from the week:

1. Went to a local surf shop with my husband and found the most offensive boardshorts (boardshorts!!) I have ever seen. I took a picture but I am pretty certain it’s not a good idea for me to post them. Basically, they are shorts with actual pictures of NAKED women. Boardshorts with pictures of real live ladies’ butts. What? Who buys these things??

2. Met with another youth worker who was talking about a group of girls that she works with and of the 5 or 6 girls all of them are struggling with sexual temptation. And they are finding that the fact that they are all doing it…justification for them doing it. Girls from church in a small group…having sex and saying it’s okay because we are all doing it.

Everybody is doing it. In their world…it just might be true.

How can we help?

1. Get in their world. Don’t let them be there alone without a caring adult.

2. Make their world bigger. Introduce them to the world of people who aren’t doing it. Show them their life is bigger than this moment…and their current world.

3. Keeping introducing Jesus to their world. It can be easy to get caught up in it all. But Jesus can change everything. Never tire of His story. When you are feeling overwhelmed by their world – remember that he knows it and can overcome it.

Let’s help our girls out of their world!

The second bumper video for our How To Raise Your Parents series in HSM. The ending changes each week, fun!


So many aspects of youth ministry leadership find themselves in direct opposition of each other. The problem is – they both can be necessary and good things. The first step is to identify the tensions of youth ministry, and then figure out how to manage them. Here are a few of them I’ve identified, feel free to add another in the comments if one comes right to mind:

Tasks vs. People
There is work to be done! And administrative work and email is part of the gig. But the tension could push you to fail people or fail at paperwork. You can’t do either one! There is a tension here, but a competent youth pastor has to fight though the tension and balance both well.

Program vs. Relationships
I love a great program – but the programs and services we offer pail in comparison to what the world offers. Yes, we need to spend time crafting and creating incredible programs and creative elements to share the timeless message of Christ. At the same time – we offer so much more than that! We LOVE people! There is another tension at stake, and neither can suffer. Get the program stuff done, even done well, and pour into people.

Crowd vs. Individual
I am a crowd person al the way, but the tension is to find time to focus on the individual. Both are critically important! I live in this tension every week, and must remember that the crowd is made up of individuals. Every moment that you spend with individuals builds your crowd, and in every crowd situation you have to focus on the individual.

One last one for now … this old post from 2008 about Workaholic vs. Passionate Worker might be a good read.

What else do you see as a tension of youth ministry?


Don’t be shocked when your small groups start to really fall off at the end of the year – unfortunately in my experience and conversations with other youth workers it is completely normal. I think there are a few ways to fight it (that would make a good post in the future) but here’s the reality of our small group attendance each year:

October – 95%
This is the kickoff season of the year but even them we can never quite get 100% of everyone that signed up actually in attendance. There is a great launch momentum piggybacking on the back to school season that helps bring everyone out to group. We also charge $30 for small groups, and that investment helps everyone value that while the cost is still on their mind.

January – 75%
Attendance is usually pretty good through the fall and the start to a new year, I’d be happy with a consistent 3 out of 4 students in groups, but as the school year wears on regular attendance becomes more challenging. We hold close to this number I would guess through Spring Break. Prom season, homecoming and sports seasons are particularly challenging and sometimes in direct competition to groups. Quick aside: just because a group isn’t meeting doesn’t mean great things aren’t happening relationally between the small group leader and their students.

May – 60%
It is hard to believe, but by the end of the school year many groups have just over half the kids they started with. There are bright spots in the groups, some are going strong and a few have all but disbanded. We do our best to keep on trucking through the end of the school year and break for summer.

What does your small group attendance look like especially this time of year?


From time to time I post a youth ministry question that I’ve received and leave it to you, the MTDB youth ministry community, to answer it. This one from a youth worker in Pennsylvania, but it could be from anyone since it applies to so many. Chime in with your wisdom, response and best practices. Go!

I’m a youth pastor that is considering a move from Sunday School to in-home small groups. I wanted some advice on how to make the transition, and if it was the right decision at all. It seems like a good move for us, but there are so many variables. Would appreciate any help – thanks!


Posted By Kurt Johnston

Typically, I am a pretty motivated guy. I’m a self-starter who rarely needs much help to get moving on things. Because of that, I quickly notice when I seem to be lacking motivation, enthusiasm, desire etc. Over the years, I have created a fairly short checklist that I run through whenever I am lacking my normal motivation. Not sure it is complete, but thought I would share it:

- Am I too busy? . Often, my lack of motivation stems from a sense of overwhelmed paralysis. Since there is so much to do…I do nothing.

Am I bored?. Boredom, routine, same old same old almost always kills my motivation.

Do I have unresolved conflict?. I carry unresolved conflict like a stone around my neck. Because I tend to avoid conflict, it is often something that goes unresolved when it appears, and the dread of dealing with it is an energy zapper for me.

Do I love what I am doing, and am I walking close to The Father? The first pastor I served under was also the pastor of my church as a teenager and performed my wedding…he is a hero to me. He once said that he believed if you are doing what you love, and walking closely with The Father….you could never burn out. I am not sure that is completely true, but it certainly has merit, and it has stuck with me. When I find myself lacking motivation, I always ask myself if I still love and feel called to junior high ministry, and if I am walking closely with the Father.

What would you add to this check list?

Posted by Kurt Johnston

- Today the big story is that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child out of wedlock about 10 years ago…apparently, his wife knew nothing of it until recently. Very sad. In other news, his newest movie is set to be released soon: “The Sperminator” (I wanted to tweet that earlier today, but my wife warned me not too….this may be a safer place for a bit like that!)

- Last Saturday, we hosted the “Understanding Your Teenager” seminar and received SPECTACULAR reviews by the parents who attended. Wayne Rice, who created the seminar, was our presenter…but I am sure the other folks who present would be equally awesome. It really was the best thing we have done for parents in a long, long time.

- The return of the SJH podcast is on the horizon! I am thinking through a few tweaks to the format to make the podcast as useful to viewers as possible. One of the things I would like to do is discuss user-submitted topics. If you have a topic you would like to see addressed on the podcast, would you please shoot me an email at kurtj@saddleback.com

Last summer was incredible so this summer we’re hoping to build on what we learned and have another great break. Here is a little insight behind what HSM has planned for this summer. If you haven’t seen the calendar and list of events yet, you can check it out here:

All about relationships
The summer is all about hanging with students. We embrace the beauty of time off from school and the different pace around the church office. Summer = relational ministry goldmine.

Free, free, free
Summer camp is the signature event to kickoff the summer and the only one that costs money – after that every event is totally free. In the past we have had events that each charge admission, and over time these add up to frustrated parents and limiting participation.

Low prep time
The events on the summer calendar are meant to be low-prep time events. They are basically excuses to do relational ministry. Prep for Free Coke Friday? Grab some frisbees and a cooler of Gatorade. Done!

Regular recurring events
Want to remember the summer schedule? Every event happens 7 times this summer. 7 Midweeks, 7 Free Coke Fridays, 7 Bagels & Bibles. If you come to one, you can figure out the schedule for the summer. If you’re free on a Friday, you know what we’re up to that day.

Lots of Bible time
One of the big emphasis of our summer is plenty of time in the Word. One of the advantages of no small groups and no high school classes is that we have blocks of time and regular opportunities to pull off our own classes fr spiritual growth.

What should we try next summer that is working for you?