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?


Here is one of the student testimonies from this past weekend in HSM. It was part of our occasional STORIES weekend where students share what God is doing in their lives. Good stuff, if you want to see the other 5, hit up this link, too.


A Bridge Too Far

 —  June 1, 2011 — 7 Comments

Posted by Kurt Johnston

Using analogies can be a dangerous proposition. A few years ago my Pastor used the analogy of a mulligan (a term used in golf for a “do-over”) to describe the gift of forgiveness and grace. Because he is in the spotlight, numerous bloggers jumped all over his use of such a “simplistic definition of such a wonderfully deep concept” etc.

Since I’m not talking about a theological issue….and also since I’m really not in danger of too many bloggers (at least the highly critical type) even reading this post, I am going to use an analogy today. That of a bridge.

I believe that in virtually every church in America there exists a bridge….a bridge between the youth group and the rest of the body of christ (call it big church, the adult congregation etc.). It is a bridge our students will need to cross at some point very soon. For some churches, the bridge is long…really, really long. In others the church is fairly short. And in a few churches, the bridge barely exists. But make no mistake…there is a bridge.

The reason for the bridge is obvious: There is a gap between where most youth ministries exist and where the larger church body exists. For some, the gap is physical and obvious: The youth ministry meets in a seperate building or seperate area specifically set apart for students. For others, the gap is less pronounced due to shared space, tighter quarters etc. But make no mistake…there is a gap; and this gap requires a bridge.

I want a shorter bridge! I want the transition from youth ministry to involvement and commitment to church life in adulthood to be a shorter, more natural journey for the students who leave our ministry. But to shorten the bridge, I MUST begin to address the gap that currently exists. The junior high and high school and college ministries I have the joy of leading aren’t going away. I don’t buy into the idea that youth ministry is broken, that it is the primary reason kids leave the church etc. But I do believe that modern youth ministry has played a role.

Here are a few super practical ways I am going to attempt to shorten the gap…and the bridge.

- We are going to look for ways to help students get “more skin in the game”. In other words, we are going to make concerted efforts for our students to serve in ministry and use their gifts outside of the walls of our youth group. We are going to talk with the leaders of church-wide ministries and figure out a way to get more of our teenagers serving the church body.

- 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, a 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.

A gap exists. And that gap requires a bridge. I don’t think the gap will ever disappear completely because the transition from adolescence to adulthood is an interesting one in all segments of society, not only the church. But I am committed to closing the gap, and shortening the bridge.

I know it isn’t a perfect analogy…in which case I will use a mulligan!

I was at a “everything is $2″ bookstore recently and stumbled on a book I couldn’t pass up – The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams. Dilbert has long been one of my favorite comic strips, probably because of my connection to his world through my business degree. Everyone can relate though, because we’re all to familiar with bosses, org charts, and where we rank in them. The best chapters (which are each filled with comics, too) are on teamwork and management. So funny and painful. Amidst the sarcasm and humor comes a few really tangible potential learnings that may surprise you. By making fun of what leaders to, he begins to point us all toward better leadership that cares and our people and our products. All in all this old book (first published in 1997) made for some fun and highly-entertaining reading the past couple of weeks.


Musical Dilemma

 —  June 1, 2011 — 2 Comments

A few girls got together last night for ice cream. We had a blast…talking, laughing, eating. One of the girls brought some henna and was having fun on everyone’s arms. It was very fun.

I gave a handful of the girls a ride home. And was reminded once again that as much as I stay in touch with culture…since I am not a teenager…I miss a lot of it.

One girl plugged her ipod in- and I set up the rules for music. No profanity and nothing overly sexual. They were passing the ipod around and each girl was picking out various songs. At one point, someone started playing a Katy Perry song…one I had NEVER heard.

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock?
What you waiting for?
It’s time for you to show it off
Don’t be a shy kind of guy
I bet it’s beautiful
Come on, baby; let me see
What you hidin’ underneath

I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock
Your peacock, cock
Your peacock, cock, cock
Your peacock
I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock
Your peacock, cock
Your peacock, cock, cock
Your peacock
I wanna see your

Wowzer! It’s safe to say it didn’t take long for me to put an end to that song. The girls thought it helped to explain to me that it’s just a funny song…nothing serious. But I explained that it didn’t matter…it was serious!

It reminded me of a few things:

*We can model decision making process all day long but sometimes modeling isn’t enough…they need to hear from us that what we put into our minds impacts how we behave.

*The world is sending MAJORLY messed up messages. Our voice needs to be right there in the mix…relevant and alive.

*It’s not a bad idea to load your ipod with a safe, fun and cool list of songs for those times in the car with your girls. Modeling good and fun decision making…and still staying in control of what happens.

What do you think about the music dilemma? What do you do?

#3 — Service Opportunities
This was the only surprise to me in the Top 5 – people we surveyed in our membership class valued opportunities to serve even over children’s and youth ministry. I guess it shows the depth of people wanting to play a part in what is happening, not just watch it on stage. Churches that are attracting people are creating places for them to serve within and without. Within the church there are many opportunities to use your gifts, talents and passions. And we must also create missional opportunities to serve without in their community as well. In some senses, this creates a new pathway for other people to attend your church – they were served in some way and are so curious they come to check out the organization that sent out the people in the first place. If your congregation is just sitting they’re not sticking.

Youth ministry application: Focus on getting students in ministry inside and outside the church. Make a list of places students can serve on the weekend or in youth group and place a key volunteer over it all. Find another leader to oversee service projects in your community and schedule at least a few times a year. There is huge momentum in social causes right now, and it is a big reason why people choose a church.

When is your next serve project coming up?