A few months ago, I noticed a major weakness in our student ministry administration. It seemed like we had a revolving door of student visitors with no sense of follow-up. We had informational cards, but it never seemed like we did anything with them. The result was seeing new students come week after week, but finding that we were ineffective in drawing them in to stay. A youth pastor friend of mine, Cody Mummau, turned me on to YouthTracker.net last November and it has changed the way we gather information and follow-up with students. YouthTracker is an online database system that inputs students, staff, leaders, and parents into one easily accessible dashboard. As a result, we have seen more consistency in our core group of students and it has given us an idea of the new students and MIA students that we need to follow-up on. The work on the front end is a little tedious, but it’s so easy once it’s set up. Here’s how we roll…

1) First, we have students fill out a basic info card that looks like this, just for some starting details to create a student profile.

2) One of my volunteers searches for the student via Facebook/Twitter and adds them. There’s a place where you can go into their YT profile and link it to their social networking profiles. This makes it easy for one of my volunteers to search for a student and makes it super easy to match faces with names. After that, we’ll invite the student to add or “Like” our ministry Facebook profile or page.

3) The next time that a student comes in to our service, all they have to do is sign-in with their name via one of our computer kiosks! An event is created prior to the service, but all the students see is a sign-in screen. At the end of the night, I can check the event details to see which students were present and which ones weren’t. You can even update it on the spot in case someone forgot to sign-in. When my volunteer inputs the new students and signs them in, the event details show “NEW” beside that student’s name.

Here are a few of the features we’ve found most effective:

  • Event Numbers — I know, I know, you’re NOT about the numbers. But that nifty line graph helps give you a true idea of your week-to-week attendence.
  • Contact Reports — This feature shows every student in your ministry along with two sections: the last time they attended an event and the last time they’ve been contacted (a leader has an option to record a contact {i.e. phone call, FB message, one-on-one time etc.}). This ensures that no student falls through the cracks. There’s also a sub-feature here where it will make a student inactive at a set time. Ours is 120 days. But if that student returns and signs in, no big deal. It makes them active once again.
  • Address/Google Maps — Ever had your volunteers call you looking for a student’s address? No headache now! Their address is synced up with Google Maps. Schwweeeeet!
  • Text Message/Email Service — You can text (5 cents per student) or email (free). The great thing about this feature though is that you can target certain students according to your events. So you can send a text to the students who were at your large group meeting saying, “Hey guys! Thanks for a great night! Remember to love extravagantly this week.” And to the students who could make it: “Hey guys! We missed you tonight. We read from Matthew 22:34-40 tonight and talked about loving God extravagantly. Hope to see you next week!”
  • Address Labels – This has saved us hours of time. To send out postcards, just go to “print address labels” and WAH-LAH! That information you put in from the info card transfers right onto an address label template.
  • Demographics/Schools – This gives you an idea of your student makeup from a list of schools (you can also input the school address and the student’s lunch), grades, gender, nationality, etc.
  • Student Growth – You can move students through various stages (core, committed, community, visitor) and log their commitments (salvation, baptism, filled with the Spirit, etc.).
  • Student Account — Your financial volunteer will love you. You can utilize the student account feature to keep up with retreats, trips, etc. It even has their T-Shirt size for that missions trip!
  • Areas – Want to track your middle-school and high-school ministry separate? No problem!

There’s a host of other details that would take me forever to explain. This resource has been so valuable to us. Though we all hate administrative duties sometimes, its kind of a necessary evil in student ministry. This tool makes it easy to get past the follow-up and informational stuff, freeing up time to do what’s important: build relationships with kids. The best $25 a month we’ve ever spent. Check it out!

Bradley K. Chandler is a graduate of Southeastern University and is the Student Ministries Pastor at Trinity Worship Center in Burlington, NC. Be sure to subscribe to his blog here — good stuff for sure.

Your schedule and mine? Too hectic. Reminds me of this old tv show where Ernie used to say, “If you’re too busy to fish, you’re just too busy!”

YMA recommends a process called a “rhythmic weekly schedule” which is used to help youth pastors get a healthy flow to the work week. Recently, a few friends helped me figure out a rhythmic month since my weeks aren’t normal. So many days are spent in the home office, a # of days are set aside for family, a certain # are left for travel, etc.

A friend, Mark DeVries, helped me with Sabbath days. They’re the first days now to go on my monthly calendar. I asked him to define what Sabbath looks like to him. “My goal is one day a week where I don’t open my computer.”

I totally get that. Once my computer’s “on” button is activated, its all over. 10 hours has flown by with no Sabbath rest at all.

Oh, I attend church almost every Sunday…but its more work than rest. Still worship but you know how that goes. No rest for the wicked! ;)

So now ask me to show you my calendar: you’ll see days blocked off in red marked Sabbath. Why red? You know why…


There is nothing more important when you’re selling a product than the branding you give it. That’s Business 101.

Out of all the logos listed to the left, you could probably identify the organization immediately. You know who it is, what they are selling and probably how you can get your hands on one of their products. They have relentlessly put their brand in front of you and convinced you it’s something you need.

Shouldn’t we be doing the same in ministry? I’m embarassed to admit, I haven’t done the best job in branding our ministry. As I was walking down the hall the other night, someone saw our banner in the hallway and said “Redeemed Student Ministry, what’s that?” The who we are answer was obvious but I haven’t done a very good job at explaining what we’re about.

The biggest disconnect between the church and student ministry happens when we fail to communicate our brand. Yes, they know that we exist and they know that we serve students but it’s not so obvious to what it is we do. It’s why churches want to cut the youth budget, or axe the youth guy first, whenever they run in to financial problems. They know that we play some wild and crazy games; or turn that music up a little too loud on Sunday mornings. Or even worse: video games!

What they don’t know is that our student ministries are a place for students to become more like Jesus, to work through life together with students their own age, and a place where they are loved on by caring adults. I’d love nothing more if the answer to the question, “what is the Redeemed Student Ministry about?” was the list mentioned above. What would happen if I communicated that clearly and relentlessly to our church family? The support for our ministries would come rolling in! Who doesn’t want that for their children? Yes, we do all of the silly things mentioned above — and they are an avenue for introducing students to our ministry. However, they don’t identify us — and they aren’t our focus.

Who we are is how the community feels about us — even if we’re dead wrong. If you could communicate your ministry in three words, would they be? Why? And would your students agree with your answer? (Quote from “Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches” by Rick Chromey + Stephanie Caro)

Zach Powell is the Pastor to Students and their families at Vienna Baptist church in Vienna, WV. You can check out his blog The Retreat for solid youth ministry insights.

Posted by Scott Rubin

What if I could “pay” volunteers what they’re worth?

Every year at this time, I think about how we can express gratitude to our volunteers who lead middle school small groups so diligently. There’s no question in my mind that our ministry is only as good as the caliber of shepherds we have for these students! I was talking with someone about using our small budget to buy some gift cards for volunteers — the amount was so small, for an investment so big, that their hourly rate would have been a tiny fraction of minimum wage!

Of course we all know that volunteers aren’t in it for the money. (Good thing!)
But it made me think of how we CAN show appreciation to our volunteers, without breaking the bank…

- By writing WORDS of gratitude for them to read. I’m a “words” person, for sure. When I read someone’s thoughts about how they’ve seen God at work through me, it fires me up. For lots of our volunteers, an authentic paragraph with specific thoughts will be far more valuable than money.

- By RECOGNIZING them in front of other volunteers. Every year we have a celebration breakfast, and we honor those people who’ve made great contributions to middle school students. Even those who hate the spotlight feel appreciated! We specially celebrate every volunteer who’s completed all 3 years with the same small group. This year we’re also celebrating 2 volunteers who are having their five-year-anniversary in our middle school ministry, and 1 more who has served for TEN years! It inspires me, and also envisions other volunteers to stick around for the long haul!

- By telling STORIES of God at work. At this point in the year, it’s so fun to look back & remember the places where we saw God’s fingerprints on the lives of students. Both the “big” things… like students who’ve decided this year to follow Jesus for the first time… to the “smaller” things, like the girl who prayed out loud for the first time… or the boy who, for the first time, made it through an entire small group conversation without farting.

I’m sure there are a million more ways…

We’re doing a quick survey to see what name is best for a “day of service” event for youth groups. The survey is only one question…so please help us out and tell us what name resonates most with you!

Event Name Survey


Was talking with one of the members of our youth ministry team recently – she told the story about one of the girls in her small group being in the hospital for testing and facing some potentially pretty serious health issues just around the corner. The response of the rest of the girls in her group was quick and simple, “what can our small group do?”

That might be the best phrase a student can ask, I think. It shows a depth of maturity not seen in many of that age. It means:

  • they get fellowship – the strength of community in a small group
  • they get discipleship – they’ve matured to unselfishness
  • they get ministry – we are about action not observation

I was excited to hear that phrase, especially when it is said by a teenager. Excited about what God can do with that kind of heart. Excited to see how they answer that question.


I have “a friend” who has spent the last year navigating what seems like an ocean of new leadership waters. He has done some things right, and has also made plenty of leadership mistakes. Some of these mistakes are “new” mistakes…mistakes made because he is in uncharterd territory and has faced some leadership scenarios he’s never faced before. But, a shockingly large amount of the mistakes are mistakes that could have (should have) been avoided. Because they came wrapped in new packages, some old-school leadership principles were missed.

Here are a few of the mistakes “my friend” has made this year.

- Neglecting The Basics. “My Friend” has been at his church for a long, long time and has done a fantastic job of beating the drum of things like values, purpose-statement, team culture, etc. But the speed in which these things slip off people’s radar caught him off guard. He wrongly assumed that because the basics had been covered so well and so often that he could neglect them for a season. This, coupled with the fact that his team has gone through a fair amount of turnover, has resulted in the need to start beating the drum loudly again.

- Delegating The Wrong Stuff. “My Friend” knows the importance of delegation, empowering others to help carry the load, etc. But in his efforts to get more done and remain sane he has, on more than one occassion, decided to delegate things that should remain on his plate. Things that he is better at than anybody else, things that he doesn’t like to do but is supposed to do, things that put too much pressure on others because of their urgency, things that are mundane and draining (his thinking was “hey, let somebody else be bored!). Delegation, when done properly, can be a leader’s best friend. When done poorly, it causes a ton of grief.

- Becoming A Mile Wide, And An Inch Deep. This may be the one that is causing “My Friend” the most heartache. On one hand, he is getting more done and seeing more success than at any other time in his ministry career. But at the same time his busyness has caused some of his relationships to suffer, it has squeezed out things like exercise, surfing (weird, “My Friend” likes to surf, too!), and other things that matter most.

Life and ministry are great for “My Friend”, but when he slows down enough to take an up-close look at things, it is easy to see where things have gotten a little off kilter, and he is determined to tighten the screws where he needs to.

Learn from my friend…..I sure have.


 —  May 5, 2011 — Leave a comment

We just launched HSMBlog.com – our new official site for the High School Ministry at Saddleback Church. It was created and designed by our recently upgraded-to-full-time Parker Stech, and is built on the Tumblr platform. Turned out great!