What’s Working?

 —  September 23, 2014 — 17 Comments

Go-crSo… what’s working?

Jesus gave us the Great Commision. We’ve been stumbling over ourselves since He did, trying to figure out how to be a movement when it’s a whole lot easier to build an organization.

On one hand, we know what isn’t working. There’s the penetrating content from “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore”  as well as articles on why millennials are leaving the church. On the other hand, there are innovative proposals like the approach of Lifetree Cafe or the “orange” approach to some kind of sticky faith. Willow Creek Community Church is trying “A Holy Experiment.”

I think I’ve had my fill of the deconstruction. I’d like to start reconstructing.

helping_hands300What’s actually working?

What are you experiencing?

What are you seeing?

What is the “What if…?” you have started to that you hope will pan out?

What’s the next big idea in front of you that isn’t just a big idea, but potentially the right idea?

What is your church and/or youth ministry doing to create new inlets for lost people to find Jesus and become a part of the Church versus just expecting people to walk through the church building doors on their own?

Please share your best outreach ideas/concepts/dreams.

An emphasis on service does not have to stop with the close of summer.The big day of serving logo for website

There are opportunities to impact communities near you in only one day of service.

To catch a glimpse of this, I chatted with Tony Myles, who is the site leader for The Big Day of Serving in Akron, Ohio. Keep reading to see how God has used The Big Day of Serving to impact Tony and the people of Akron, OH in a transformative way that only God can… 


Tony Myles

Site Leader for The Big Day of Serving in Akron, OH

Lead Pastor of Connection Church in Medina, OH

Q: Why do you choose to be a site leader for Big Day in Akron?

A: First off, I believe that one day really can make a difference… not just in what happens that day, but in the relationships that are forged through it. In terms of why I ended up being a site leader for this event over the years, I so appreciate the partnership among churches. I’ve been a part of events similar to this, only in those scenarios I had to do all the work from the ground up. It’s been amazing to partner with such an amazing network of youth workers from all walks of life who found Group Mission Trips and decided to give it a try through this opportunity.

Q: How long have you been doing Big Day in Akron?

A: Four years, which ironically (or Divinely, however you choose to see it) is about as long as this particular city has had a department devoted to community investment. We were their first big initiative, which prompted them to say, “The Big Day of Serving helped put us on the map. We owe it big time!”

Akron Warehouse

Q: How have you seen Big Day projects impact Akron over the years?

There are different projects each year, so that in itself has been wild to track – whether we’re investing into a neglected cemetery so people can visit the graves of their loved ones or painting the gym where LeBron James learned how to play basketball. My personal takeaway has been in the relationships I’ve formed with the Mayor’s Office. Just this past week, I felt pulled by God the night before to share Jesus with them during a meeting. About a dozen city employees heard me give a 60 second glimpse of how this is not just a group of kids doing good deeds but about a real God who wants to bring heaven to earth through our actions.

Q: Do you have a favorite story from Big Day?

Hopefully, the next one. :)

One that stands out from our last project is how a local church heard about our event and signed up the week before. Not only did they bring people of all ages with, but they even got up on stage and helped lead worship at our rally when our scheduled band canceled at the last minute. They literally were an answer to our prayers, and we (since they gather as a congregation about a half-mile away from where we met) were an answer to theirs.

Q: Why are you excited about Big Day Akron in particular this year?

One of the great things about an event like this is the partnerships among youth workers and pastors we form in creating it. Although I’ve been prepping the event as I have in previous years, one of our team members will be leading the charge on the Big Day of Serving itself as the man-on-the-ground so I can serve another need. Anytime that can happen, you know that you’re a part of God not just stirring your heart…but the hearts of others.That’s pretty special.

Q: If you could tell a youth leader one reason to bring their group to Big Day, what would it be?

A: I’m not going to sell anyone on this. I could, but I won’t. Let’s face it…there are a billion things you could be doing on this particular day, or whenever the other Big Day of Serving events are happening. Any one of those options could be God-honoring.

But that’s just it – this is one of those things. It’s absolutely a God-honoring opportunity that is more than a day of doing random deeds with a Christian rubber stamp on it.  I watch the city employees strategically participate from afar in our worship rallies, even though most of them don’t know why. In their words, “There just something special about this group of kids unlike any other we’ve worked with.”

You and I know what that secret sauce is. It’s Jesus, and we’re joining Him in bringing the Kingdom of heaven to earth through this event. Pray about this opportunity, and respond as He leads you. There are more than enough places to get plugged in…the harvest is plentiful, whether the workers are plentiful or few.

Join Tony at The Big Day of Serving in Akron, OH on October 4th!! Or check out our other Big Day of Serving locations and dates this fall where your group can make a lasting difference.

Thank you for loving students and for teaching them about service,

Amber / @youthministry

Too busy to visit a loved one who’s passed on?

No worries.

Try the drive-thru window at the Paradise Funeral Chapel in Saginaw, Michigan.

They’ve installed a window for your convenience to display the deceased body inside the building. Curtains over the window automatically open when a car pulls up, and mourners get three minutes to view a body as music plays overhead.

Saginaw funeral home 3

Ever notice how some “good ideas” leave a bad taste in your mouth?

Of course you have.

The harder part is noting when your “good ideas” leave a bad taste in someone else’s mouth…

especially when our motive was “I was just trying to serve.”

  • When were you absolutely convinced you were onto something amazing, but then later realized you were being short-sighted?
  • Has anyone ever come up to you and tried to put you in your place on something you were absolutely sure was correct?
  • What is something you critiqued in your church… only to do something yourself that should have been critiqued?

Willing to share any experience on either side of this?

Do you know your role?

720001Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been in the news this week. We can all empathize with how difficult it must be for them to sort out ordinary events in the public eye. While this young couple navigates the exciting news of their pregnancy with the hurdle of acute morning sickness (attributed to hyperemesis gravidarum), the rest of the world takes it all in, wondering in the background if and when William will be named the next King of England.

Can you relate?

Years ago, I was a youth worker in a church where our senior pastor was resigning. Suddenly I felt like my life was on display just a bit more than usual as people began wondering if I (or other staff members) would take on the soon-to-be-vacant role. I started attending board meetings a bit more, as I was invited to share my perspective on various things happening. I had to wrestle with the desires of God over the desires of people, including my own.

Can you relate?

Today I was reminded of this older photo of Prince William and Kate (fresh off their honeymoon) visiting with President Barack and Michelle Obama.

Which person in the picture are you?


Did you decide?

What do you think Barack and William are talking over?

What are Michelle and Kate chatting about?

Oh… and did you notice the gentleman in the background toward the right?

Look at his face. What is he attentive to?

Look at his posture. What is he ready to do?

Was he one of the choices you considered?


Why not?

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)

struettcathy_sm“The one thing I take more joy in than anything else in the world is seeing young people develop.” – S. Truett Cathy

Chick-Fil-A fans and the Cathy family are taking note of the legacy left behind by the founder of America’s top chicken restaurant chain. Fifty years after he created the recipe for his famous sandwich, Georgia businessman Samuel Truett Cathy was announced to have died “peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones.”

It’s unfortunate that some people will only get to know a person better after they pass away than from the impressions they draw from headlines. I encountered this myself when singer/writer Rich Mullins died, as he went from being in mind “that guy who wrote ‘Awesome God,’ I think” to a “candid-theologian-disguised-as-a-ragamuffin-who-I-wish-I-knew-better.”

struettcathyFor that reason, I’d like to offer just a small portion of S Truett Cathy’s thoughts from various sources, including interviews and his autobiography. There may be several transferable principles here for how you do ministry and so much more, but also consider the legacy he’s left behind:

  • “The Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich itself was born in the wake of an unexpected opportunity. When one of my first two restaurants burned to the ground, I found myself with time on my hands and the availability to develop a new recipe…”
  • “If you wish to enrich days, plant flowers; If you wish to enrich years, plant trees; If you wish to enrich Eternity, plant ideals in the lives of others.”
  • “Put two Cows on a billboard with a bucket of paint and a brush, and they’ll create some unexpected opportunities… They remind people in their unique style to ‘Eat Mor Chikin!’ The Cows still haven’t learned to spell, and their grammar leaves a lot to be desired, but the opportunities are real. Five years after they painted their first billboard, Chick-fil-A had doubled our sales volume, achieving annual sales of more than $1 billion.”
  • truett cathy“We have an impact on our children by what we say, but particularly by what we do. They forget many of the things we say, but they observe everything we do. We can’t expect to keep beer in the refrigerator and expect our fifteen-year-old not to drink beer.”
  • “My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”
  • “It’s better to build boys than mend men.”
  • “After we make the necessary investment – buying the real estate and building the restaurant – we turn over the responsibility of running a $2 million-plus business (for a free-standing location) to these independent franchisees – many who have not yet turned thirty years old. We support them with training, technology, and anything else they need. But the bottom line depends on the Operator’s honesty, integrity, commitment and loyalty to customers and to us. We trust our Operators to make good decisions – and they do. I don’t know of another restaurant company that places so much responsibility in the hands of its franchisees.”
  • “Like wealth, poverty also has the power to build us up and make us appreciate what we have, or it can break our spirits.”
  • “The ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ Cows now have become more than characters in an advertisement. They’re real. Wherever I go I carry a bunch of plush Cow toys. They always make people happy, whether they’re children or adults – even workers in boots and soiled shirts. Everybody loves them. When I give one away I always ask the person to tell me what the Cows say, and hold onto it until they say, ‘Eat Mor Chikin!’”
  • A reporter once asked me how I would like to be remembered. I answered, ‘I think I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”
  • “When we share our time with children, the little things often become lifetime memories for them.”

I have to say, those last two really stand out to me most.

What stands out to you?

For that matter, how out-standing are you? What do you hope to give others based on how you serve and live in this world?

I heard comedian Steve Harvey today talk about his own hope to leave a legacy. In his words, “I’ve scooped a lot of stuff off the ground so you don’t have to slide in it. I tell that to my kids all the time. ‘I just scooped enough of this crap off the ground to keep you from sliding in it.”

Pass-baton-620x480If you were to pass on today, what would your legacy be?

How does that compare to what do you hope your legacy be, that it might be said of you when you pass on into eternity and grasped by others around you?


Hey Simply Insiders! 

Lifetree Adventures is a really cool international facet of Group Workcamps Foundation. They offer one-of-a-kind global mission experiences designed to grow your faith. Plus, they have some great international mission experiences specifically for youth in 2015 that you should look into as you plan next summer’s calendar! Recently, Lifetree Adventures took a team of travelers to Cuba. Below is a blog post from Chris Hastings, a volunteer youth worker who served on this amazing trip! Read about the incredible time he had below and be sure to check out Lifetree Adventures!


Chris Hastings

“This does not stink!”

I kept repeating those words throughout the mission trip to Cuba, offered through Lifetree Adventures, that I recently returned from.

I said it at least once a day. I even said it in the pineapple field, during the middle of the day, with the sweltering Caribbean sun beating down on where my teammates and I were pulling weeds. By hand. I do think, however, most of my teammates would have disagreed with me at that exact moment.

I will say this; it was different from any other trip I have taken. I have never had to be so careful before about what I said and to whom. And I have been a part of twenty short term mission trips, some even to Muslim countries. It is not that I feared getting in trouble or being put in jail. We were not doing anything wrong. I just didn’t want the local people to face any sort of hardship or problem because I said the wrong thing to the wrong person.Chris and Rod

We were there to work with local house churches supporting their daily ministry programs. We had the opportunity to meet and participate in several house church services, which were all amazing. The singing, the dancing, the music, and just the raw passion for God that went into the services were something to stand in awe of. Even more so since none of the house churches had any air conditioning! After we met the people who went to that house church, and started to make friends, we found out that their faith was just incredibly rich and deep. I, for one, started to wonder why I was not as passionate at church as they were. At least we have air conditioning in church!

 Cuba is a truly amazing country. It seems as though there have not been any major changes in Cuba since the revolution. You still see the old cars driving down the road. The team talked about how things could be better if they had more infrastructure or technology. We have all the “stuff” in the United States that would make things so much easier and quite possibly enhance the Cuban’s lives for the better. But we also talked about how the faith of these people seemed so rich and deep and their relationship with God seemed to be so strong. I would say that most of the team was a little jealous of the fact that we did not have a relationship with God like that. This led us to conversations about different styles of poverty. Maybe poverty is not just monetary or financial. Maybe it is also a spiritual issue.

We were there to serve the Cubans. We were there to provide them hope and to show them that even though our countries have some severe political differences, that Cubans and Americans can get along. Yet, so many of the people on the team walked away feeling like we were served more than we served others. We talked of how much we want to come back. Even a “Cuban Mission Trip Reunion” next summer.  I think part of the desire to go back is to visit with the new friends we made; both Cuban and American, who we now view as family. We also want to get another taste of Cuban life and to provide hope for others. But also get a little hope for ourselves.

This trip did not stink.

- Chris Hastings, 2014 Cuba Lifetree Adventure Traveler and Volunteer Youth Worker




To learn more about Lifetree Adventures and 2015 opportunities, visit their website or give Robin, your Lifetree Adventure guide, a call at 800-747-2157.

…and I don’t mean parents. I’m talking grandparents, the old ladies in the women’s group, the crotchety dudes who grumble when students wear hats in the Sanctuary. The answer to the title question? Of course they do!

Can you believe that I STILL run into YP’s who say their counselors really shouldn’t be older than college-age? I consult with search committees who still describe their perfect youth pastor as a guitar-playing, b-ball throwing, surfboard-skimming, young married dude whose wife will also serve FT in the YM (for free, of course).

So as we’re all recruiting volunteers for the new school/youth ministry year, do yourself (and your students) a big favor: start with older people in your church. The secret? Ask them the right questions. Put them in the places they feel comfortable, where they can use their giftedness. Oftentimes, we frighten off potential older volunteers (who have time available and are WAY more dependable than many other vols) by our approach: too fast, too quickly asked, too confusing, too big, etc.

Older people can do more than just bring cookies. Here’s a list of volunteer roles older folks can fulfill in your YM:

1) Closet Coordinator: Every youth room has a supply closet that needs a mom’s touch.

2) Weekly Supply Organizer: Get your SS teachers s what they need by having a team get the SS rooms ready.

3) Garage Sale Gurus: Have a list of upcoming supplies/props the YM will need and put these folks on the hunt.

4) Prayer Partners: Have each student in your YM prayed for daily by an older person.

5) Divine Design: Your youth room is a MESS! Have someone come in once a month and straighten it up!

6) Data Divas: Many older folks are computer savvy. Have them keep your student data/attendance up-to-date.

7) Craft Coordinators: There is a segment of your students who are the creative, artsy, crafty type and someone to teach crochet (or whatever) would be cool.

8) Paperwork Police: Yeah, why not lesson the chaos for the adult chaperones at events or when leaving on a trip by bringing in a few folks to collect the paperwork? Can’t hire an admin? Schedule older vols for a few hours each day.

9) Who-knows-who: Older folks know a lot of people and they know others in your church that can help with what you need. Put them on your recruiting team.

10) ADULT COUNSELORS!: Of course older people can be a part of your team in face-to-faith ministry with students. The best way I can share this precept is from a friend of mine, Amanda Berger, who is the president of a ministry to girls called Soul Sisterhood. She runs “girls only” camp weeks and for the last 2 years, she brought a Camp Grandma on staff and has had HUGE positive results. You’ll hear from her on a few days and then a few days after that? You’ll hear from the Camp Grandma herself. Stay tuned.






One part of my job I love most is being the coordinator for summer missions groups who come to serve our ministry. It’s awesome to help a group of students see what “inner city” ministry and service looks like in Florida. Inevitably as the week starts to wind down, the emotions start to flare. Tears start to flow from even the “toughest” of the group. There is simply something about getting away to only focus on Jesus and His heart that becomes an incubator for growth.

Yet, there is an unfortunate piece to “going home.” All of the emotions have not been fully processed. Students don’t know how to talk to their parents about “feelings” when they don’t even really “get” what is going on in their heart. Many groups don’t meet in a way that is about “going deeper” in the summer.

How can we help students with their emotions after the trip?

Make Sure To Debrief Well:

Debrief both at the end of the trip and again a week later. What is God stirring up in their soul? Is He drawing them closer? Has He helped them see something they have never seen before? Come up with ways to really help them process. Provide journals to write or draw in. Set them up in very small groups if at all possible of one to three to discuss what they are thinking and feeling. Get them talking. During the trip, I lead students through different questions they answer on index cards. I collect them daily. Then two weeks post trip, I mail them to the youth pastor to give out, to help continue the process.

ONE Action Step:

Often times conviction slams a student in the face on a trip. They want to come home to “DO” and “BE” more. The problem is they try to take on everything they want to change at once and then crash. Help them with ONE thing that helps them move forward. What is ONE change they can make? If they never read their Bible, can they start with one verse, one chapter, one “something” to help them keep reading? Help them with the “ONE” and put it into action IMMEDIATELY.

Emotions Are Good:

I believe God gave us the ability to cry and feel because it is a way we are created in His image. Sometimes students just need to know that having strong feelings is “normal.” One friend was telling me recently about his own child who attended a pretty incredible trip. The first day back they expected their teen to be silent. Well instead they were talkative wanting to share every detail. It was a day later, in the middle of lunch when the tears came and the sobs hit. Let students know each of them will process differently. They may laugh and cry at the same time. Yes- even the boys. Totally natural. Prepare students for this, let them know it’s coming and give them aids to think it through while at home. Do they need to write, draw, sing, make math equations, or play basketball? Whatever they do, they need to process. Make SURE to send materials home to help parents know how to help as well. (Leadertreks has some great resources for this.)

Most importantly, remind students the trip isn’t the “end” it’s the “spark” to more. Our theme this past week was “Momentum.” We discussed building momentum each day in serving the Lord and living with Him and then how the trip as a whole built momentum to a further journey with Christ. What is He doing in their lives now? How is He talking to your students? Use the trip to continue to build momentum in your student’s relationship with the Lord.