SONY DSCAnyone out there ever drank a Red Bull?

Don’t worry – you don’t have to admit it to us. Admit it to them, though, and you get ten bucks through a class action suit… for real: A lot has been written about the dangers of a “red bull” type of youth ministry. It would be real easy for us to just talk about that and the dangers of running a youth group on adrenaline.

pastor_coffee_mugs-r06d4567426634d96844692280c573bf0_x7jgr_8byvr_512Instead, allow me to be a tad more personal… how’s your caffeine intake these days?

I once joked with a friend at a ministry conference how addicted pastors and youth workers can be to coffee or energy drinks, yet shrug it off as if it’s something laughable. “I just can’t start the morning without my caffeine,” we reason, high-fiving each other over it. “Where should we meet? Starbucks, of course. We’ll talk about our upcoming lesson on addictions there.” In that conversation with my friend, I noted how many people at the conference (even during sessions) kept getting up to get a free cup of coffee from the dispensers alongside both sides of the room. I asked him, “What do you think would happen if word got out that they’re about to run out of coffee?” He smiled and replied, “Nothing would happen.” SONY DSCAs the words were floating out of his mouth, another friend who was with us (and somewhat hard of hearing) interrupted. “THEY’RE ABOUT TO RUN OUT OF COFFEE?” he innocently asked, not realizing how loudly he was talking. As he got up to get what he thought was going to be the last cup available, others around us heard his declaration and saw his movement. Soon, a small swell of people began to get up and tactfully race over to the carafes to obtain what they also assumed would be the last remnant of caffeine available. As that played out, a new swell of people around them joined in… which prompted the other side of the room to put “two-and-two” together – and they got up to race for coffee on their side of the room. I’m not making this up. In a matter of a few minutes, an official break had to be called from the front of the room as the majority of people in a room that sat hundreds quickly got up to fill their styrofoam cups with hot java. I turned to my friend… and I smiled. This all happened years ago, way before Red Bull was such a household name… way before youth workers started pounding energy drinks in the name of being able to do ministry. Granted, I’m picking on one thing in life we could be addicted to. Others might cite other overlooked addictions like food, sleep, laziness and more. Feel free, as long as it’s not a defense mechanism to you addressing what your addiction might be.

skitched-20090812-090411What is your “excusable” addiction (note the quotes) that you claim in order to do ministry?

  • Is it daily caffeine?
  • Is it staying up all night to get another project done?
  • Is it horrible personal fitness?
  • Is it way too much time online?

Maybe it’s something tangible, like liquid in a cup or a can. “I need to stay awake… for the kids,” we reason. Or… maybe it’s the rush of adrenaline you crave from ministry itself. “I’m just not feeling useful,” we say. “My senior leaders keep me down from feeling like I’m making a difference. I don’t want to just be a part of the machine. I need to feel excitement… what’s in it for me if I’m just plugging away without a buzz?” Maybe ministry does need to be exciting. Maybe you do need to be maxed out physically to do what God’s asked you spiritually. Maybe. Or maybe not, Maybe you’re just an addict?

conferenceAre you open to growing in community?

In an earlier post on this blog, Leneita Fix shared what she’s teaching this year at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. You totally need to check out her stuff, as well as many of the other bloggers on this site who are all presenting something. I’m not kidding… these folks are brilliant and have such an amazing heart for God, students and youth workers.

For what it’s worth, I’ll also be serving at the conference. Catch up with me on any of these if you want to join into what I’ll be doing or hang out afterward:

symcI know that I’m taking a risk in sharing that with you because it comes across as self-serving. Honestly, I’ll take the risk because I really believe in SYMC is all about… a conference “by youth workers, for youth workers.”

In fact, I’d like to give you some exclusive access (with just a minor edit or two for privacy/context) to a Facebook conversation with a local friend of mine in ministry who I dared to check out the conference.

Hey bro! Thanks for liking my status. It actually prompted me to ask you a question I keep forgetting to ask – wondering if you are interested in attending SYMC in Columbus in March.

Tony, I was not planning on it. I had thought about it for a while. I still am sort of on the fence. I feel like it’s never gonna be so easily accessible again, and I even have a buddy who really wants me to go with him. It just happens to fall probably in my busiest two weeks of the whole spring, and I’m concerned about not getting everything I need to get done, done..

Hmm… I hear that tension. I’m actually doing a trip to Honduras right afterward, so I know what you mean. I would offer that it’s worth it, even if you can pop in for a day. If that’s of interest, I can probe around for you to find a one-day rate. What do you think?

Well, what do you think would be some of the things I would most benefit from experiencing?

screen568x568I’ve been a part of various conferences like these over the year, and each experience is unique. The one thing I can offer about this one (and the largest reason why I like serving with these guys) is the relational atmosphere SYMC creates that’s just rich with the Holy Spirit… not in a weird way, but in a fulfilling way.

There are, of course, a lot of great things to learn from amazing minds in ministry. You can certainly fill up a notebook with new ideas… it’s like a Thanksgiving meal, as well as the unbuckling of your belt after the meal. You take in all of the ingredients life has given you and bring those to take part in a great buffet with other youth workers from all over.

The coolest thing is you can enjoy it without any masks… some people confess their junk, and others share their victories. Everyone finds a moment of genuine laughter, and everyone finds a genuine moment for hot tears… all as appropriate.

To top it off, there’s this vibe of accessibility to everyone. It’s like a weekend student ministry retreat without the students… where you get to be on the receiving end.

Anyway, all of that to say I’m into it… truly. Where I could fall into a funk with other conferences, this one is always growing and adapting. It’s truly for youth workers by youth workers… and Jesus.

Hope that makes sense. Let me know if you’re interested or would want to hang out if you came. I’m speaking in a handful of places, but would really enjoy the chance to share some free time with you.

When all was said and done, my buddy moved some things around in his schedule and signed up. He added, “Thanks for your answers to my questions, I definitely see the value of the conference.” Another couple of friends I spoke to recently are coming, too – mainly because I couldn’t stop yapping about the thing. (It’s like when you’ve eaten pizza all your life, but then find pizza that redefines pizza,,, and you have to tell everyone else about it.)

Why does this matter?

We all have days that leave us feeling like we’re insane. It’s rare to find a ragtag community like this where you suddenly feel like you can waste less time translating what you mean with people who don’t “get it” and more time speaking a common language among other dreamers who do “get it.” .

sackchairAll that to say I hope we can hang out at SYMC this year, too. If it’s not in your budget this round, start saving up for next year. If you can still join in, count this as my official invite for us to grab a meal or smoothie sometime with me a handful of peers among thousands of other youth workers

Or maybe we’ll just hang out in the closest over-sized sack chair we can find.

The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is coming up March 7th-10th and you do not want to miss out. Register (here) Check out Kurt and I as we discuss what makes SYMC so great!!!! You will also learn of our great love for dates!!!! ha Enjoy!!


kurt & ac

Gaining Perspective

 —  January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

This past weekend I had the tremendous honor of being invited to teach the “Re-Effect” conference for The Salvation Army.  As what usually happens when Jeff Wallace and I teach, we were inspired far more than anything we were able to give away.  I love being with people who love Jesus and have a heart to see the world transformed by a relationship with Him.  The Lord really spoke to me in a myriad of ways at this event.  The speakers, of course, touched my heart. Yet, it was conversations, and the building of new friendships that fed me deeply.  I was encouraged to learn of a denomination where young adults are NOT leaving the church, instead are actually heading out with a deep faith to serve Christ.

This denominational conference (Did you remember they are a denomination?) reminded me yet again about the importance of broadening our  “church” and “ministry” worldview.  It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day of being where we are that we never learn about others.  The unfortunate bi-product when this happens is we end up only seeing about what is at the end of our nose, and this shapes our perspective on everything we do.   I believe one of the reasons we end up proud and “narrow-minded” is we don’t actively take time to learn about what Jesus is doing outside of our building, our neighborhood or even our state.

So how do we do this:

Visit “Another” Church

In 2013 I had the opportunity to visit almost 15 different churches in 13 different denominations, all which kept Christ at the center of all they do.  There were different styles of singing, different traditions, and even different ways of celebrating communion. In every one, I met a lot of people who really love the Lord. On a Sunday when you might be on vacation or “off,” then purposely sit in a “different type” of church.  See what you might learn!

Go To A Conference:

Find a Christ-centered conference (Shameless plug: like maybe SYMC?) out of your denomination and GO!  It doesn’t have to be large or even national; it just needs to draw together different people, approaching ministry and life differently.  Now when you are there (those of us who are introverts have to work on this) don’t just hang out with people you know.  Purpose to talk to someone (preferably more than one) and hear their story. We might just get some fresh ideas. (Fun Fact: All speakers at SYMC are encouraged to spend time with attendees far beyond teaching times. Don’t be afraid to ask about a meal or cup of coffee with one!)

Read A Book:

Learn about other denominations, heroes of the faith or even other “types of ministry.” Leadership books are awesome, but what about learning from others who are approaching ministry differently?  We begin to see a pattern rise of ways God is working in His people in a myriad of ways.coffeechat

Hang Out With Those Who Do Something “Different.”

Recently, I had the chance host a discussion with people who were invested in rural, inner city and suburban youth ministry. It was fun to hear the shock in their voices as they discovered all of different ways they were actually alike, as were those they ministered to. Find people outside of youth ministry to talk with. Spend time with someone in youth ministry who is in a different setting and purposefully to listen to them.

It’s very easy to stay in our own little lane and never learn about the ways the body of Christ is working around the world.  This past weekend showed me once again how important it is to keep learning, it broadens my perspective.

What are you doing to gain perspective?



One of the things I love to do, is share what I’m learning in ministry with other youth workers and volunteers. With this post I wanted to share something that I need to remind myself is the better option. I’m always thinking of the person who’s attending my workshop and I always want them to get the most out it. So my first thought is to allow questions during my session because it’s important that they leave feeling like they’ve gained a new perspective on the topic in some way. Also, I don’t want them to forget the question so I allow Q&A during the workshop. Then immediately when I’m done I regret it. Here’s why:

  1. I’ve just valued a few over everyone - By the end of the workshop I’ve spent more time answering questions for the few, then sharing the material I prepared for everyone.
  2. Random personal rants - Every person in my workshop is there to get what they need. They are not thinking about everyone else which is natural and ok. The flip side to that is they begin asking questions as if they are the only ones there.  
  3. A question becomes the workshop – I’ve just taken 15 minutes to explain something that has nothing to do with the focus of my presentation. All because someone asked a question that needed background info on the answer. Now I have question on the answer I just gave.
  4. The workshop was highjacked – I’ve just went back and forth with one person who has a rebuttal to every answer I give them. We’ve now frustrated the whole workshop and have created an angry mob. Now I’m looking for an exit. ha
  5. I ran out of time – I had to rush through the rest of my material which makes me look like an idiot, because everyone in my workshop is thinking that I should of managed my time better. I have to make the embarrassing announcement about skipping portions of the material so they can make it to their next workshop on time. Or I “Jesus-juke” everyone and say “I feel led to stop here and dig deeper” when in reality I just don’t have the time to go any further.


Now, I’m a firm believer that a Q&A within a workshop is necessary. I’m also aware of the fact that some of these things that I mentioned above can’t be avoided, but they can be managed. So here are 5 ways to do a Q&A right!

  1. Write it down. – I will let them know that there will be a Q&A at the end and that they should write their questions down as they come to them. So they don’t forget them.
  2. Set a time limit. – This help’s me manage my workshop time schedule. Also, it helps me keep track on how many questions I can take. So as the time comes to a close I can say “we have time for three more questions” or something like that.
  3. Preference the type of questions you want asked. – I will usually preference by saying “if it’s a question that you think would help everyone”. I will also say that I’m free afterwards to answer more specific questions that may not be helpful to everyone.
  4. Go off-line. – Don’t be afraid to take some questions that need more elaborate answers to email. Nothing kills Q&A time like a question that takes the whole time to answer. Let those people email you, that way you don’t subject everyone to a question that effects 5 out of the 25 people that are in your workshop.
  5. Take polls. – Some of the questions you get may be on the minds of everyone. Take a poll if you think that the question may be universal. The people in your workshop need to know that they are not the only ones struggling in that area or have that problem. Also this is a great time for them to help each other. Be cautious that no one highjacks this time either.

Answering questions that I’m covering in my presentation before I cover it is counter-productive. And that’s exactly what happens when I do a Q&A during my presentation. On the other hand, you are not going to cover everything about the topic in your presentation. So you need a time of Q&A to maybe catch somethings you didn’t mention in your presentation that the people need to know. So for me Q&A’s works best at the end where it can be managed and utilized to it’s fullest potential.

Let’s help each other out. What are some other helpful workshop tips?

Hope it helps



In the interest of full disclosure, let me say this: I’m a fan of virtually every organization, event and effort that exists to minister to junior highers! If young teens are the focus of somebody’s efforts, then I’m probably a fan.

But there is one event that stands out from the rest. Christ in Youth’s Believe continues to be the premiere event for junior highers…and if you’ve never taken your group, I think it’s worth considering! Here are a few things that make Believe such a perfect event:

Overall Quality: Production quality, quality of speakers, the way they treat leaders, etc. I’ve NEVER been to a more professionally run event for students. Never, ever.

- Junior High Intentionality: Believe is designed specifically for middle school/junior highers. Chad Monahan and the Believe Crew “get” junior highers, and have a deep desire to point them closer to Jesus.

An Amazing Way to Recruit Leaders: Over the years, we’ve had numerous adults join our volunteer team on a permanent basis after Believe. Because it’s only 24 hours, it’s an easy “ask”…just about anybody can handle 24 hours with junior highers. But because it’s an intense 24 hours, people quickly decide whether or not ministering to this age group is a good fit. In other words, they discover that they love it or hate it! And I’ve been surprised at how many nervous leaders find out they actually LOVE the idea of serving in junior high ministry after spending the weekend at BELIEVE.

Road Trip! Chances are there is a BELIEVE somewhere near you, but probably not super close. So the odds are you will be taking a 3-4 hour road trip which adds to the fun!

This year’s theme is “Upside Down” and over the course of 24 hours, students will take an up close look at the upside down nature of the Parables and Jesus’ desire to flip the way we look at the world around us. Below is a fun little video they’ve made to promote this year’s tour. If you are looking for a GREAT event for your junior highers, I hope you’ll consider BELIEVE.

A new generation of families.  

Someone said to me yesterday, “The unconventional family is becoming the new norm.”  Divorced, blended, unchurched, de-churched, and “baby mama,” are all a reality.  Grandparents, foster parents, relatives and friends are all raising “someone else’s” children, right here in America.  I talked to a young woman just the other day who said, “It shocked me when I became a volunteer in a wealthy church how handy my counseling degree would be with those kids. They are abused, neglected and isolated.”

The question is this?  How will we choose to view them?  I had the opportunity last month to speak to the audience at the D6 Family Conference and share my thoughts. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for loving students,



Random Randomness

 —  September 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

- If you are looking for a fantastic little book to help your small groups get to know one another, This Book Gets Around may be just the ticket! It’s like an interactive, get to know me, pass it around, journal sort of thing. Yep, that’s the perfect description!

– If you don’t play or care about Fantasy Football, skip this one.

Last night was our student ministries Fantasy Football draft, which was a fun fiasco. Two contributing factors to the chaos:
1) We decided to have the draft live at my house around our fire pit, figuring that would be a fun atmosphere. People arrived late and as we were all scrambling to get ready before the draft started, it became obvious my Wi-fi wouldn’t support a dozen people. With about 3 minutes until start, we all scrambled to get to another home down the street. As a result, we missed the opening bell, folks were auto-drafting people they didn’t want, etc.
2) Instead of a traditional “snake” draft, we did an auction draft with everybody starting with $250. The beauty of an auction draft is that you can get any player you want if you are willing to pay for him. Of course, due to our late start many of us had already paid big money auto drafting somebody we didn’t want!

– We are about to kick off a new Jesus-focused series in JH called, “I’m With This Guy!” Can’t wait to see it unfold and to see junior highers become more aware of and in love with our Savior.

– I recently made a commitment with our college pastor, Mike Brook, to start surfing two mornings a week. Because I’m typically at Starbucks by 6:30 a.m., it shouldn’t be too tough to be at the beach instead. It definitely falls into a mid-life crisis category of some sort…trying to regain some of the younger years.

– In two weeks, we are launching a new service in our student ministries at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. This means we will have five service times each week for families of teenagers to choose from: Saturday at 4:00 and 6:00 and Sunday at 9:00, 11:00 and 1:00. QUESTION: Does anybody out there do an afternoon youth service? If so, can you please share some tips/thoughts in the comments?

– It’s not too early to register for The Simply Youth Ministry Conference happening March 7-10. Thousands of men and women from the Youth Ministry Nation gathered in one place to celebrate the wonderful call to serving teenagers.