Poll question for the full-time youth workers out there – how many days do you take off a week? In my ministry context, we get Mondays. Curious about your schedule.


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 4 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Launching into a successful school year requires dedication, investment and using the gifts God has given you for Him.
Service Length: 79 minutes
Main passage: Luke 5:1-11

Understandable Message: This week we had the final summer guest speaker teach our entry-level program. David Hughes grew up in the ministry and has become a long-time volunteer and most recently a seminary student. He did a great job introducing himself to our students and challenging them to follow Jesus’ call on their life. He focused on Jesus calling the disciples, causes their boats to overflow with fish and them leaving everything to follow Him. In some ways our lives become a cycle of faithfulness – God entrusts us with more, and we find joy when we use everything in our lives for God.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a text poll from polleverywhere.com as well as a simple Race This! game featuring Spaceships – we divided up the crowd into 3 sections and the winning section got a candy shower. We haven’t used Race This! much in high school, but it definitely worked with the crowd and tied in nicely to the theme. We sprinkled in a few announcements and a fun video promoting the Shake It! greeting ministry, too.

Music Playlist: My Heart (Paramore cover), Awesome God, The Stand

Favorite Moment: This was a bittersweet weekend – we said goodbye to a couple of great members of our HSM team. Becka finished up her 2-year internship this week and has been an absolute star the whole time. Robby was asked by Pastor Rick to head up a new campus in Huntington Beach that will launch this Christmas. VERY proud of both of them, and VERY hard to see them go. Shoot.

Up Next: LAUNCH series finale [Fall Back to School Kickoff]

Just finished up reading Kurt Johnston and Tim Levert’s new book, The 9 Best Practices for Youth Ministry. This is the first book that Kurt (full disclosure – he’s my boss at Saddleback!) has written for youth ministry in general, not just something junior high specific. The best practices are based on the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study and made practical by the authors from their 30 years of youth ministry experience and observations of youth workers and churches across the country.

The book was good – ranged in content from familiar to very fresh – my favorites were Chapter 5 (Increase the Congregation’s Appreciation of Students) and Chapter 7 (Develop Confident, Competent and Committed Leaders). I learned some great principles to help communicate the wins to the church as a whole and was reminded to intertwine the youth ministry as part of the entire church. I also really appreciated the chapter on the TILT model of volunteer placement within a specific area of ministry.

Good stuff on a whole lot of fronts – probably one of the must-read youth ministry books of 2010.


I just got off the phone with a youth worker who overspent summer camp by $6,000. Now, his entire youth ministry budget is $9,000 – two months into the church’s fiscal year nearly his entire youth ministry budget is toast. So now what? As I thought about his situation (a little shout out to Mike!) I came up with a few practices that have worked for me when we have to pinch every penny:

Don’t be afraid to change the calendar
I wrote 6 Ways to Stretch Your Youth Ministry Budget, and when there’s little or no money left that’s when those principles have to be put into practice. Just because something is already on the calendar doesn’t mean it gets a free pass in the new day. Go low cost. Go free. Don’t subsidize it. Cut it. Change up the youth ministry calendar to reflect your revised financial state.

Make every event break-even
I’ve posted in the past 4 Rules to Make Sure Break-Even Events Break Even, and with no budget left to spend this is more critical then ever. Be extremely conservative in your estimates. Set and promote registration deadlines and stick to them so you’re not stuck with the bill. Charge a couple bucks extra, even if it means taking a few less students.

Wait for super deals on resources
With little or no budget left, you might have to put the brakes on significant purchases for your youth ministry. And while some dreams may have to go on hold – good deals on youth ministry resources pop up from time to time so take action when they do. Look for bundle deals, or products that you can purchase one time that keep giving all year (specifically subscription stuff, like the LIVE small group curriculum, or Simply All Access).

Find ways to get more funding
Asking for more budget due to mismanagement will be a tough ask. But growth in your youth ministry is totally a viable reason to look into getting more funds. If you’ve grown 15% halfway through the year, consider going to your leadership and asking for ways to fund the growth – that’s the best kind of “blowing your budget.” Consider making your need visible to the church body and look at other fundraising options if your church allows.

If you’re on a tight budget 1) be thankful you’re fortunate to have one at all, and 2) you may want to consider picking up $5 Youth Ministry which … ironically … costs $9.99.


I’ve seen Hasbro’s Cuponk for a while now – a simple game of bouncing a ping pong ball into a cup, with ever-increasingly difficult challenges. Then it hit me – how fun would this be as a fun little ice breaker with the teenagers in your small group? I love the idea that this could become an insider tradition where the group start out each night playing a little Cuponk then diving into Bible study and sharing life together.

Random idea, I know – I never said every post would be brilliant. Either way, I bought a couple of them at Target today to give away as prizes at our upcoming Life Group Leader Training Night. Thought I would share at least an illustration of small group fun with them.

Just as an aside, if you like the idea, I would spring for the actual official Cuponk game for $15. At first it seemed like a lot to pay for what a ping pong ball and red plastic party cup could do, but I realized there may be comparisons to beer games if you take the cheaper route.


Josh Riffle pointed me to an article on CNN that seems to be an important read for youth workers about students being shallow in their faith and what strong students of faith have in common. Seems to get a bit on the USA Today bandwagon from earlier this month, but some good insight nonetheless:

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says. “They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.


New Book Officially Released

 —  September 3, 2010 — 6 Comments

Well, College Ministry From Scratch has finally released. Actually, it released a few days ago…I just forgot! If you’d like to read a sample (the brief introduction as well as the first chapter) click here.

Below is the table of contents. I hope it’s a help to you and your ministry!


Chapter One: A Story of Perceived Success
Chapter Two: Creating And Measuring A Sustainable Ministry
Chapter Three: Developing A Job Description (that fits our goals)
Chapter Four: Your First 90 Days In College Ministry
Chapter Five: Understanding College-Age Issues–An Overview
Chapter Six: Providing A Place To Belong

Chapter Seven: Recruiting Older Adults–Overcoming Obstacles
Chapter Eight: Recruiting Older Adults–Characteristics To Look For
Chapter Nine: Leading College-Age Leaders
Chapter Ten: One-On-One Conversations–Questions To Ask
Chapter Eleven: Starting And Sustaining Effective Small Groups
Chapter Twelve: Shifts In Teaching Approaches
Chapter Thirteen: Seven Critical Teaching Topics
Chapter Fourteen: Mission Trips–What To Include And Why
Chapter Fifteen: College-Age Retreats
Chapter Sixteen: Working With Interns
Chapter Seventeen: Church-Based Campus Ministry
Chapter Eighteen: When Students Are Away At School

Just a quick thought about those we serve with in our ministries.

I have the wonderful blessing of working with an amazing collection of people God has blessed with tremendous talents, gifts & abilities. And they use those skills to help thousands of people serve those in need every year. It’s my privilege every day to work alongside them. I thank God for them.

It makes me think about you. How has God blessed you with those around you? Fellow staff members, a spouse, a volunteer, or a team of people. Don’t forget to thank them. And don’t forget to thank God for them. Where would any of us be without those God has blessed us with?

Thanks God for allowing us the chance to work with others. Thanks for not letting us be alone. Thanks God.