This cool video might inspire and spark ideas. I am a master at #6.

29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

Brandon/ @uthguy9

00Gungor. Cajun food. Brainstorming. Entering the Story.

(Hang on… I’m getting ahead of myself.)

You may not know this, but the Simply Youth Ministry Conference is largely planned by youth workers (and people who love youth workers).

Around this time every year in the fall, a group of youth workers get together for what’s called “The Summit” – a time when the “In The Trenches Team” (or IT3, for short) come out to Group‘s HQ for a few days of camaraderie, prayer, seeking God and a whole lot of brainstorming.

My journey began super early today, as did others who came out this way.

That isn’t to say the day wasn’t without its share of sermon illustrations in the making.

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For example, I began to prepare to be around other youth workers as I walked off for my connecting flight in North Carolina and heard airport security paging a “Mr Freddy Krueger.”

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There was also the woman who prepared me to think with innovation as she cleaned the moving stairway simply by standing on it while holding her mop to its sides.

When you finally do make it out to Group, you’re treated to a talking moose at the door and an assortment of healthy and sweet treats inside.

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The real treat is getting around some great minds who know how to pull the best out of a swarm of random people. Rick Lawrence, Jason Ostrander and Mike Novelli led us through several key points in the day.

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Simply Youth Ministry does a great job at loving on the IT3 team, from springing for dinner…

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to springing Gungor on us during dinner.

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Yeah… seriously, that just happened.

I was accidentally in the front row of a special Gungor concert. They’ll be anchoring Saturday night and Sunday night at SYMC 2014 with some amazing music they gave us a glimpse of tonight. It’s the kind of music that you need to go get right now, in fact.

So here’s the scoop… pretend you’re here.

  • What ideas would you offer for SYMC 2014?
  • How would you love to see some things continue?
  • Is there anything that should be changed, added or updated?

Yes – you can be a virtual IT3 member… chime in!



Our high school program was failing. A year before attendance and energy had been soaring through the roof and now the crickets barely made a sound. I had made some recent changes to the format because what we were doing felt too much like entertainment. Needless to say I received push back, people criticized and left. I felt like a failure.

My pastor and associate to the pastor talked to me about the situation and reassured me not to worry about my job. However, they suggested that I look at making some changes to the way that we did ministry. In the end we made some pretty bold moves including switching up the nights. Today the program is growing deeper and wider.

Anytime you face a problem in ministry you have two choices. You can LEAN IN or DENY IT. It doesn’t take a rocket science to know the only way you are going to solve your problems is by facing them. And to do that you need to:

  • Throw Everything On The Table: When you problem solve all suggestions and ideas need to be thrown onto the table. Sometimes an idea needs time to mature and evolve. If something doesn’t hit you right at first, take the time to sit back and ask, “What if?” After all ideas have been exhausted start whittling down the list.
  • Share The Burden: It’s easy to buy that lie, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” All that does is limit your capacity to solve a problem. Invite your leaders to brainstorm and offer their resources. If anything invite others to pray and share the burden.
  • Face The Failure: Solving a problem means taking a risk; however, the consequences are far less than if you do nothing. Granted you might fail; however, by taking an attempt you fail forward. You’ll learn from your mistakes, and will be able to tackle it from a new perspective.
  • Involve God Into The Process:Not sure why it’s easy to ignore God; however, if you don’t include Him into your problems you’ll find yourself exhausted and frustrated. When the solution isn’t in front of you, it’s important to take the time to fast, give or just sit quietly and listen. Allow God to work through you inorder to guide you towards the solution.

Whether it’s shaking things up or approaching a new season of ministry tackle your problems head on with a plan.  Ministry is relational and organic; therefore, it’s going to get messy. Do not fear it, lean into it, share the journey with others and trust God to lead you.

How do you approach problems? Would you add anything to the list?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Is your youth ministry original?  Feels like it needs to be, doesn’t it?  When your ministry is original, it’s fresh, and exciting.  In fact isn’t the reason teens leave your ministry due to the fact that you aren’t wowing them anymore?  Yes and no.  While originality is important, it isn’t the only way to shape your youth ministry’s identity.  In fact if you can REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE what you already have, you’ll create capacity to do more.  It’s not always about the activities, message or curriculum present.  It’s about the environments and relationships you set-up.  Unfortunately, if you are constantly worrying over new content and new ideas, you’ll miss out on some of the most important aspects of youth ministry.

To create more capacity, to focus on what’s important you need to make sure that originality isn’t standing in the way.  When you reduce, reuse and recycle it gives you margin.  This is how:

REDUCE: Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles to creativity.  In order to free up new ideas you need to go through your files and folders and throw away the ones that have been lingering around for too long.  Sitting in messiness is also a recipe for a cluttered mind.  If you have time clean your desk, your office and reduce the amount of distractions pulling you from your projects.  To reduce in your ministry create systems when you are storing ideas and then cleaning inboxes, file cabinets and desktop folders.  A weekly habit is best.

REUSE:  Don’t be afraid to duplicate your efforts, especially if it worked before.  It’s easy to just toss something away after you’ve spent hours and days working hard on it; however, before you toss it, archive it instead.  There might be a time when you need to use that same message, that same exercise or activity.  In fact look to pass it on and share it with a youth minister friend who could benefit from your hard work.  It will save time and energy the next go around.  To reuse without sabotaging you reducing efforts, give your reuse folder an expiration date.  It’s on that date you can determine if this idea or activity is still useful.

RECYCLE: Outsourcing is one of the best ways you can do something new.  There are so many people out there with great ideas, willing to share them with you.  In the end you don’t always have to be original.  If you can take an idea here and another there (With permission) and work them together, you’ll find something fresh.  To recycle properly just break the outsourced material into components, separate them and answer the question, “What can I adapt for my ministry?”  Maybe it’ll work well with another resource, but don’t be afraid to try.

When you can save yourself some time on creativity you can give yourself more margin.  When you have this margin you can pour into your leaders, the students and parents of your ministry.  As a leader you don’t have to spend your time sitting behind a desk trying to come up with something new.  Look to your fellow youth workers and to what you’ve done before.  Make sure you set yourself up for success by taking away the junk.

How do you reduce, reuse and recycle in your youth ministry?

Chris (Twitter)