Each day this week I’ve been posting the results of a new member survey from our church. Here’s reason #4 from a Top Ten list of why people join our church … and the one I’m most excited about:

#4 — Children’s and Youth Ministry
Children’s and youth ministry are VERY important to the church. Actually, that isn’t exactly what the research is saying. Children’s and youth ministry are VERY important to a family deciding which church to attend. Yup, that’s more accurate. Know this – when someone walks through the door on a Sunday morning they are looking for a safe environment for their children. They’re looking for a vibrant youth ministry. They’re looking for spiritual partners in helping raise their kids. If you don’t have one or give it a low priority/visibility, it will show up in who does or doesn’t stick.

One aside: this was #4 on the list of “most important when choosing a church” including plenty of people who didn’t have kids/teenagers at all and those with children long out of the house. Makes me think this one would be even MORE important for those specifically in this life stage.

Youth ministry application: You are an incredibly important part of your church. It might not show up in a ton of affirmation, perks or even understanding, but you are. Youth ministry is one of the key reasons that people choose your church. So make it great. Stick it out through the tough times. Make it better. Always remember the importance of what you do and your calling.


I just finished up Onward by Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks. It was a gift (read: required reading) from my boss Kurt Johnston. Of course, it wasn’t a chore – I’ve been wanting to pick up the book after seeing it recently and am fascinated by how “it” companies like Apple and Starbucks work on the inside. The book was full of incredible insights with tons of youth ministry applications – but let me tell you right out of the gate that it is about 100 pages too long. The amount of detail is staggering, and quite honestly gives you an appreciation for the capacity of Howard Schultz. Here are a a few of the key things that stood out to me:

  • Howard took incredible risks. Some paid off, others totally bombed. When was my last risk?
  • People are what matter most. Period.
  • Howard took his time building an incredible team. Success is never solo.
  • One evening every Starbucks in the nation was closed for training. How much do I value training?
  • Over time, Starbucks changed reporting their “comps” to focus on other measurements. Am I looking at the right numbers?
  • Starbucks rebirth was guided by 7 principles. What are mine? What is guiding me?

Lots of good stuff. Great book.


I’ve been posting the results of a new member survey from our church that gives some incredible insight as to why people choose a particular church. Here are #6-10, if you missed the first half of the series:


#10 – Special Events and Activities

#9 – Availabilty of Church Near Our Home/Location/Campuses

#8 – Missions

#7 – Different Styles of Worship

#6 – Small Groups and Discipleship classes

Here’s reason #5 from a Top Ten list of why people join our church … I’ll post another each day this week!

#5 — Pastoral Care
The top 5 reasons are what matter most in this survey. If you want to know why people stick in your church, these will be it. At #5 this week – pastoral care. In short, if people are cared for, they’ll stick around. If you help someone through a tough time in their life, the stronger the connection is between them and the body. A wise man once said, “they’ll never care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” If this is true – time spent caring for people is critically important to faithfulness. It brings up some great questions: do people feel cared for in your church? Are you empowering tons of volunteers to do ministry? Are the people doing pastoral care, or just the pastor?

Youth ministry application: You can create a lifetime fan and a loyal follower of Jesus by walking through a tough time with a student or his/her family. Some of the best ministry moments happen when you’re in the thick of life: sitting with a pregnant daughter about to tell her parents what happened. Showing up when someone close to them passes away. Counseling them through a relational crisis.

Show up in people’s lives and people will show up in your church.


I don’t know what happened to me in the past few weeks, but its been really discouraging. Students and parents upset about the strangest and most inconsequential things, leaders struggling with life and their relationship with God. It just seems like when it rains it pours and in the midst of the rain, the enemy can stick his foot into the door and make it really hard to close. There is that moment where I am sure many of us have been, where doubt creeps in. Doubt that you are capable of leading, doubt that your decisions are the right choices and doubt that you are where God is calling you to be.

This time of uncertainty is filled with an overwhelming sense of spinning your wheels. Questioning things you have said, done or decisions you have made as well, it can become debilitating, to the point where you can’t seem to get anything done. That is where I was at for a few weeks, being held back by doubt, and feelings of inferiority and a general lack of vision.

Here are a few things God is teaching me and I think you need to know in times like this:

The right decision is not always the popular one: Leading by consensus is ineffective (and can make you popular for a season), but leading by vision will make you unpopular sometimes. Trust the direction God is showing you, He has bigger and better plans for the ministry than people know. Stand by the call you made, explain where necessary but you needn’t apologize for making the right call on something.

You represent a large group: Parents may be upset that you are not catering to their child, but the reality is that you are making decisions for the group as a whole, and when parents are upset with you, its often because things didn’t go their way or their child’s way. Giving in to that sets a dangerous precedent, but preferential treatment will breed unhealthy expectations.

Love them all, Trust a few: Be really mindful of whom you confide in, make sure that the people you bounce ideas, situations and issues with are people who have the best interests of you and the ministry in mind and are people of integrity. These people are harder to find, and in the Church context people will befriend you to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

You are Called!: This is number one, remembering that you are called to be where you are. You are the God appointed person for that ministry and those students and leaders are entrusted to you. The enemy will try and convince you that you are wrong, but it is the place you need to be. I have been praying that God would give me the strength kick the foot of doubt out of my door and regain the passion and vision that comes from leading and He is doing that. You are called to Lead, students, volunteers and parents, Lead with the confidence that it is God who placed you there, and equipped you for the battles.

I pray that none of you ever end up in a place where you question your leadership, but if you do, I pray that God gives you the strength to endure.

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.


A few weeks ago I tweeted from the orange conference, “Youth Pastors, no where in our job description does it say we have to be loud, obnoxious, & immature. Let’s make a new stereotype!” I’m sorry if this has offended any of my youth pastor friends but I feel like I have the right to make fun, because I unfortunately, at times fall into this stereotype. But I wonder what it would look like if youth pastors took this stereotype and shattered it.

Insert soapbox here, I have a dream…

That one day youth pastors will rise up and live out of their true calling: “To go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20

I have a dream that one day the youth pastor, will return every voice mail and email in a timely manner.

I have a dream that one day the youth pastor, will communicate details BEFORE someone asks for them.

I have a dream that one day the youth pastor, will arrive EARLY for a meeting.

I have a dream that one day, the youth pastor will hand in their purchase orders more often than once a year.

I have a dream that one day, the youth pastor will be defined by the content of their character not the amount of “I’m sorry” cards they have written.

I have a dream that one day the youth room will be clean enough to be transformed into an oasis of freedom and rest, not a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

I have a dream today.

This is my hope. With this we will be able to transform the typical stereotypes of youth ministry into a beautiful symphony of respectable ministry. With this accomplished we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for Jesus together, knowing that we will see Him one day.

stepping down from the soap box.

That’s my dream, so join me today as we shatter the stereotypes!

Rob Schwinge blogs almost daily over at www.alittlebitdifferent.org Check him out!

Pastor Rick Warren talks with John Piper about The Purpose Driven Life. Good stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I was working with a student who had decided to make one of the stupidest choices in his life so far. It was tough to see him get hurt the way he did because we had such a good relationship. I felt like I had failed, trying to be a good role model and him not following in that path. But I was determined to work with him again and help him grow.

  • I know that teens sometimes do not make the best decisions simply because they did not know better, he knew better.
  • I know that sometimes students are raised in crappy situations, he is not one of them.
  • I know that many people his age do not know what God wants for them and so live their life-like the world, he knows some stuff better than I do.

So for six months, I was extra intentional with him, to show him Christ’s love and talk with his parents about what is going on. Then, one day I get the phone call from the father that his son would not be coming with us to the ski retreat because he had done something even more dumb than last time. I put on a good face for the phone call that lasted for thirty minutes, but I was deeply hurting.

“How could he do this? What was going on in his mind? Was he even listening to me?”

I spent several hours in prayer, for his parents, for him, for those around him, and myself. At the end of my time with God, He spoke something deeply into my heart, “Let me do this. Ask him the tough questions and listen to what he has to say, but let Me be the one to fix the situation.”

The idea is not theologically revolutionary, but in this context for me, I was blown away. My heart was filled with joy, it was not my job to fix the situation and make sure the student does the right thing. I let go of the crisis and gave it up to God and my heart rejoiced for His wisdom and power.

So what are you holding on to? What is the worst thing that could happen if you let go and let God be God?

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years – check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

One of our Life Group leaders, Blair Wilson, shares his story on video on the last week of the How to Raise Your Parents Series.