The event is over—you collapse in a heap swearing you’ll never do another overnighter again. Deep down, as much as you hate it, you see relationships growing with students and know the Gospel is being presented, so maybe… just maybe, you’ll do it again. Either way, now is the time to sleep.

Your peaceful and overdue slumber is sharply broken by the piercing of your cell phone. It’s 9 A.M. and the church staff is just getting to the office and wading through the aftermath of your event. The trustee is ticked about the Diet-Coke-and-Mentos-covered parking lot. The deacon wants to know why the baptismal is now empty and the carpets are so wet. The church cleaning guy is frustrated at the amount of toilet paper that’s missing and the senior pastor called having found where it ended up—the trees in his front yard.

This fictional event…well, honestly some of it is fiction…holds some great reminders. Yesterday we said make sure you say thanks; today’s reminder is to make sure you clean it up—which is how you say thanks to your church for letting you do this stuff in the first place!

A few lessons from our fable:

1) If possible, don’t use your own facility for “high maintenance” events. Rent out a YMCA or travel to a few different places so one place doesn’t take such a beating.

2) Clean up after yourself. There’s no faster way to lose your credibility, position, or salvation than leaving a mess in your event’s wake.

3) Know yourself. When I (Josh) think something is clean that usually means it’s somewhat passable. Find a leader who is detail-orientated and will make sure every nook and cranny are clean, and everything is back in place.

4) Be the last to leave. When you lock up behind you, there’s nothing left to chance. Not only that but it also lets you model servanthood by being the first one in and the first one out.

5) If you break something (hey, things happen)…give someone a heads up. Do it before it’s later discovered, and you look completely irresponsible. Don’t be that guy who blindsides his/her boss.

6) Fuel it back up and get it washed. Did you use a vehicle in your program or event? Borrow a parent’s minivan for your missions trip? Get it cleaned inside and out ,and make sure the fuel tank reads FULL.

7) Simple rule of thumb: Leave it better than you found it. Who cares about the senior citizens Bible study at 6am on Saturday morning? You do! Make sure their room, and any of the other ones you used, are back to ship shape.
Make them wonder if your event even happened because things are so tidy.

What else would you add to the list?

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

I did it today.  I ran my first half marathon.  I met my goal, I placed well, and I had a great sense of accomplishment.  I have thought about doing one for the past 7 years since I did a ten mile run, but I didn’t do it until earlier this year- as it is one “one of those things to do before my wife gives birth” sort of thing.

Paul reminds Timothy to “train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV).” Keeping this in mind, as I reflected over this morning’s race- there were some leadership and ministry principles that came to mind. Here are a few.

A dream never becomes reality until we do something about it.
Proverbs reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (29:18 KJV). I believe this is more than a dream or a hope for something.  If God has given us a vision for our community, people, or goal- we have to begin to prayerfully plan this out.  I said that I always wanted to run the marathon.  What accomplished it? It took the act of setting my deadline and planning out the steps that it would take to make this happen.

What goal, dream, or vision do we have that could be accomplished if we planned to do something about it? Keep in mind that when we plan and pray, God may and can change our plans.

There will be opposition when we work to accomplish our goals.
Running hurt.  There was one or two runs I couldn’t finish while training.  There was rain, cold weather, and even snow (thank you Wisconsin!). It rained all morning before the race.  The thought of not following through definitely crept up many times.

We have critics.  We have people with different ideas, and others that may not share our vision.  Not only that, we have an Enemy that is against our goal to help others take steps with God.  We have opposition, and this is going to be tough.  But stick it out!

Move at a sustainable pace.
During my training, I knew that I could run at a 9:00 minute a mile pace and sustain it.  I started slower than I thought, and worked to make up lost time.  I ran a 7:00 minute mile! It felt great- but I quickly realized that I would burn out at that pace before the race finished.

In leadership, we may be running at a pace that is unsustainable.  We may be able to accomplish more things in the short term and feel great (I felt really good about the 7 minute mile), but if we aren’t honest- we will burn out much faster than we are supposed to.  Move at the sustainable pace- you will accomplish more that way.

We must rest to race at our best.
My training called for a week and a half “taper” where I did a few light runs and rested from regular exercise.  I was told that this will help my body be in optimal shape before the race.  It was tough- I wanted to run the week during the race to make sure I “still had it.”  However, I simply trusted in my training and made it through.

I think about our ministry’s big events- mission trips, camps, and retreats.  Not to mention every weekend is BIG.  What if we trusted in our preparation before our big day in order to be at our best before the big day? What if we planned out our rest time before- so that we will be at our best when we need to be.  I need to be at my best for my students every Sunday, and I need to be at my best on our big events of the year- because this is an optimal time to help them take steps with God.  I can’t help but wonder if I had more of purposeful rest before hand that will allow me to be at my best.

Finally, it is best to celebrate with friends.
I loved knowing that my wife and two great friends were waiting at the finish line as I finished the race. Even though I was in pain, it was great to share the journey with them and grab a meal afterwards.  It made the experience better.  Before moving onto what’s next- take time to celebrate what you accomplished.

Tyler Volkers is the Student and Elementary Pastor at The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, WI.  You can follow him on Twitter at @tylervolkers.

One of the most important administrative steps of any youth leader is the development of a yearly planner. Taking some time each spring/summer to plan out the next school year’s calendar (August – May) holds countless benefits for you, your students, your volunteers, and your church leadership.

Consider the value of strategically laying out a well-planned Ministry/School Year Calendar:

  • Communicates you value students’ busy lives.
  • Allows you to effectively communicate details with parents.
  • Helps you budget more accurately.
  • Provides opportunity to begin promoting events earlier.
  • Forces your hand to strategize various ministry events.
  • Reinforces your leadership ability to superiors.
  • Promotes better work/personal life balance (family appointments, out-of-town schedules, etc).

And yet, developing a Yearly Calendar is neglected by far too many youth leaders and pastors. For some, they don’t recognize the benefits because they’ve never experienced them. But for others, the process just seems too difficult… planning events 8-9 months in advance appears too daunting of a challenge. Be encouraged, many of your colleagues around the country are proving the challenge is not too difficult. And with the right system, you can accomplish it too.

I’ve used the exact same process every spring for the past 15 years to produce a calendar for the next school year. And I’ve found that the whole project can be accomplished in 5 completely achievable steps.

  1. Create an editable calendar document displaying each month of the upcoming school year with clearly labeled holidays. I recommend using a landscape-view displaying 2 months on each page. This allows room for a readable font, but still hangs nicely in your office without taking too much space. I also recommend using the Tables function in a simple word processor to create the template. This allows opportunity to insert text and a variety of shading opportunities. To get you started, here’s the template I’ve used for years (.doc / .pages). 
  2. Track down your local school’s district calendar typically located on their website. Import the important dates onto your calendar marking school vacation days with a consistent shade of gray (again, creating your calendar as a table in Word or Pages makes this shading simple). Be sure to label the first day of school, last day of school, vacation days, and testing weeks if applicable.
  3. Import your regular-occurring ministry calendar programs. Your ministry likely has a weekly/monthly schedule of events (think Sunday Mornings, Small Groups, Wednesday nights, Monthly Trainings, etc.). Begin populating your yearly planner by inserting them on your calendar template. Simply create the title, then copy (Ctrl-C) and paste (Ctrl-V) on to each appropriate day.
  4. Schedule/record any overnight trips for your youth ministry. Some of these overnight events occur on a yearly recurring basis. For example, my ministry goes on a weekend retreat every January and a week-long high school trip in July. Scheduling those on the calendar are easy – they occur every year at the same time. For the overnight trips that don’t recur yearly but you still plan to accomplish, your calendar template will help you select the most strategic week/weekend for each trip.
  5. Schedule the rest of your events for the ministry year. Your final step involves scheduling and recording everything else: outreach events, special parties, unique Sundays, and whole church festivities (just to name a few). This will, of course, be the most difficult of the five steps and will take the most amount of time and foresight. But take heart, with the first four steps completed, you’ll be surprised how quickly this last step flows. Once you can glance at the entire yearly planner in front of you, you’ll find the rest of your events almost schedule themselves.

Once completed, your calendar will quickly become one of the most important documents in your office as it helps provide clarity to your disciple-making strategy and decision-making process. But don’t leave it hanging on your bulletin board. Make sure it finds its way into the hands of your students, parents, and volunteers. You’ll be glad you did… and so will they.

Joshua Becker is a veteran youth pastor who has served churches in Wisconsin, Vermont, and Arizona. He blogs regularly at Becoming Minimalist where he encourages others to find more life by owning fewer possessions. You may also enjoy following him on Twitter.

Hilarious Hunger Games parody video the team made this week to promote HSM Summer Camp. One of my new favorites!


Every event the question comes up: How are we getting the word out? And, of course, every few months the answers morph and change as the world of communication evolves. What we’ve learned is that there is no one answer that suffices. We have to repeatedly communicate to both kids and parents in lots of ways. We utilize our website, posters, invitation cards, text, Twitter, but far and away the most effective the past few years have been Facebook and YouTube. I work with middle school students, so some of them are not old enough or their parents do not allow them to have a Facebook page yet. However, the majority of families in our community either have a student or a parent who’s on Facebook, so we have a profile for our ministry that we update daily. The challenge is to keep up with where students are at and be creative in capturing their attention. Every week we have students make announcement videos, and when we have a special event like camp we’ll make special promo videos. Here are 2 fun, creative videos we made to promote our winter camp this year.

Kevin Mahaffy is the Middle School Pastor at Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, CA. Check out his blog and more at

This week’s poll isn’t for everyone – but I’m curious whether or not you can drive a bus. In my first church, I was asked by the leadership to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to drive the church bus for big events and camps – I ended up driving it for everyone and everything! Where I serve now it isn’t a necessity so I let it lapse. How about you? Just curious!


This past weekend our junior high ministry put on an incredible event called The 3. It is on the 3rd Friday of the month, lasts 3 hours and costs $3. They have had incredible themes and games each time, but this idea was next level: a car smash! So fun … made quite the mess but was super memorable and no doubt the thing talked about when kids got back to school Monday. Brilliant!


Here’s the latest promo video for one of the very few events we do each year – our annual Pumpkinfest party. Going to be fun!