Before I was a Youth Pastor, I was a volunteer in the same ministry I work in now for a decade, loving and serving High School students week in and week out and pouring myself into them and trying to point them to Christ. It was a passion, to see them grow in their Faith and grow as people, learning to be in the world and live a life for Christ. It took time and effort to be a part of, but it was life giving, and having the opportunity to see God moving in my small group was a privilege.

The Bar has always been set pretty high in our ministry when it comes to expectations of our team but I am sensing that it is time to consider how to raise the bar again to a level that I think is unapologetically high, but attainable, and it all starts at the top.

Don’t ask for more than you would give: In the first 7 years of being a volunteer at our Church I missed Youth 3 times, which I recognize is extreme. But the reality is that if I am going to ask my team to prioritize their week around investing their time at our program week after week, its important that I am able to model the high standard that I ask of them.

Volunteer like they do: Youth time is not work time. I ask our volunteers to give up 6 hours of their week including our weekly program and connecting with their students mid-week. If I am going to ask them to give up their free time to serve our students, I am willing to do the same and don’t count our youth night as paid time but as volunteer and shows that you value their time as you do your own.

Students deserve the best: Warm bodies are filler at best, but as the spiritual leaders of our flock, they deserve the best volunteers you can find to lead small groups, worship and any other event. They need Christ focused adults who model a healthy spiritual life and spur them on to do the same and our time with these students is too short to settle for less than the best. Allowing people to serve half heartedly can’t not only be discouraging to other leaders, but detrimental to their students when your committed leaders are constantly filling in the gaps each week. Recruit and train the best leaders you can find.

Make Time For Leaders: If we ask our team to connect with their students during the week, then I need to make time to connect with our leaders. Whether it’s a coffee or a McDonalds breakfast, face-to-face connection, encouragement and discussion goes a long way to keeping your team engaged.

God honours commitment: I truly believe that God honours commitment, and that we can and should ask our volunteers to be 100% in, that their Yes be their Yes. There is nothing more disappointing than a small group leader fizzling out half way through the year, but outlining and modeling the expectations will go a long way to building a culture of longevity in ministry. Longevity encourages longevity and some of the most fruitful youth ministries I have seen have been lead by Pastors invested long-term in the lives of students.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

Yipes – I need to way step up my game! Based on these, I’ll really try and do better. Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson says it so much better than me.

So I need to be better at responding to comments, keeping to closer to small group ministry stuff, and updating a little more. (I’ve had a purposeful two week break taking care of #7

Posted by Scott Rubin

(Here’s a simple post, following Kurt’s more profound one about “The Bridge”… which I loved)

It’s one week until summer camp! We decided to do our summer camp starting on the day that school gets out, hoping that we can help our students jump right into a pattern of connecting with God for the summertime. (Once it’s over, I can tell you whether this was a brilliant idea… or just an idea.)

As I head towards summer camp each year, I seem to tell myself similar things:

- Somehow, all the prep will get done! (It always seems like I could use a few more days.)

- God’s always been in control of it, I just give myself the illusion that I can “create” a great camp experience.

- Middle school students are not too young to be challenged spiritually! Our whole camp this year revolves around the centrality of reading the Bible, and how jr. highers are capable of hearing from God this way.

- Please, please, please God, keep these students safe. Middle schoolers are capable of hearing from God, but also capable of irrational things.

- There will always be one kid whose parents thought it’d be ok to send them with a duffel bag full of candy & caffeinated drinks, instead of clothes & a toothbrush.

Here’s the #1 reason that people attend a particular church – based on a survey of over 8,000 people upon the completion of Saddleback’s new members class.

#1 — Preaching and Teaching
THIS is the biggest reason people choose one church over another – the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. I’m sure it has some to do with content and some to do with style – but regardless it is the most important distinctive between churches. The conversations “how was the pastor’s message” isn’t just dining room table talk – its real and it matters. It certainly isn’t fair … but this list is just a presentation of reality and nothing more. So according to this research – the teaching at church is the central strength or weakness.

Youth ministry application: You don’t have to be the world’s best communicator, but you need to be good and getting better every week. Use volunteers who are solid communicators. Don’t be afraid to use video curriculum or try a style way outside of what is normal. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word is central in the health and growth of the church. Sermon preparation and your personal time with God are critically important to success.


I thought that Kurt (my boss and Student Ministries Pastor here at Saddleback) may have posted his best blog post so far – this one not really about junior high ministry but about the idea to subtly shift youth ministry a little closer to the adult services so the leap isn’t impossible after graduation. Here’s a clip, definitely worth the click over for the rest:

- We are going to eliminate much of the “competing activities”. We currently do a whole lot of “youth versions” of things such as a youth version of our membership class, a youth version of missions trips, a youth version of deeper learning bible studies etc. We are going to take a close look at these and determine which ones we can eliminate and jump on board with the ones offered for adults.

- We are going to creatively look for ways to get our students to actually attend an adult service on a somewhat regular basis! The older the students, the more effort we will make. So we will work extremely hard to get our college kids in the adult services, work sorta hard to get high schoolers there, and work a little bit to get our junior highers there.

- We are going to create a few easy events that intentionally get our students to rub shoulders with the adults (the above strategies also do this…). For instance, I friend of mine just shared that his group invited the senior citizens in their church to a movie and popcorn night to watch the movie “UP”. He said it was one of the easiest, most effective things they have done in a long time.



Posted by Kurt Johnston

I am really excited about the new book, The Disconnect, by Doug Franklin for two primary reasons:

FIRST: Because the subject matter is fresh and vital! This book is dedicated to helping youth workers build a stronger relationship with their Senior Pastor. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there has ever been a book dedicated to this area; an area that has caused so much pain and confusion to so many youth workers over the years….and to an equal number of Senior Pastors, I’m sure.

In my previous post, I talked about the gap between the youth ministry and the rest of the church body…a gap that is massive and needs to be shortened. Is it possible that a primary reason this gap exists is due to an equally large gap in the relationship between youth workers and the rest of the church staff, specifically the Senior Pastor? While I had never thought about that, after seeing this book I think the answer is obvious. This book is dedicated to shortening the bridge that youth workers and Senior Pastors have to cross in order to have a healthy relationship with one another. GOOD STUFF!

SECOND: I am excited about this book (and partly frustrated because I wish I had the idea!) because of the way it is laid out. It is like the old classic “flip” books that are actually two books in one…half of the book is written to the youth pastor, then you flip the book over and the other half is written to the Senior Pastor. Creativity at it’s best!

If you work with teenages under the leadership of a Senior Pastor…buy this book! And tell others about it.

Teen Pregnancy creates a lot of questions for me. I know there are pregnant teen girls- unfortunately, I’ve rarely seen them plugged into a youth ministry. (It’s happened…I’ve seen it…but it’s REALLY rare.) And I think that’s too bad.

So, I have some questions for you.

Has your ministry been impacted by teen pregnancy? Does your ministry do anything to care for pregnant teens or teen moms? I would love to learn from you!

Saddleback Church surveyed over 8,000 people who were finishing the required membership class and asked them why they were joining the church. Here’s #2 on their list of things that were most important to them:

#2 — Worship
Worship is the second most important thing people think about when they consider joining a church. This is far more than music – the atmosphere of your church is huge. Music plays a VERY significant role. The place of worship, the intentional program, the clarity of the big idea that is being shared even people’s faces matter every Sunday morning. The church service as a whole is a deal-maker or deal-breaker in the minds of many people choosing your church. Passionate, God-centered, inspiring and authentic churches invite people in.

Youth ministry application: When someone, especially a teenager, gives you an hour of their time – make it great. Never miss an opportunity to create a moment for students to pause and listen to God. Never waste an opportunity on the platform by starting service prep on Saturday night. Plan ahead and allow people to be creative. Take risks.

Be hard on yourself and your church. How do people feel when they walk in the doors for the first time?