summeryouthministryHow are you spending your summer with students?

I personally know of several youth groups that shut down because of their proximity to a lake or local activity that keeps teenagers busy, while other student ministries seem to amp up their programs and significantly grow during this season.

Youth worker Austin McCann offers some great thoughts that will help you spend more time with students, no matter what your situation may be.

Like many student pastors I struggle with finding time to hangout with students. In the summer I feel this struggle more than ever… Let’s face it, you can’t leave the office and spend everyday with students this summer. If you do, you will probably get fired! But how do we manage hanging out with our students this summer while making sure all the office work gets done and our ministry doesn’t fall apart? [ READ MORE ]

Austin believes it may be as simple as:

  • Get to the office earlier.
  • Take them along with you.
  • Do stuff at night.
  • Take them out to lunch.

 What have you found that works for you in the summer?

Be Present

 —  June 14, 2013 — 1 Comment

Every year, our ministry finishes out the school year with “Senior Weekend,” where seniors take over and run the weekend. Instead of having the traditional one speaker for the service, we had two speakers and a panel (I know it sounds like a lot, but it worked out great). The panel was themed “What I Wish I Knew in High School” and each student had something different to say like having a mentor, a good group of friends, a good idea of self, etc. One student did “be present.” When I first heard it, I was thinking, “what a good point, such a great thing for our students to hear.” Then I thought, “wait, what a great thing for ME to hear.”

In youth ministry, we are constantly trying to balance working in one season and planning the next. We are always looking forward… and we kind of have to if we want to stay on top of things. But often our pursuit of the future can lead to us to an unhealthy place where we lack the ability to be present. As I unpacked this in my head I came to the conclusion that there are two different ways we need to be present, in the “big picture” and everyday life:

Big Picture: Sometimes I will focus way too much on something that happened in the past or something I want to happen in my future. That could be me holding on to a grudge and just not letting something go. I can get stuck thinking “what would life be like if this would have happened.” Or maybe it is focusing too much on my goals and ambitions. I sometimes am always looking forward and don’t take a ton of time to slow down and see what is happening in the present. Whether it is focusing too much on the past or future, it is important to be present enough to see what God is doing in our lives. To see what He wants for us to learn and do in this season of life.

Everyday Life: Focusing too much on the future doesn’t always mean life goals and dreams, it can be focusing too much on what needs to happen next in your day. While we may be physically present and an event or project, we are mentally preparing for our next meeting, weekend service, etc. Or we can physically be with our family and friends, but mentally, still thinking about our ministry. Our lack of everyday presence can have some big consequences including loss of ministry opportunities and even just being refreshed by the people God has put in your life. Pay attention to what God is doing in the moment.

Now there is a series of books that can be written about being present. There are so many different ways to be present, meaning so many ways that we can be challenging ourselves. In what ways do you need to be more present?

7am: Wake up, read the paper, drive to work
9am: Start work
12pm: Lunch break with lunchtime workout
1pm: Back to work
3:15: Coffee Break
5pm: Home time
6pm: Dinner
8pm: Kids to bed and TV Watching
10pm: Bedtime

Is this what your routine looks like? Mine neither. As youth workers we often have some weird schedules. We are up late so we start in the office later. Some days are 12 hrs long while others wrap up in a just a few, because we just came in for a meeting.

No matter what your day looks like to be effective you need to find a rhythm. Music sucks without it and so will you. What does having a Rhythm look like?

I don’t believe that every day has to look the same, in fact if it did that would be rather boring. However, I strongly believe in finding what times of day I am productive in and when am I least productive.

About a year ago I sat in on a seminar Doug Fields was leading at a conference and he was challenging people about living a balanced life. One of the things he talked about was finding your productive times and using them well. For some people that time is morning, for me it’s mid afternoon. So that’s when I focus on getting things done. I would strongly encourage you to do the same find this time yourself.

In order to figure out our productive times and how to fill them we need to look at two things:

  • Priorities: For me this looks like the time I spend with God for personal time and for work it is writing talks and strategizing. If it’s the most important thing to me shouldn’t it be what I am giving the best of my time and brain power
  • When do I have maximum brain capacity: This took some searching and messing around with the order I did things during the day. I tried writing at the beginning of my day, the middle and the end. I’ve tried starting off my day with God and ending my day with God.

Through this investigation I figured out how to make my life at home and work more effective. While my day looks nothing like what I wrote above it does have some consistency. I slot my Bible reading and message writing for mid-afternoon. I often have a snack and drink before I do this. When others are hitting that wall or slowing down, I find I can break away and really focus on God.

Now some people may be wondering what I am going to do in my less productive times, and for them I answer the things that take less brain power. I find looking for graphics, updating Facebook or twitter to require less from me so I do them during this time.

So what is your Rhythm? If you have found it, have you put your priorities in place? Are you honoring God with your time and your efforts? I want to challenge you to mix up your day and see if there is a way to make better use of it. We are never perfect but we can strive to be better.

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

Between the two of us we’ve literally created hundreds of youth ministry calendars. Over time we’ve managed to pick up a few pointers we wanted to share in this SYM Today. A calendar focuses you on the purposes for your ministry and lays out the direction for the ministry. Here’s a process you can use, modify, or mock as you plan the upcoming school year calendar:

Strive for balance
The first mission is for the leadership to be clear that one purpose or agenda isn’t going to dominate the calendar. We lead a youth ministry that wants to be purpose-driven, not driven by one particular purpose. We will spend time talking about evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and worship—not letting any one thing drive the direction. You may not be “purpose-driven,” but we hope you want to be purposeful in your approach to ministry, and a calendar helps.

Take one purpose and run with it
If you decide balance and purpose is a good thing, the next step is to plan specific events, classes, trips, and meetings that focus on specific purposes and goals you have already deemed valuable. We also look at what we did the previous year and debrief them on the fly. If they worked, we consider it for the next year. If it didn’t work, we do our best to go after something fresh. In our setting, we like to take a specific “purpose” and spread it out over the course of the year.

Repeat that process for each purpose
Then we go month by month again, this time through the eyes of a purpose, such as evangelism. After that we’ll hit fellowship dates for small groups, then drop in discipleship retreats, camps, and trainings. We cover all of the purposes, with the goal of having each purpose represented clearly on the calendar.

Drop in the deadlines
Once the calendar is more or less “set,” we drop in deadlines for registrations and various milestones that related to the projects. For example, our mission trip requires a registration start and end, as well as three meetings for parents and a celebration weekend. Small groups don’t just start on day one; they need registration dates, deadlines, and enough time for us to process the students into groups. When you plan an event, be sure to also include the follow-up dates as well.

Look at the big picture and cut away
Then we look at the overall big picture and goal for balance and health, and we start the painful process of figuring out what needs to be cut. We also go in with the mindset of what items need to be adjusted—could we partner our event with another time our target audience is already at church, instead of asking for another night out of the team and the committed?

That’s ONE way to think about your ministry calendar. What’s yours?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

I might not be the best person to take time management advice from – I perpetually run about 15 minutes late to everything. So I don’t have it all together but have found a few ways to squeeze a little extra productivity out of the work week. Here are a few of the ones I like the most:

Get a 10-minute jump start on your day the night before
This one might not be the best one for everyone in case it would upset your restful sleep – but for me I can get a ton of work started if I do a quick check in right before bed. Once the family is set for the night and the house is quiet, I like to steal 10 minutes on webmail to set the day tomorrow. Maybe a quick scan of the calendar, a short reply, or an awareness of tomorrow’s challenges help me prepare mentally for the next day.

Turn off work on your day(s) off
When it is time to be off – be off! I realize that many church cell phones are also your personal phone, but you’ve got to shut them down. If you play hard, it’ll help you focus on work when it is time to work. Religiously take a day off, and make sure you’re really off.

Ditch TV unless you’re exercising or being productive
A great way to make sure you get both exercise and entertainment in during the week is to combine them. If you find yourself killing too much time on the couch, limit the amount of TV you watch by time on the treadmill. You might be surprised by what you could do (start a blog, write a book) if you force yourself to be productive at the same time or drop TV altogether.

Cut the distractions in the office
Turn off your email alerts. Disable Facebook’s constant stream of interruptions. Make sure Twitter isn’t always stealing your focus and concentration. Close your door if you have to. When you give yourself wholly to a task or complete it, reward yourself with a social media break or walk around the church office.

Lump similar tasks together
Let’s say you have to make 5 phone calls, write 15 cards, return 16 emails and work on budgets with multiple people. By putting these tasks into chunks of time you’ll be able to knock them out more quickly. Get in a rhythm, crank out the calls or projects all at once.

How do you squeeze more work into your work week?


Too many youth workers are running at full capacity with not enough margin to care for themselves or their team. Some of it is self-inflicted in our own brokenness, some of it is the product of a church culture skewed to an unhealthy extreme. Either way, we have a responsibilty as a church to make sure that we are healthy and balanced, not screaming down the path to burnout. If we’re not careful, we could model exactly what not to do to our team. If you want to keep your team and yourself healthy and for a long time – here are a few ideas mixed in with more questions than answers:

Every individual is responsible for their personal growth, but the church culture should share in this pursuit. Does your church regularly offer and/or require volunteers to participate in training events? Is there access to plenty of resources to grow on their own? Is there a culture to share what you are learning with others? People who aren’t trained will eventually grow tired of trying without success, will be crushed under the weight of success, or quietly search for someone who will care for them AND care for what they do. Well-trained people stay longer.

Coaches identify unseen weaknesses, opportunities and motivations. To often people are left in isolation when they need the benefits of an actively engaged coach. When was the last time you nudged someone on your team toward an unseen opportunity? How often do you take time from the pace of ministry and poured into your players? You have so much wisdom, use it to pour into your team! People will in return value the coach and the coaching.

If you want to keep your team together and build youth ministry longevity, you have to protect your people. You may need to protect them from an overreacting parent or even from their own destructive behaviors. You have to protect them with sound policies that focus on caring for them and for your students. Some failure is part of the learning process and healthy, too much can drive someone away or disqualify them for good. Knowing how much to give someone, when to press and when to let up, is an art a leader must master to keep his or her people.

These are critically important for your volunteers – but they’re important for you, too! How are you being trained, coached and protected?


Was just randomly looking through books and tools that might help HSM in our next season and landed on a few that I’m interested in and/or look promising for some situations I’m facing that you may soon, too. Here’s a few items I’m excited about checking out:

If you’re stuck trying to figure out the work of youth ministrymaybe check out Duffy Robbin’s recently expanded and updated book Youth Ministry Nuts and Bolts.

Youth ministry veteran and bestselling author, Duffy Robbins, offers an updated and revised edition of his book about the important, behind-the-scenes mechaincs of youth ministry. The tasks of budgeting, decision-making, time management, team ministry, staff relationships, conflict resolution, working with parents, and a range of other issues, are the things that keep a ministry together and functioning well. Nobody gets into youth ministry because they want to think about these things; but a lot of people get out of youth ministry because they didn’t think about them. All youth workers– whether paid or volunteer, full-time or part-time– will find Youth Ministry Nuts and Bolts to be a thoughtful, fun, practical guide to youth ministry administration.

If you’re stuck on how to help parents get more engaged in raising their students I love Walt Mueller’s stuff and 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers looks like a cheap/simple resource to get into their hands quickly.

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you need all the help you can get. How do you help your children make wise choices? How do you give your teenagers freedom to make their own choices while still providing a guiding hand? How do you invest your time and energy in ways that make an eternal difference in your children’s lives? Walt Mueller delivers the goods in 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers, a no-holds-barred look at the good, bad, and ugly aspects of parenting teenagers. Drawing on his experience as a parent of four children who have passed through their teenage years, Walt shares wisdom, thoughts, insights, and suggestions for making the teenage years count.

If you’re stuck trying to communicate to students the same way … maybe you need to think about using some video curriculum for a while. What if you could bring in Doug Fields, Francis Chan and Max Lucado? I think this video teaching series from BlueFish looks awesome.

If you’re stuck trying to figure out teaching teenagers at all I can’t recommend Doug Fields’ and Duffy Robbins’ book Speaking to Teenagers. A gamer-changer in helping you learn to be a better communicator:

Get ready for a crash course in effective communication. More than just a book on how to “do talks,” Speaking to Teenagers combines the experience and wisdom of two veteran youth ministry speakers, along with insightful research and practical tools, to help you develop messages that engage students with the love of Christ and the power of his Word. Whether you’re crafting a five-minute devotional or a 30-minute sermon, Speaking to Teenagers is essential to understanding and preparing great messages. Together, Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins show you how they craft their own messages and give you the tools to do it yourself. They’ll guide you, step-by-step, through the process of preparing and delivering meaningful messages that effectively communicate to your students.

If you’re stuck in a creative rut … maybe Les Christie can help. The book Awaken Your Creativity shows a ton of promise for helping you get unstuck from doing the same old thing.

You know how tough it can be to come up with new and inventive student ministry ideas every school year. It can be infinitely more grueling to be that creative on a weekly basis! Whether you’re developing a new message, a unique way to get students talking and interacting, or something different for the weekend retreat, most of us find ourselves tapped for creative ideas after a little while. Take comfort: You’re not alone, and you’re not necessarily out of creative steam. Everyone hits a block at some point, but you can find a way to tap into the creativity God placed within you. Les Christie has been doing youth ministry for decades, and he’s not out of ideas yet! This practical book will help you explore the stumbling blocks, the tricks of the trade, and the catalysts to creativity.


Thoroughly enjoying Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff. I’ve been a fan of his writing for a while, although originally dismissing his blog since it was an obvious knockoff of Stuff White People Like. That aside, Jon manages to take some fun and largely overdue shots at the Christian subculture that are welcome and highly entertaining. If you’ve never read “Treating Youth Ministers Like Silver Medal Ministers” or “The Mandatory Youth Minister Goatee“, you should immediately. The book is largely a collection of his blog posts so if you’re a fan you’ll love it for sure (and if not be sure to check out his blog here). Good, entertaining read making fun of us. Love it.