It never occurred to me what would happen if I couldn’t attend youth ministry one night because of an emergency.  I had always made plans for when I went out on vacation; however, what would happen if I got sick or my family needed me.  I was finally put in that situation during the time of my wife’s pregnancy with our son Matthew.  I not only had to plan for the dates I thought I would be out, but just in case our son had come early.  I had to answer the question:


In youth ministry you need a back up plan because it will help you prepare for times when:

  • You are sick
  • Something happens in the community
  • The church has a big announcement
  • Weather disruptions
  • Family Emergencies

Your team, parents, and teens depend on your back up plan, because it gives them stability in moments of change.  If there isn’t certainty in what to do, anything can and will happen.  To build a successful back up plan you need to:

  • MAKE IT SIMPLE: If the power went out, leaders didn’t show up or your message got magically erased what could you simply do with the students.  For us the answer is FORM SMALL GROUPS that pray together, share life together and pray for one another.  This is already at the core of what we do in our ministry.  If you keep your plan simple and it stems from the foundation of your ministry leaders will have an easier time adapting to the sudden change an emergency will bring.
  • COMMUNICATE IT TO EVERYONE:  Make sure everyone on your team knows what to do.  That means everyone knows who is leading the ship in your absence, and what they need to do if they are in charge.  Provide an accessible document, cover this in leadership meetings and constantly grow leaders.  Great communication leads to effective preparation.
  • PRACTICE IT: You need to practice your backup plan so that people get a feel for what it looks like.  Great times to practice a backup plan are in the summer, during a weekend you know that there will be competition (i.e. Sunday after Thanksgiving) or when you plan to go away.  This way you can troubleshoot any errors in the plan.

No one likes to think that they need a back up plan because it can mean a drop in excellence.  But, the best youth ministries are the ones that prepare for moments that may never come.  Your ministry should not be a program, it needs to be a movement.  Make sure it can move with your life, your teens and your community’s.

What does your back up plan look like?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

I hate planning for trips, events and program because it’s calling me to embrace administrative duties that I’m not good at doing.  I’d rather be on a mountain, hanging out at a burger joint or shooting a basketball with a group of teens, than figuring out the cheapest way to feed them on a Sunday night.  When you started out in youth ministry you probably had dreams of hanging with students, mentoring and walking with them in faith.  While you should be doing that, as you become more seasoned there is a pull to manage and lead from an administrative standpoint.  You might feel like fighting that urge and grow guilty when you are stuck behind a desk.  However, it’s prudent to embrace the administrative side of youth ministry because it will help you as a leader:

  • Extend Your Capacity
  • Solve Big Picture Problems
  • Fuel A Movement

So, how do you embrace your administrative duties?  How can you grow as a leader?  Remember to:

Study Outside Systems:  To lead a ministry takes more than just being relational.  As a leader you need to study successful models.  This means learning how to do customer service from Chick-fil-a or how to sell an idea like Apple.  Business models, school systems and looking at other ministries will help you discover principles and practices that will help your ministry grow stronger.

Craft Your Communication Skills: Communicating clearly and consistently might come naturally to some; however, for others it takes practice and work.  Whether it’s developing email templates or reviewing a talk.  As a youth minister if you aren’t communicating to others effectively, than you won’t lead them effectively either.

Prepare, Prepare And Prepare:  You need to prepare for meetings to make them worth people’s time.  You need to prepare for messages so that you can cast vision.  You need to build in margin into your schedule so that you are not always flying by the seat of your pants.  A prepared individual is confident and able to roll with the punches youth ministry can literally (Middle Schoolers can get nasty) and figuratively bring.

The administrative side of youth ministry is definitely not as attractive as sitting with a teen in the trenches.  The tendency is to fight these responsibilities; however, if neglected they can harm you in the long run.  As the youth pastor of your church you are not only called to lead individual students but also the young church.  To do this effectively you need to pour into your leaders.  You need to organize systems and sometimes that means embracing administrative duties.


What administrative duty do you struggle to embrace the most?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



article.2013.01.29Church office hours—what a great subject! And while this might not specifically apply to everyone getting the newsletter, we’re hoping there are some principles that will help everyone, whatever their role is in youth ministry. So how do you make the administrative side of ministry work? Here are a few ideas that have helped me a ton:

Make your preferred method of communication known.
If you are a phone person, put your phone number everywhere and on everything. If you hate the phone (like me!) make sure that everything points to the way you work best. In my case, email is the most effective way to manage the incoming streams of information, complaints, and requests. I still check voicemail occasionally and have learned to live with another inbox (thanks, Facebook) but I want to make sure people know where I’m most available and where they can get the best results. Otherwise someone may be expecting an immediate phone call in return when that priority is much further down on my list. Go public with how you tick.

Don’t let others manipulate your time.
Every meeting has a starting time; why shouldn’t it have an ending time as well? Meetings, committees, and unexpected drop-ins have a way of eating up an enormous chunk of our day. And I need more Facebook time (just kidding). So when you start a meeting, lay out the goals and the time they need to be met by. When someone drops by, early in the conversation let them know your boundaries to help them find their way to the point of the drive-by. Of course, the idea here is not to create an assembly line of care or artificial community, just a candid revelation that at times you have to have good boundaries in every area of your life—even office visits.

Drop everything for pastoral care.
Okay, you might read that and go too far with it. But you are never more valuable then when there is a crisis. Get to the hospital as soon as you can. Rearrange that lunch with an old friend from college so you can go to the funeral. Don’t miss the big things, and at least be aware of the small things. Of course, remember this principle has boundaries as well, but as a general rule: When a crisis shows up, you do, too.

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.

How To Lead Your Pastor

Chris Wesley —  January 31, 2013 — 13 Comments

I used to have heated arguments with my pastor.  They were exhausting and painful.  I remember walking into the church office after a moment of confrontation filled with resentment thinking, “If I ran this church it would be better because I would…”  All that mindset did was drain me.  Many times the reason pastors and youth pastors clash is because of a disagreement on decisions, strategies or leadership.

While you may never want to be a pastor you might have some thought and ideas on how it should be done.  Before you get ready to go off and plant your own church, consider that maybe you need to do a better job of leading up.  If you ever want your pastor to listen to your ideas and you want to LEAD UP you need to make sure you:

  • Offer Encouragement: Your pastor takes on much of the criticism and burden that leading a church will bring.  It’ll be easy for him to feel defeated and hopeless, you need to be a cheerleader.  Not only will this give him confidence; but, it will help him see that you are loyal to his leadership.  Loyalty is often rewarded.
  • Practice Obedience:  As the leader your pastor needs to make decisions.  Some you’ll agree with and others not so much.  If you disobey your pastor and constantly undermine his decisions you are showing a lack of trust and signs of arrogance. Showing obedience to your pastor is also a sign of trust in God.  After all your pastor is in the position he is in because of God.  While he might not always have it right, your obedience will help you build clout so that you can guide him in the right direction.
  • Praise Publicly Confront Privately: Never criticize your pastor publicly.  When you speak about your pastor in the open you shape people’s perspectives.  You will not only hurt his image, but the churches and even yours.  If you have a problem with a decision he’s made or something he’s done confront him privately.  Set up a meeting where you can chat one on one, so that he’s not embarrassed in front of others.
  • Continually Communicate: If you ever want to influence up you need to consistently communicate with your pastor.  That means being honest with your struggles and letting him know your needs.  It also requires that you ask your pastor, “How can I serve you?”  What you are really saying to him is, “How can I help you out?”  This builds a healthy relationship so that when you are in trouble or in need you have an ally.

The relationship you have with your pastor is going to depend on your personalities.  Even if you are coming from completely different ends of the earth, you can influence him by earning his respect, trust and loyalty.  You won’t get your way in ministry if you are knocking him down, disobeying his decisions and making him out to be a bad guy.  Lead up by showing him you are worth following.

How do you strengthen the relationship you have with your pastor?

article.2013.01.16Yesterday we talked about gossip and how destructive it can be within the church culture, and devastating to those outside the church walls. So let’s fight back! The best way to stop gossip is right where it starts – with your team and with the people you influence. Here are a few things we’ve learned about how to create unity and continue the uphill battle against gossip.

People who are informed are less likely to gossip.
Oftentimes ignorance can create a breeding ground for gossip. When you keep people in the dark, sometimes their mind plays tricks on them. They read into a situation or conversation, and the lack of communication creates gaps they gladly fill with their own speculation or opinion. If you want to create a unified team, keep people in the loop! When you communicate well, you crush the early growth of gossip.

People who have great history have unity.
If you have a few key volunteers who have been with you since the beginning, you know how sweet it is to be with them, serve alongside them, and do the hard work of ministry together. You literally and figuratively have each other’s backs, and unity is your middle name. On the other hand, when you have high turnover or a collection of young, immature, or inexperienced youth workers serving with you the total opposite can happen. If you want to know the joys of a gossip-free team, work harder than ever to keep them around for a long time.

People who laugh rarely turn on each other.
We’ve noticed again and again in our years of youth ministry trench warfare that when people laugh together, they love each other more. When you are in relationship with your people – great stories, memories and inside jokes – the stronger you are together. When was the last time you spent some time just playing with your team? When was the last time you had an awards ceremony and gave out awards for everyone? Laugh together and unity quickly follows.

How have you seen unity built in your ministry?

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.

One of the most difficult obstacles I had when I started out in youth ministry was overcoming the feeling of being patronized by parents and adult volunteers.  Some of my feelings were due to a bruised ego because I thought I knew it all.  But, the rest of my feelings were legitimate because people did not see me as a professional.  They saw me as a youth minister; however, they didn’t see the professionalism in this industry.

What needed to change?  Simple, how I was presenting myself.  While there will always be people who will talk down to and treat those younger than them with inferiority, there are a few steps you can take to be seen as a professional.  They might be hard to embrace because of youth ministry’s push to be relational.  And relational can still be professional, in fact it should be.  In order to improve the ways you are treated, embrace these four steps:

  1. Dress Appropriately: This means two things.  First, it means dressing for your audiences.  Make sure how you are dressed makes your company feel comfortable.  How would a student feel if you were always wearing a shirt and tie?  How would parents feel if all they saw you in was shorts, ball cap and t-shirt?  Secondly, it means making sure what you wear is clean, ironed, and appropriate.  It’s not about having the latest fashions or dressing to impress.  When you dress well you show others that you are organized, ready and focused.
  2. Prepare For Meetings: Whether it’s a meeting for volunteers, parents or coworkers make sure you prepare and follow an agenda so that it’s worth their time.  If you are hosting the meeting start and end on time.  If you are attending a meeting make sure you are not late.  Lastly, be sure your materials are in order and that your not constantly checking your phone.
  3. Communicate Professionally:  Once you are out of college it’s time to put the fancy fonts, funky email address and clever voicemail greetings away.  Make your emails clear and scannable.  Respond to your voicemails promptly.  Have someone edit your letters.  And if giving a message or speech practice, practice and practice.  When you can communicate clearly, people will respond well.
  4. Be Fiscally Responsible:  When you are responsible with your budget it shows church members that you care about their investment in God’s kingdom.  That means researching the resources you purchase and knowing when to make sacrifices.  If you take care of what has been given to you, you will be blessed.  People will trust you and God will reward your stewardship.


The push back for some is that youth ministry needs to have a “Come As You Are” type of attitude.  If you come off careless, disheveled and haphazard who is going to trust you with their teens?  A certain level of professionalism will improve the relationships you have with the people that invest in your ministry and make it happen.  Let them know that you can be trusted.

How else can we be more professional in youth ministry?  Do you think I’m being too harsh?


Go Back To The Basics

Chris Wesley —  January 3, 2013 — 2 Comments

When I was 9 years old I had to do a project on the Panama Canal.  The assignment was to write a 5 page paper that explained the history and structure of this modern wonder.  Let’s just say I took a simple assignment and made it complex, instead of 5 pages it ended up being 15.  When I handed in the project in it’s vinyl cover, I could tell my teacher was a little overwhelmed.  In the end I didn’t get the best grade because I failed to follow directions.

There are times when you will go over the top because you are either OVERLY PASSIONATE or INCREDIBLY STRESSED.  When your emotions gain control of your actions it’s easy to make what you do too complex.  This can cause:

  • Confusing Messages
  • Irrelevant Activities
  • Unclear Communication
  • Competing Systems

In other words it will water down your ministry and make it ineffective.  To avoid this you need to know the basics of your ministry.  That means knowing:

The Bottom Line: When delivering a message or an email you need to know what it is you are trying to say.  Take what you are trying to say and boil it down to one sentence.  Once you have that you can build on it; however, keep it clear.

What You Are Designed To Do: At the end of the day why does your ministry exist?  Answering this question will help you know the impact you are supposed to have on the students. Youth ministers can be lured into trying to be everything to anyone; however, God has given your ministry one purpose.  Focus on that purpose and you’ll see your ministry flourish.

Your Work Flow: A complex schedule will lead to overworking and exhaustion.  Creating a schedule and making to-do lists will help you sort out your day and tasks.  You’ll see what you are doing that isn’t necessary and what needs all your attention.  By prioritizing your work flow you’ll be able to build momentum and create more capacity in your life.

It’s easy to find ourselves in a complex ministry because you’ll be eager to impress students.  You’ll find yourself in situations when you want to say everything about a certain subject.  And then there will be seasons when Satan is attacking, making life confusing and when that happens it’s time to slow down.  Find a pace, ask God for guidance and go back to the basics.

Where else does ministry need to be more simple?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Have you ever listened to someone talk and you are either bored to death or have no idea what they are saying. Not to long ago I attended a seminar by a brilliant scholar the only problem was he decided to read the entire 3-hour lecture off of his iPad and he used words that had me scrambling for Wikipedia. It was brutal to say the least.

This started getting me to thinking about how I communicate. I have been told before that I am a good speaker and I do have a gifting for it, but is that solely what makes a good speaker. I know the answer is a resounding no.

A few months ago I was speaking to a group of students on prayer and felt like I had laid everything out crystal clear and was engaging. I was ready to finish up for the night when I decided to ask if anyone had any questions and boom a hand shot up “What do we mean when we say ‘Amen’?” While I had gone through almost everything I had taken for granted a little piece of language we so often overlook.

Now I don’t think I failed my talk and I was glad I was able to go back and explain what ‘Amen’ means. But it did cause me to think about what if I was that speaker I listened to? What if I come across as an alien speaking another language to my students. I try really hard to use their language and simplify things down to solid points but sometimes I miss it.

My lesson was simple: I need to work at re-examining my language. We sometimes get so used to insider language that we forget it’s insider. Check myself anytime I speak or answer a students question. The second part of the lesson was this: Take time to allow for questions to be asked. Often in ministry I find I am the one talking or asking the questions. Try to plan time to let students ask questions. We often learn better from asking then answering anyways.

My questions to you are simple:

  • Are you checking your language regularly? (do all your students know what sin, amen, salvation and Christ mean?)
  • How much time do you give students to ask you questions? Do you allow them time to process and clarify what you have talked about?


Kyle Corbin has been serving as a volunteer or youth 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.