99 Thoughts on Leading Well is the first book by Reza Zadeh and seventh in Group Publishing’s line of 99 Thoughts (I’ve written 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers and 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders). Reza’s little book of leadership wisdom is a collection of his learnings in his experience as a college pastor, as well as a collection of principles gleans from a host of other sources. If you’re an avid reader of leadership books (like me), the book may feel familiar in parts and only take stride near the middle and through the end. If you’re not overloading on leadership books from everyone and their mother, this assortment of experience and acumen will help guide you as you serve students and your volunteer team.


SIDE NOTE: The cover looks an AWFUL lot like it has a fried egg on it, right?

Few would argue that some of the most passionate, gifted energy among us is housed in those who are college-aged. And yet few have succeeded in pointing such passion and energy toward lasting, healthy ends-especially in the church.

Most churches and families have programmed a finish line at twelfth grade. We walk our seniors out the door, breathe a deep sigh of relief, and let them disappear. The problem is most never come back. Too old for youth group-and feeling too displaced by labels like “single” or “young adult,” the majority of college-aged Christians disconnect from faith communities. “They’ll rework themselves into our system once grown-up,” we of an older generation surmise. “Once they’re married with kids and able to tithe. For now, however, they seem like a lost cause and our attentions are better focused elsewhere.”

This slow fade is slowly eliminating the potentials and influence of this generation and thus, the impact of the modern church.

What would it look like for a senior pastor, a college pastor, and a twentysomething to sit around the table and flesh-out issues of the current generation’s fade from the church? In The Slow Fade, Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of the reThink Group, Chuck Bomar, former college pastor of Cornerstone in Simi Valley, CA, and I have done just this. Moving between perspectives of pastor, father, and friend, we confront this fading generation and lend insights toward its halt.

The typical model of twentysomething ministry involves about four worship songs, a sermon, and an emotive ending song to stir the heightening finale. (In the more eclectic circles, the front- and back-ends of worship might be swapped.) From here the emotionally caffeinated crowd disperses to the nearest coffeehouse, Waffle House, or frat house and flirts with the herd until the next gathering.

And we wonder why adolescents are struggling to adequately move into adulthood. We wonder why eighteen to twenty-five year olds have little to no lasting involvement with our faith communities. When the reality is, as adult believers, we have some responsibility in this. We’re among the reasons adolescents are not healthily assimilating into adulthood, because we’ve not shown them how their role matters. Furthermore, how crucial they are to our whole, should we ever hope to bring lasting Love to the world.

A discussion of the most overlooked and underdeveloped facet of the modern church, The Slow Fade makes a case for inter-generational relationships as the way to keep college-aged people engaged in faith. Leveraged belonging is necessary for lasting connectivity. Connecting college-aged people to the life of the church requires more than a flashy band, or even a relevant sermon. It requires individual care and a felt sense of belonging. If you show me my part in the whole, I will continue to show up. Meaning, the answer is not a new program and doesn’t cost a dime. The answer lies within any willing adult wanting to have influence.

College-aged people are making some of the most critical choices of their lives. And any adult who chooses to invest in the life of a college student is likewise choosing to invest in a generation. More than ever, this age-stage needs a community of faith and willing individuals interested in their lives. And we have the chance to play that role. A clan of sleeping giants lies in our midst, and we have the chance to wake them-and maybe even be woken-up ourselves.

Abbie Smith wrote her first book, Can You Keep Your Faith in College (Multnomah, 2006), while a Religion major at Emory University. She recently graduated from Talbot Seminary, in Los Angeles, with a degree in “Spiritual Formation and Soul Care” and resides in Savannah, Georgia.

This week I created a new team award – I called it Unforgettable Moments in HSM History.

We picked up this inexpensive plaque at a local trophy shop and announced the first winner at a recent meeting. I gave it to Chris Wohlers, new to the HSM team. We were doing a funny bit live on stage during the Air Guitar activity last week, and it involved a complicated dance move that ended up with me tackling him, ruining his new HSM shirt and even giving him a war injury.

So why the award? I want to create a culture, I want memories, and I want to invite others to help me create this environment to work in. We work hard, we give everything, we love students. And now there are 11 empty spots on this plaque for more moments that bond us together as a team and help us remember the fun we have serving Jesus in youth ministry.

Might be a fun idea to start with your volunteers at your next team meeting!


Thought this post over on Youth Ministry 360 was interesting as you begin to plan how to reach non-Christian students in your community. Here are a few of their first points, head there for the complete article:

Put your own ideas and plans aside
You may have an awesome, amazing, brilliantly innovative idea. But if it isn’t the right idea for the community it makes little difference. Shelve any ideas until you do your homework.

Survey your community
What does your community really need? Or at least what do people in your community feel they need? To answer this, consider surveying three groups outside your congregation: Young people, parents/guardians of young people, & community leaders.

Meet with anyone who will make time for you
It’s essential to get the information from those who have it. Find out who else works on youth issues, what is being done, what has been done in the past, and what they would like to see in the future.

Interact with the students on the streets
What you want is raw info from the demographic of people you’re hoping to reach (not your own youth group kids). Try bus stops, skateparks, and malls. Trade them a can of soda for a completed survey.


Here’s the digital copy of the new Simply Youth Ministry Conference brochure, hitting youth workers this week. SO excited to once again join the youth ministry team helping with this event. We’ve got some great stuff planned – I hope you’ll join us in Chicago this March!


No, silly – I don’t mean the people who raised you. (Though your mother called and wants you to check in more often.) I mean – have you chatted? with the parents of your students?? Have you found some way for them to connect to the ministry? Have you plugged them into a piece of the to-do? puzzle? Gee! What are you waiting for? You know you don’t like doing the Sam’s Club shopping!

Its mid-September and your window of involving parents in your ministry is? about to slam shut. You know that scene in Independence Day where Will Smith is flying the alien space craft out of the Mother Ship and it almost closes on them?? Yeah, its kinda like that.

Its a new school year for parents, too. They are looking to commit to 1-2 things and if you don’t grab them, some other organization will. Here are a few possible roles:

Bulletin Board Artist (Necessary but not my gift.)

Website Geek (Don’t worry; they already know you’re going to ask.)

Sam’s Club Shopper (I can’t bear the thought of going in there.)

YP’s Office Organizer (Believe me, you’ve got a few OCD parents DYING to do this.)

Game Equipment Guru (Yuck! Somebody’s gotta sharpen the pool cue thingy’s and wipe the puke off the twirl and hurl bat.)

Driver Designator (Lines up all your drivers for events. Usually waiting in a school line when doing it.)

Happy Hannah Hallmark Helper (This is totally me. I love sending cards)

Oriental Trading Co? (This person knows OTC and how to order!)

Off the top of my head. Now get to those phone calls and start asking people. No, you can’t text them to recruit; texting can begin once they’ve said they’d do it. Call you folks first, tho.


Love Thy Volunteers

 —  September 16, 2010 — Leave a comment

A brand new blog was launched this past week – Ryanne Witt from the HSM team is stepping into a larger leadership role and one of the steps I’ve asked her to take was to share her brilliance and insight on her blog. I think you’ll love her thoughts posted a couple times a week on Love Thy Volunteers. Her 3 posts so far are great – make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss anything. Here’s a clip from a post called Worth Keeping:

I have a folder in my inbox titled “Worth Keeping”.
In order for an email to be placed in here it has to meet one of two criteria:

  • Encouraging – especially directly to me.
  • Makes me laugh – especially an inside joke or something only I would get.


We can’t wait for our conference this year. Things are really coming together for it. Our brochure is getting ready to be printed and mailed out, but I wanted to share it with you guys first.

For more information on the conference visit our website: YouthMinistry.com/SYMC.
See you in Chicago!