LeaderTreks just released a great new eBook about student leadership called Student Leaders are Church Leaders. If you’re interested in heading over and grabbing it – all it will take is your email address. Good stuff to chew on as you head into fall. And if you haven’t thought about student leadership or are looking for some specific help in that area of youth ministry, definitely check out Doug Franklin’s blog and the LeaderTreks store, too.


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 2 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Launching into a successful school year includes preparing your heart and mind for how to respond in times of TEMPTATION.
Service Length: 75 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I asked Taffy to teach on temptation. I had my hands full with all four kids while my wife, Angela, is serving on a medical missions trip in Kenya. Taffy is the Student Ministries Music Director and a wonderful pastor of students. He has an infectious laugh and guides students with care and intentionality. His role is to advise, mentor and train young leaders of music ministry. He is a natural on stage and gave a wonderful message on the in and outs of temptation. This message was tag-team taught with Tom Reagan, a recent HSM graduate and summer intern, and college student at Gordon Conwell in Boston. After discussing the origin of temptation and that, it in itself, is not sin, nor is it bad, advised the students to 1) Persevere for God’s glory 2) recognize Practical temptations of life and 3) rely on the Power of God. The central verse was 1 Cor. 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We opened the service by covering the song Airplanes by B.O.B. featuring Hayley Williams and had a couple of funny videos called “Deep Thoughts”.

Music Playlist: Nothing but the Blood, Savior of the World, Same Power that Conquered the Grave, and Our God.

Favorite Moment(s): Two again this week — 1) a great student volunteer (Bree) helped do the announcements and welcome and killed it! 2) There were 3 videos in the service that were great spoofs on what Christians believe, very engaging and made a good point (Deep Thoughts from a Shallow Christian).

Up Next: LAUNCH week 3

Front Flip On Unicycle…WHAT!?

 —  August 24, 2010 — 1 Comment

check this little trick out…

Got a few emails and comments asking about vacation time for youth workers. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I am in the middle of taking 100 hours of vacation this month to be Mr. Mom as my wife enjoys an overseas mission trip to Africa. I’ve already posted about The Vacations We Take Each Year, and here are a few additional thoughts and ideas about vacation time:

  • VACATION TIME: We accumulate vacation time each work week at our church. Depending on how long you’ve served at the church, the faster you accumulate time off. For the typical employee you get two weeks of vacation, so roughly 1.6 hours per week worked (80 hours a year). You can “bank” up to two years of your annual amount of vacation time.
  • COMP TIME: Officially, there is no such thing as “comp time” at Saddleback. You’re expected to work 50 hours a week, and if you work more it doesn’t matter. Obviously, that makes things like camps or retreats a bit unrealistic, but such is life. As a supervisor myself, I may choose to me more lenient on my team and offer lighter schedules and be keenly aware of the temperature of my team. I don’t always get it right, but I try to be the understanding youth ministry boss that I haven’t always been privileged to have throughout my youth ministry career.
  • FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE: Forward-thinking companies like Netflix realize that in some environments work hours are messy and don’t fit into traditional banking hours. That comp time is impossible to track, and that people who don’t turn it off are better when they take longer more ambiguous stretches of time off. Interesting article in the Wall St. Journal – but don’t expect your church to understand this concept. I would make a guess that the person who is in charge of your office/work culture probably is a bit more traditional/straight-laced to take this big of a risk from the norm.
  • SPIRITUAL RETREAT DAY: Occasionally I’ll give my team a spiritual retreat day, an 8-hour day that are focused completely on personal spiritual development of their heart and to reconnect with God. We work hard, and the biggest shame of working hard would be to not work alongside with the Spirit’s leading. So no busy work or email is allowed, and everyone is asked to send a paragraph report on what God said to them. I should do this more often, if for my own heart than anything else.
  • CAMPS ARE NOT VACATION: Camps and retreats NEVER count as vacation. I read an “out of office” reply last week from a youth worker at camp and it said they were “on vacation” – don’t affirm that terrible stereotype that because you are away you are NOT on vacation. If this is present in your church culture, it is a fight worth fighting in my opinion.
  • CONFERENCE ALLOWANCE: Conferences also do not count as vacation time – our church gives me a couple days of free personal development time as well. I’ve worked in and heard of many others that wrap vacation/conferences into one to save money or because it does use vacation time. In this economy a raise is unlikely anyhow, so perhaps make the ask for a couple paid days away to grow in your expertise.
  • WHEN TO FIT IN VACATION: Late summer works best for me to take vacation time – the summer calendar starts to wain and the fall kickoff isn’t quite here yet. I like to think of it as the calm before the storm. Actually, I’m writing this post in the calm of some time away right now. Feels good. I should do this more often.
  • WHAT ABOUT YOUTH GROUP WHEN I’M AWAY: When I’m on vacation, I give the platform away to trusted voices and voices I want to develop. This block that I’m gone right now I’m having a few experienced and inexperienced voices in front of our students, I’m excited because this weekend a volunteer and his small group are teaching.

How does your church do vacation time? When was the last time you were on vacation? Any tips or tricks to share with the MTDB community?


You don’t have to be a youth worker very long before you feel the urge to quit. The challenges of ministry swirl together to create a daunting vortex of difficulty – church politics, ineffective leadership, slashed or non-existent budgets, elders, “the way it has always been”, conflicting visions, personality clashes, relational pain and so much more. I realize I’m not painting a beautiful picture of youth ministry right now, so hang with me.

I would say for most it hits somewhere around the end of your first year – for me it was a couple years in. The honeymoon was over and I got my first taste of church ugliness. You start to think about quitting. You’re just not sure you’re cut out for it. You wonder if the elders on the church board are even Christians.

I’ve quit many times before – only to be brought back to life by 1) realizing the problem could be overcome, 2) the words or encouragement from a close friend, or 3) realizing that ministry isn’t pretty or easy, but I’m called to it. If you’re feeling pretty low, I hope these point you in the right direction today:

Fight through it
Get behind the feelings of failure or frustration – are you ready to quit over a problem you created, a person you loathe or a situation that seems beyond repair? Throwing in the towel is an impulsive decision that has been thought about for a long time. [I realize that sentence doesn't make sense, but I really like it]. One final person, comment or failure pushes you off the cliff – the only choice you have left is to call it quits. But don’t settle for simply giving into the barrage of emotion. Is it really the end of the world as we know it? Is there really no hope? Is God truly done with you where you’re at? Be careful to test your emotions and motives when the going gets tough – you might be surprised what you find a little deeper under the surface. It probably is about half as bad as you think it is. Still bad, but worth fighting through.

Surround yourself with people you love
The biggest rescuer of my urges to quit are the teammates that I love. Surrounding yourself with great co-laborers is absolutely key. My spouse is number one – when I’m down she knows what to say, when not to say anything and what to ask to get me out of my funk. My team is a close second – people that I serve with every day in the trenches of youth ministry. Some of the people that share my passion, hopes, dreams and frustrations of ministry pick me up. Do you have some key people on your volunteer team that you love being around? Do you have a safe place to vent or talk through a situation? Our family loved having dinner with an amazing couple and their daughters this past week. Absolutely life-giving.

Remember your calling
I have a moment … that whenever I feel like quitting I hold on to. I was sitting in the Dean of Men’s office at the college I was attending, he simply said, “Josh, you would make a great youth pastor. Why are you going into business?” That conversation led me on a journey to what would eventually be a divine calling into youth ministry. That key mentor in my life pointed me to an opportunity, we prayed, God answered. I’ve served in 2 churches since then (one in Michigan, the other here at Saddleback) and have both had incredible highs and lows – and I remember my calling vividly when things get tough. Why did you get into youth ministry in the first place? Hopefully there is a memory or spiritual moment where you recall God calling you to serve His children. Maybe at first you just volunteered, and God did something in your heart. Maybe you’re still volunteering, but you know you’ve been chosen for this work.

Seems like I’ve been getting more and more emails from youth workers ready to throw in the towel. Maybe God is moving you? Certainly could be. Maybe it is a test of your character and He wants you to stay put? Either way – honored to be in the same profession with you, my friend. Hang in there.

Help someone who’s ready to quit youth ministry with a thought/encouragement in the comments, too.


Thought that YS had a great article today about transitioning from one youth ministry to another. Today is the first in a series of posts detailing one youth pastor’s journey to what was next. Here are a couple of principles from today’s article – head there for the complete story:

Communicate openly with interviewees. I fielded quite a few questions back and forth on Facebook, e-mail, and over several lunches with student ministry candidates. This opened up the passions and genuine interest– or NOT — in those applying for the position and also made the transition more of a reality for me. It started the process of my thinking about what I personally needed to do to prepare the ministry for the transition.

Cleaning house. In addition to a lot of deep thinking about how to best prepare each element of the ministry for new leaders, there were the technical details of cleaning my files off the youth PC, transferring iTunes files from my personal laptop, and boxing up personal effects in my office and the youth room. This process took way longer than I would have thought. I guess it comes from making myself “at home” in my work environment. I had stuff all over the place!

Leaving everyone in good shape. It’s far too easy to let things slack a little when you realize that you’re not going to be around very long. Fight that urge and instead push hard to finish with excellence. Don’t let the student’s last camp experience or run of student services be a stinker because you have already thrown in the towel. This applies to other areas as well: don’t neglect that last pile of receipts — they are calling out your name! Leave in good relation with everyone — including your treasurer!


New Right of Passage?

 —  August 23, 2010 — Leave a comment

Graduating high school is simply the next stage of education. Sure, 40 years ago it was basically a right of passage into adult living. People graduated and most looked for a job. Amazingly, that job could’ve been their entire career. But we all know today is different. Besides getting married there isn’t really a right of passage into adulthood anymore.

People graduate college at different times and when they do they still don’t feel like they’re adults – unless they’re married. But if they’re not there isn’t a clear cut right of passage. And this seems to be causing some other issues. It’s not an entirely bad thing, but this causes some confusion for parent’s too. There is an entire spectrum of parental responses to their kids going off to college. Many can’t seem to let go at all without something outside of themselves letting them know “it’s time.” Others drop kids immediately following high school graduation because that’s what they know.

However, college’s seem to be helping in this a bit. Many have recognized the need to help in this and do so by creating events that give a mental picture for both the students as well as the parents. They are creating elements to move-in days that, to a parent, might seem a bit abrupt, but it’s probably a necessary step. I recently read an article in the NY Times titled, “Students, Welcome to College; Parents, Go Home” that articulates a few ways in which colleges are creating a sort of right of passage for the family. Interesting read. And, it seems to be helping with the all too familiar “Velcro Parent” syndrome (or another reference used for parents that can’t seem to let go is “helicopter parents”).

I think it’s really important to remember that this issue didn’t exist a generation ago…and this ought to affect approaches in ministries/churches.

Question: What sort of things have you done in your ministry (or seen done) to help create a healthy sense of separation and steps toward adulthood for students and/or parents?