Ahhh summer.  In ministry it’s filled with camps, trips and exhaustion.  In the world of my children it’s filled with more flexibility, days at the beach,  and of course camps. School starts for us in a week or so.  While I am looking forward to a “schedule” again, this time of year makes me feel more inadequate than every other time of the year combined.  As I read articles on how to “engage” us parents this Fall, I thought I would throw out some helpful hints from the Mom of three in JH and one in college.

Give Me Time
(And A Little Grace Too)

I am so thankful that you have calendars, planning and notices for me.  If you are offering “vision casting,” for the year even better.  While you are doing this, I am trying to get my feet under me as we return to the Fall and all that means.  Everyday involves pick up from soccer practice, football, and guitar lessons on top of school projects that are broken into “teams,” staying on top of homework being finished, the house not falling apart, dinner being made and eaten, and the “regular” stuff that never goes away. (I didn’t even mention we are in full time ministry too.)   I am getting voice and e-mails  along with texts from the school daily about another “need to know.”  I have had 400 papers shoved in front of me in the first 3 days of school.  I care, I am overwhelmed by re acclimating to a schedule that I don’t control.


Don’t Ask Me For Money

For three “at home:”

School Supplies: $400 (Why does every teacher require a “special” binder?”)  Uniforms/School Clothes:  $600  (This is with two pairs of pants and 3 shirts each.)   Shoes: AT LEAST $50 a pair if not more. (Once they hit “grown up” sizes all bets were off.) Sports Fees: $100 – $300 per sport (This does not include the “extra” money I am asked/required to bring for raffles, team snacks, new cleats and pictures.)  School Field Trips: $50- $60 per kid  (Thanks for starting the year off “right.”) The youth pastor not immediately asking for a deposit for the “Fall Retreat:”  Priceless. ( Please note “Only $150 per kid” is actually $450 for some of us BEFORE we ask which child wants to “sit this one out.”)   I have not even factored in the gas it takes to drive my children all over or regular “life expenses.”   It’s not that I “don’t care,”  I can’t give what I don’t have, at this point this includes time (see above.)  Notice I didn’t even touch the college student…


Before You Judge

I admit it, we can be “that parent.”   I am trying desperately to keep up with everything. It’s not fair, but the 15 different ways you communicate with me are helpful. AND I KNOW BETTER!!  If you have single parents, divorced parents, kids in Foster Care,  ask before you decide “the parent has just checked out”  My husband and I partner together in everything, plus I am always trying to push closer to Jesus.  AND  I feel like I am an abject failure most of the time.  We probably won’t offer it up, but if you genuinely ask, “What can I do to help?” we might not take you up the offer.  However, just offering makes it better.

In the end I am not asking for you to make a “special exception” for my child.  I am just reminding you that the unfortunate truth is youth group does not have the luxury of getting my single focus. We need you as a partner with us on this crazy journey with our kids.  My children need you as another Christ focused role model in their lives.

If you just give me until November I will have the Fall figured out, just in time to start looking at Basketball, Cheer and Christmas-  Oh and the Spring Retreat and next summer’s missions trip



Thousands of youth let out a collective sigh this Monday as schools all over this nation unlocked their doors. Within the next couple of weeks all students will have left summer behind for desks and a pack of freshly sharpened pencils. Memories of camps, missions trips and life altering encounters with Christ are still freshly etched in the forefront of their mind. Unfortunately, it will only take a mild amount of life pressure, real or perceived for many to trade in all their enthusiasm for Jesus. The youth leader in all of us will be discouraged when those  who were “on fire for the Lord” seem to become apathetic.

How then do we help our youth to remember the Jesus of the “summer”  wants every part of their lives?

Feelings Come And Go

I think it’s fair to say we all agree it’s “easy” to know Christ when the only expectation is to focus on HIM.  Camp and mission trips schedule devotional times, and often service.  Whether it’s lack of sleep or time to stop, many of our youth had deep emotional reactions to their times in these places. The Lord changed them deeply and they could FEEL Him at work.  Teach your students the “high” they experienced may dull, or it may return with the next retreat, conference or mission they attend.  In contrast if we are always seeking a “feeling” of elation we just might miss the depth of who Jesus is, and how He is ALWAYS at work in us and around us.  The truth is not contingent on whether or not we are “moved.”


Christ Still Wants Our Time

Schedules begin to creep in.  It starts with the necessities of life and moves to sports, drama, and for some jobs.  They can think there isn’t another minute in their day for th

e Lord.  However, that deep conviction they had while away propelled them forward and closer to Him.  Help them come up with ways they can practically succeed at both getting closer to Christ and showing the world who He is in their life. Could they get up just 5 minutes earlier everyday and read their Bible?  What about writing a verse on a sticky note and placing it somewhere they look all day? How about praying as they ride to school?  Encourage them to simply tell THEIR story of God’s work in their lives with friends.

Service Is A Lifestyle

They might be looking for the next time you “set- up” a service opportunity.  While projects and trips are great opportunities these should only ever be catalysts to a lifestyle of helping. Help them find ways to give both Big and Small on a regular basis. What about sitting next to som

eone whose alone at lunch? What about noticing when someone needs an extra hand in the grocery store?  Yes, visit the sick in the hospitals, the aging in the nursing homes, the shut-ins connected with your church, and give food out at the food bank. Let them know service is not an event, then find ways to get them out of their comfort zone and give some more.

Jesus Is In the Lunch Hall

And the gym, English class, at home, on the bus…  Part of the reason entering the routine of school is so hard for so many is,  it hurts there.  They might be dealing with bullies, failing classes or just the regular peer pressure that comes with JH/HS, on top of anything difficult NOT in school. They pray for complicated situations to dissipate and instead things get worse.  I have heard more than once that the Lord has forgotten them because things “aren’t working out.”  Christ hasn’t left them.  Instead in those moments He

cries with us, and loves us as deeply as ever.  Keep reminding them HE NEVER LEAVES, while talking with them as they wrestle with all that is “unfair.”

As our youth enter routine, and their school days the most vital offering we can give is the reminder God and HIS LOVE is the only unwavering constant in our world. How would next summer be transformed if they were growing in the Lord all year long?

What are you doing to actively aid students in their daily relationship with the Lord as they go back to school?


Kickoff for the fall, there is nothing like it.  Everyone is focused on getting plugged in, connected, signed up and registered.  The summer dreams have come to an end, school is back in session and the thought, “Here we go again.” races through your mind.

For some of us the beginning of the year stresses us out and for others it excites us.  There is so much to do, so much to get done and then BOOM! The year starts and we are off.  It’s like a marathon where the anticipation before the race is killer; however, once you get moving you settle down.

Kickoff is a season that can race by; however, it’s also a season that needs to be embraced.  On top of fun memories of moon bounces and wild games, it’s really a season when you can strengthen your foundation.  It’s a season when you need to:

Recruit New Ministers – The best time to recruit other ministers is when the program is in full swing.  That way potential volunteers can:

  1. See the program in action.
  2. Talk to actively serving ministers
  3. Ask questions they might not have known to ask if inquiring during the summer

When you recruit new ministers right after kickoff you’ll have a positive excitement that will be contagious.

Invite More Teens – It makes sense to invite someone to an event before it happens; however, your ministry isn’t an event.  While you want to build up hype and momentum before the program begins you’ll want to put more afterwards.  By continuously inviting teens to your program your creating an open enrollment feeling.  So many times we give up on a class or a program because we miss the first session.  Ministry should be treated like any relationship, where you can step in at any time.

Build Margin – Once the year begins we feel our margin slip away; however, there is no better time.  You should be letting your leaders loose, let them fail, succeed and problem solve.  As the point person you should be able to take a step back, observe and take in the experience.  As soon as the year gets going, slow down and find that pace because it’s going to be a long year.

Kickoff is not the end of summer and it isn’t just the beginning of your ministry year.  It’s a mile marker that you should utilize to grow stronger.  Look for the opportunities in every situation and continue to move forward.

What other opportunities do you see during kickoff?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

It’s mid-August and that means one thing: book bag shopping time! Back to school is right around the corner for your students. Yikes! Where did the summer go?

Even though my kids are grown, I’ve had the recent pleasure of coughing up my credit card for a few brand-name bags myself. Sure they were Angry Birds and Hello Kitty for two grand kids but the experience was similar: what to pack inside?

If you’re like me, I use this time of year to help my students freshen up their “faith to school” habits. I got to thinking about their backpacks and what I could provide them to help them make God the center of their school year. Here are three ideas you could try:

1) A monthly devo booklet: Fill it with scriptures and “things to think about” geared towards what they’ll be talking about at church. Include prayer ideas and birthdays.

2) Pencils: Students still use pencils, right? What if you gave them customized pencils with the scripture of the month on it? It’s a subtle way of helping them memorize their verse.

3) A snack with a purpose: Each week, put a note of encouragement on a granola bar or snack bag. When they come to youth group or Sunday school, stuff it into their bag to eat when they need a little pick-me-up at school.

Ok, I gotta jump onto my flight. More ideas to come.


make God


Last week was our student ministry’s fall launch week. Every ministry has seasons, especially student ministry. For us, there are 3: Fall (starting in August), Winter/Spring (starting in January), & Summer (starting in June). The rhythm of these ministry seasons calls for realignment behind your God-given vision and communicating that vision to your people. This means two things: 1) who you are & 2) where you’re going. The fall season is even more crucial in this respect because it tends to be the biggest surge of the year in youth ministry. Students are returning to school and getting back into the swing of things for the year. They tend to be a little more on task and more apt to attend service if invited. So communicating vision within the context of your fall launch is a great way to start off the ministry year. I did this in both our middle school/high-school & college/20-something services.

For YouthQuake, I reemphasized our Live Extraordinarily, Lead Creatively, & Love Extravagantly vision that I spent alot of time developing and communicating last year. Putting this discipleship process out in front from the very beginning of our fall season gives us a starting point for where we are going. In other words, it’s our identity…the “who we are.” Check out Geiger & Borton’s Simple Student Ministry and Rainer & Geiger’s Simple Church for details on developing a central vision and discipleship process. From there, I was able to preach a sermon around the “who we are” and the “where we are going.” Breaking down the Matthew 10 passage of Jesus gathering and sending his disciples gave us the foundation for two new initiatives in YouthQuake. First, the “gathering” part of the sermon served as a launching pad for our conversation and announcement of our LIVE groups, small groups and discipleship ministry. We’ve been moving in this direction and are finally pulling the trigger on the “next step” in YouthQuake using Doug Fields’ LIVE Curriculum. Jesus spoke to the multitudes and the thousands, but made his greatest impact in his small group of disciples. Rather than making a trite announcement saying, “Hey, you should signup for this new program,” we were able to communicate the biblical foundation for small groups, the whys behind it, AND the big picture of our vision in a matter of a half-hour. In turn, the response has been through the roof and LIVE groups are already getting full. When you communicate the vision behind the program, the program makes more sense.

Secondly, we emphasized the sending aspect of Matthew 10 when Jesus commissions his disciples to go out the the “lost sheep of Israel.” Go to YOUR immediate context, the people you’re with everyday. Preach the gospel. The kingdom is near. Do extraordinary things. Heal the sick. Raise the dead. In other words, LIVE. LEAD. LOVE. From here, we announced our Lifebook initiative which I posted back in April HERE. Again, rather than announce the saturation week as another event on the calendar, we were able to cast the vision for the Lifebook initiative within the context of the sending portion of Matthew 10. I already have students begging for books to take to their school.

We communicated two major initiatives for the fall and the central vision behind who we are on one of the biggest nights of our ministry year. When you have a larger, captive audience, take your opportunity to cast vision. When you cast vision, people catch it and run with it. It gets your core students recharged, your sporadic students plugged in, and your new students more interested. And it doesn’t have to be a boring, informational meeting. Tie it into the gospel and central message of Jesus. We are gathered to be sent and to declare the good news of Jesus. When you do that, people get why you’re really there. Visioncasting can be very spiritually impacting if you take it seriously. Best part of the night: we had a girl who came for her second time this week give her life to Jesus for the first time AND signup for small-groups AND the Lifebook initiative. Why? Because she felt the presence of God AND our desire to follow Jesus AND our heart to make an impact in our schools and she wanted in. Vision communicates hope and a future. And I’m excited for what God has in store.

Bradley K. Chandler is a graduate of Southeastern University and is the Student Ministries Pastor at Trinity Worship Center in Burlington, NC. Be sure to subscribe to his blog here — good stuff for sure.

As part of our LAUNCH series we gave students the option of opting-in on some SMS devotions that some students wrote for them. If you want to get them yourself over a couple weeks, text “HSM Bible” to 39970 and I’ve listed them out here if you want to edit/use them for something in your ministry, too:

Yes! You just subscribed to the HSM LAUNCH devotions. I’m excited you want to walk with Jesus as we start the school year. The devotions will start arriving tomorrow – I’m praying that you’ll have an incredible year serving Him! Josh

HSM LAUNCH DEVOTIONS: START TODAY WITH PRAYER Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he’s done. Then you will experience Gods peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Phil 4

HSM LAUNCH DEVOTIONS: PARENTS My son, obey your fathers commands, and dont neglect your mothers instruction. Keep their words always in your heart. Proverbs 6

HSM LAUNCH DEVOTIONS: GOD’S PATH This is what the LORD says your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17 NIV

HSM DEVOTIONS: GOD’S POWER OVER SIN AND TEMPTATION I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

HSM DEVOTIONS:RUN THE RACE You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? -Galatians 5:7 Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 What race are you running?

HSM DEVOTIONS: DEVELOP A NEW SPIRITUAL HABIT No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

HSM DEVOTIONS: FRIENDS BUILD UP OR TEAR DOWN As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 Accountability partners are a great way to stay on Gods path. Who is speaking truth into your life this week?

HSM DEVOTIONS: GOD’S PLAN FOR YOU You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. 2 Samuel 22:37 God made the best way to live our life, are you following it? Pray over changes you may need to make.

HSM DEVOTIONS: THE RECKLESS LIFE The angel of the LORD asked him, Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. Numbers 22:32 Are you on the right path? Stay faithful to God in your actions today!

HSM DEVOTIONS: LISTEN TO GOD’S VOICE I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8 Where are you hearing from God? Is he using a peer or an adult to speak to you? If so, follow their wise instruction.

HSM DEVOTIONS: LOVE GOD WITH EVERYTHING And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” Deuteronomy 10:12

HSM DEVOTIONS: SHINE BRIGHT TODAY …to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:79

HSM LAUNCH DEVOTIONS: GOD LOVES YOU God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16,17 Pray for a friend at your school to trust Christ!

That is the end of the HSM LAUNCH Back to School devotional texts. Want to keep going? HSM students and leaers will be writing them all year long! We’ll send out 2-3 a week to help you walk with Jesus. Reply to this text with “hsm devotions” to get them sent your way starting next week!


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Get ready to go back to school by starting the habit of spending time with God every day – walk with Jesus.

Service Length: 72 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we want to send students back to school armed and prepared for each day ahead. The best way to live life is to walk with Jesus – so we challenged them to spend time with God everyday in His Word and in prayer. I challenged students to live out Proverbs 4: 20-27 and to pay attention to God’s Words so that they stay on the right path. I asked a couple students to help teach this weekend and they did a super job helping make spending time with God seem possible. It was important this week to make sure we went from ideological to practical, so we created 14 days of text devotionals (I’ll post them later this week) and gave away a TON of 1-Minute Bibles by Doug Fields.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a fun Life Group rap called “Life Groups Win” to promote the upcoming deadline for small groups, and had a funny tribute parody video to the “Footprints in the Sand” infamous Christian poem. Everything played well and for a holiday weekend attendance was up and so was the energy. Must be about time to go back to school!

Music Playlist: Our God, God Above All, Forever Reign, Burning Ones

Favorite Moment: This weekend I used 2 students to help me teach the talk this weekend – one was a senior and the other a sophomore. They did great! Seeing them teach was an incredible experience – made me think I should do that more often! Just picked out the next 2-3 who will do it in the future …

Up next: No HSM – 9/11 Memorial services in big church

Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Accountability will make you uncomfortable but is critically important in the life of a believer … and join a Life Group this school year in HSM!

Understandable Message: This weekend Jessica Torres taught the second weekend in our LAUNCH back to school series. Every year about this time we want to intentionally move students toward life groups, so we intentionally plan a weekend to encourage students to go beyond the weekend service and jump into a group. Jessica taught specifically about the accountability aspect of groups and had great stories about the influence of both peers and adults in her formative years. She did a great job teaching these principles from Scripture.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we’re wrapping up summer and headed into Labor Day holiday and back to school next week. The atmosphere was great – we had a new student on lights who did an incredible job with the energy before the service and the team made a couple of great videos to point students toward Life Groups and to become a part of HSM. Lots of student greeters, too!

Music Playlist: Go, You’ll Come, Majesty, Let My Words Be Few

Favorite Moment: One of our students, Connor Kim, shared his testimony about the impact accountability and his Life Group have made on his high school years. He’s such a stud, it was awesome for students to see a real-life example of what Jessica was teaching from the stage. Between her heart and his experience, I know tons of students will take this next step in our discipleship process. Strong.

Up next: LAUNCH (series finale, week 3 of 3)