This week’s question – have you had formal education in youth ministry? I’ve had a ton of on the job experience with 15 years and through a jillion events and conferences. You?


Got a few emails and comments asking about vacation time for youth workers. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I am in the middle of taking 100 hours of vacation this month to be Mr. Mom as my wife enjoys an overseas mission trip to Africa. I’ve already posted about The Vacations We Take Each Year, and here are a few additional thoughts and ideas about vacation time:

  • VACATION TIME: We accumulate vacation time each work week at our church. Depending on how long you’ve served at the church, the faster you accumulate time off. For the typical employee you get two weeks of vacation, so roughly 1.6 hours per week worked (80 hours a year). You can “bank” up to two years of your annual amount of vacation time.
  • COMP TIME: Officially, there is no such thing as “comp time” at Saddleback. You’re expected to work 50 hours a week, and if you work more it doesn’t matter. Obviously, that makes things like camps or retreats a bit unrealistic, but such is life. As a supervisor myself, I may choose to me more lenient on my team and offer lighter schedules and be keenly aware of the temperature of my team. I don’t always get it right, but I try to be the understanding youth ministry boss that I haven’t always been privileged to have throughout my youth ministry career.
  • FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE: Forward-thinking companies like Netflix realize that in some environments work hours are messy and don’t fit into traditional banking hours. That comp time is impossible to track, and that people who don’t turn it off are better when they take longer more ambiguous stretches of time off. Interesting article in the Wall St. Journal – but don’t expect your church to understand this concept. I would make a guess that the person who is in charge of your office/work culture probably is a bit more traditional/straight-laced to take this big of a risk from the norm.
  • SPIRITUAL RETREAT DAY: Occasionally I’ll give my team a spiritual retreat day, an 8-hour day that are focused completely on personal spiritual development of their heart and to reconnect with God. We work hard, and the biggest shame of working hard would be to not work alongside with the Spirit’s leading. So no busy work or email is allowed, and everyone is asked to send a paragraph report on what God said to them. I should do this more often, if for my own heart than anything else.
  • CAMPS ARE NOT VACATION: Camps and retreats NEVER count as vacation. I read an “out of office” reply last week from a youth worker at camp and it said they were “on vacation” – don’t affirm that terrible stereotype that because you are away you are NOT on vacation. If this is present in your church culture, it is a fight worth fighting in my opinion.
  • CONFERENCE ALLOWANCE: Conferences also do not count as vacation time – our church gives me a couple days of free personal development time as well. I’ve worked in and heard of many others that wrap vacation/conferences into one to save money or because it does use vacation time. In this economy a raise is unlikely anyhow, so perhaps make the ask for a couple paid days away to grow in your expertise.
  • WHEN TO FIT IN VACATION: Late summer works best for me to take vacation time – the summer calendar starts to wain and the fall kickoff isn’t quite here yet. I like to think of it as the calm before the storm. Actually, I’m writing this post in the calm of some time away right now. Feels good. I should do this more often.
  • WHAT ABOUT YOUTH GROUP WHEN I’M AWAY: When I’m on vacation, I give the platform away to trusted voices and voices I want to develop. This block that I’m gone right now I’m having a few experienced and inexperienced voices in front of our students, I’m excited because this weekend a volunteer and his small group are teaching.

How does your church do vacation time? When was the last time you were on vacation? Any tips or tricks to share with the MTDB community?


Casey Fulgenzi just won 5 student registrations to the Christ in Youth BELIEVE Conference for junior high students. We had a contest that ran this past week – giving whoever left a comment a chance to win. Out of 163 entries … randomly we picked Casey to take home the big prize – going to Atlanta with 5 students – congratulations! If you’re interested in going too or want to know more about BELIEVE, click the image above to check out their site.


“So, if the “Zombie Apocalypse” occurs, what skills will you bring into the new future?

It was a confusing question. The family was sitting down for a picnic dinner and my young adult children were playing a game called Zombie Apocalypse. It was “What can you contribute to the general good?” sort of game… which is not an uncommon young adult sort of question. What did zombies have to do with it? A staple of horror films, zombies are formerly dead characters walking this world mindlessly attempting to consume the life and flesh of the living.

My eldest daughter explained her understanding of the game, “We’ve grown up with so many real-life villains — from Columbine to the 9/11 terrorists to Hurricane Katrina to British Petroleum – that zombies pretty much reflect them all. The game reminds us that we must all share what we have with one another.”

The zombies of my own youth came to mind, the back-up dancers in Michael Jackson’s video “Thriller.” As dancers they were choreographed to be slow and stilted in their gate, emotionless in their steps, and slightly menacing.

This summer, youth ministry programs around the nation will be taking young people off to summer youth conferences, leadership camps, and work-camps helping those in need. During these summer days, they will attempt to live out the model of the early Christian Community, devoting “themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

In these moments, they will experience the Church that Pope Benedict XVI discussed in his instillation homily in 2005. As a Catholic, I was emboldened when he proclaimed “…The Church is alive. And the Church is young.” As these young people return to their own church communities, this is a good time of assessment for us. Are they returning to a Church that is alive and young? Or might it scarily resemble the slow, lifeless, faith of the undead?

As faith communities, there are many things that we can do to ensure that the vitality and vibrancy of our Church.

> We must find more ways to inform, form, and transform the faith of parents. They are the first witnesses of faith for young people. Whatever kids understand about the Church was likely both taught by and caught from their parents.

> We must make a commitment towards greater inclusion of young people into the ministries of the Church, especially within our communal worship. We must work towards inclusion in our worship and engaging “the life” of young people into it.

> When we do minister with young people, we must find ways to elicit their energy, passion, and skills towards making a meaningful difference in the world. Pope Benedict encourages young people to make “definitive choices” regarding their lives and faith and we should do the same.

As Church, we need to recognize that young people are fully ready to engage against that which is perceived as assaulting civilization with hostility towards human life. Young people must recognize the Church as alive and young; we cannot risk sending them the perception that we are a lifeless zombie culture.

From their summer experiences, hundreds of young people will be returning to parish pews this summer and will look at the Church through new eyes and ask “What can you contribute to the general good?” Our response must match the rhythm of their lives, expressive in our response, and slightly reassuring for the future. Let us consume the fullness of life together with the One who came who that we might have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

D. Scott Miller is the coordinator of adolescent Faith formation for the Division of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He blogs at

Wrapping up our Trinity series this weekend – how could we talk about God the Spirit and not play this little gem? The original Jake Rutenbar brilliance, long before Not Fair or I’ve Seen it All.


Really great and accurate portrayal of modern church in this clever video from the DRIVE Conference. Ouch!


I’ve been gone a lot from our high school ministry recently. All good things – but mission trips, conferences, vacation and events all take their toll on the decision-making ability of me as the leader. As I’ve gotten back up to speed, I’ve tried to be keenly aware of these potential drawbacks of the disconnected leader:

Poorly informed decision-making
Being absent or disconnected results in making decisions in haste or in ignorance without all of the information. If you feel you’re being pressured into a major decision, you might need to table it. Too many rushed decisions have become regrets. Be decisive, don’t let indecision paralyze you, but make sure you’ve taken the time to gather the details so you are making the right call.

Lack of clarity / purposeless
In your absence, people make decisions without you – and they should! And while I love leadership at all levels and the decentralization of authority, a disconnected leader runs the risk of personal agendas appearing and potentially the purposes becoming less clear. Make sure you’re not the bottleneck and design your student ministry so you can be gone once in a while, just make sure there’s enough clarity to hang on until you get back.

Team morale dips
You’re the team leader, and many look for you for the optimism that fuels them toward goals. Being gone too much sends a signal to your team that you’re not “in it with them.” There are responsibilities (and privileges, honestly) that do carry me away from my team, but there’s a lot to be said for a leader who gets their hands dirty.

Here’s the zinger: you may be present but still be disconnected. Being present isn’t enough! Too many disconnected leaders are physically around, they just aren’t invested in their team’s lives. I want to be a leader that is present, connected and empowering all of us to accomplish our goals.


We read Bible stories to our kids about every night as part of our bedtime routine. Chores, PJs, teeth, stories, Bible stories, prayer, zzzzzz. Even though our kids aren’t that old, we’ve gone through quite a few different children’s Bibles in the process – and we’ve recently fell in love with our most recent acquisition, The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Zondervan gave everyone who attended the Radicalis Conference a a free copy – I happened to be backstage with Mark Driscoll and he mentioned it was his family’s favorite book. So, we took it home and started reading that night – and I have to tell you, it is super. I put on my “narrator” voice and don’t want to stop it is so fun, clear and inspiring. Really good stuff – if you’ve got little kids, you’ll wear this Bible out.