a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.

Parents Weekend…

Kurt Johnston —  October 8, 2010 — 4 Comments

A week ago we had a “Parents Weekend” in our Jr. High Ministry… where we invited parents to come and experience a regular weekend in Elevate — teaching, worship, games, meet their kid’s small group leader, the whole bit. Then afterwards, when their kids were in small groups, I gathered all the parents together to encourage them in the challenging job they have as parents of young teens — and to suggest some resources & ideas for them. Now that the weekend is in the rear-view mirror, I have a couple of observations:

- In our ministry, there’s still a pretty common stigma that “Parents are Uncool.” The week before, when I reminded students that the next weekend was Parents’ Weekend, there was actually an audible “boooo” from the crowd! Sure, it felt a little bit playful … but there are definitely students out there who are frustrated with parents, or embarrassed by parents, or maybe just didn’t like us messing with their safe place. I want to do everything I can to help kids & parents connect — even though there’s built-in challenge sometimes between them.

- I was a little surprised how encouraged I was every time a parent said something positive about our ministry. We can all feel underappreciated sometimes; at least I know that I can. And even though my ultimate significance doesn’t come from parents’ compliments — it did feel great to hear encouragement. There aren’t a whole lot of middle school students who pull me aside and say “Hey Scott, I just want to say THANKS for all that you do for us, planning, preparing, and trying to think of creative ways to point us kids towards Jesus!” So … it’s good to hear their parents say it sometimes.

- I was a little surprised how bummed I was when a parent had a stern criticism of our ministry. During the countdown before the program started, we showed a video of 2 middle school aged students singing a Justin Bieber’s song “Baby”, while their dad danced GOOFILY in the background. It was hilarious! Afterwards, a parent expressed great disappointment that we’d play a secular song in a church. I guess I was sad that it was his only observation from the 90 minutes he spent with us. One more reminder that you can’t please everybody all the time… nor should that be our primary goal!

My friend Matt McGill, podcast co-host and great youth ministry friend, has a great new blog called Love God, Love Students that is going to soon become another youth ministry daily stop for many youth workers. His site’s just coming online now, with some GREAT content, including this post about insecurity in youth ministry. Here’s an excerpt:

Insecurity is inescapable for youth workers.

We’ll never be cool enough. (If you think you are, just wait a few years.) We revisit our leadership decisions. We wonder if people like us. And the deepest bowel-shaking, fear-spawned question: Am I spiritual enough?

Insecurity is debilitating fear and doubt. Some fear and doubt is good (hungry, angry bears will maul you). Too much fear and doubt will ruin a person’s life (for example, believing there is a hungry, angry bear around every corner).

The opposite of insecurity is confidence, which is the attitude that comes from an accurate understanding of what we can control and the faith that God controls everything. “Too much” confidence is pride which says, “I don’t need God.”

Insecurity has a million different shades of meaning. So you and I can be on the same page, I’ve tried to establish a clear definition: insecurity is too much fear and doubt.

Living with deep insecurities isn’t God’s design for our lives. Fear makes it impossible to be experience the joy and significance we can have in Jesus. Also, God is calling us to be more like him, and that often means leaving our comfort zones. We can’t take these risks if we are filled with too much self-doubt. In the tough times and wild seasons of life, we can’t rest in God’s peace if we don’t trust him. We know all this, we teach it to the teenagers in our youth groups.


Halloween is coming!

Neely McQueen —  October 8, 2010 — 3 Comments

“In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”~ Cady from Mean Girls

Do you agree or disagree?

Posted By Kurt Johnston

Every fall, our church embarks on a church-wide campaign; meaning that over the duration of the campaign (usually 6-8 weeks) everybody is teaching the same stuff. This is quite often a challenge for the children and youth departments because the campaigns are often around topics that are very adult-centered and tough to make highly applicable to children and teenagers.

This year is no exception. Our campaign this year is “Decade of Destiny” and it revolves around the challenge to make the most of your life over the next 10 years….basically to use the next decade to leave your legacy. It’s good stuff, actually…but feels like a huge challenge to get junior highers thinking about the next 10 years when what they are most concerned about is simply making through next week!

If you have had success helping your junior highers think about how today affects tomorrow, making choices that impact their future, etc. I would LOVE to hear about it.

Or, just answer this question in the comments section: “Is it really possible for early adolescents to have a “long view”…to consider the future as they make decisions and lifestyle choices today?”

Posted By Kurt Johnston

Back in 1997 when I arrived at Saddleback, I noticed something right away that disturbed me; the junior high ministry was in the habit of using high school seniors as leaders. It bothered me partly because seniors in high school seemed so young and it felt like we, in essence, had a youth group within our youth group and seemed like a ton of work. But mostly it bothered me because it was unfamiliar….I hadn’t seen students that young in a hands-on leadership role before. In my previous settings, we had always had a “college age and over” age limit for our junior high volunteers. I can’t tell you why that was, it just was. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by what I observed! Our high school seniors have proven time and time again to be fantastic leaders.

Fast forward to today. Today as I was walking through our church office, I stopped to talk to Bryce Kelly. Bryce is just starting his JUNIOR year in high school and is about to embark on his journey as a junior high small group leader andwasin ourjunior high area to geta last minute pep talk. Yep, we have had such success with our seniors in high school that we have decided to use Bryce and his friend Elise as guinea pigs to see if high school juniors can serve well in junior high.

My hunch is that I will be pleasantly surprised once again.

You will never arrive.

I know that thought might be frustrating to you. Week after week, year after year, you’re headed toward some goal, and it is a goal you will never reach. In our calling, you’ll never reach the finish line. Here’s what I mean:

You put together the best 5-year plan ever created. You put into action a strategy to build your ministry on the eternal purposes of God. You had a moment where God showed you where you should lead your group. So you write it out, you take the first steps. You gain some momentum. Things are going great.

In fact, you’re moving from what started as a dream into seeing it actually happen in your ministry. Lives are being changed. It is going better than you ever dared to dream it might. You’re close to the goal. You can see the finish line.

Then … you realize that the area of your ministry that was so strong last year was starting to drift away from the original vision. What worked like crazy two years ago has plateaued. You lose a key volunteer. Apathy sets in, or spiritual dryness becomes commonplace. The amazing group of seniors graduated and the batch of incoming freshman are … well, freshman.

You may get closer to the goal, but you’ll never really get there. You’re not supposed to. You need to be OK with that fact. Youth ministry is about seasons of success, seasons of failure, busy seasons and busier seasons. Youth ministry is good, bad and ugly all wrapped into one. You will never arrive – God’s church and your leadership will always be a work in progress.

So wherever you are today in this cycle of never quite arriving – setting goals, almost reaching your goals, evaluating where you are at or completely starting over – celebrate! Celebrate that God wants you as part of the process and His church. Celebrate that God wants to use you to reboot, retool, relaunch or redo something.

It all keeps you humble, and those are the best youth ministry leaders. Leaders that never arrive.


Are you going?

Neely McQueen —  October 6, 2010 — Leave a comment

I am really excited to be a part of the Simply conference coming up in March! Are you going? I would love to connect with fellow youth workers who are passionate about helping girls. Let me know and we can grab coffee!