I love my volunteers.  I have a great group of men and women who give so much of themselves to the students, myself, the church and God.  When I see them investing in the next generation I’m filled with joy.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a perfect streak when it comes to recruiting and keeping volunteers.    I’ve had a few people who are full out committed at first and then never show up to a single small group.  There have been grown ups who have said inappropriate things around the students because of carelessness.  And then there are the volunteers who are consistently late and showing up unprepared.  When this happens, something needs to be done.

Addressing a volunteer’s commitment and expectations can be awkward and painful.  Your mind says, “Get rid of them.” Your heart says, “I need them.”   And your stomach is in knots.  So what do you do?

Before you decide whether to can or keep that volunteer, try these options:

  • Reassign Them: It’s possible a volunteer is serving in the wrong ministry.  I’ve had large group ministers who should be small group leaders.  People who were better with kids than teens.  It happens all the time, someone responds to your invitation wanting to help you out not thinking, “Is this the right ministry for me?”  Before you reassign a volunteer make sure you help them discern their transition.  Walk with them through this journey so that they feel confident it isn’t about their lack of skill it’s just misplacement.
  • Give Them A Season Off: Even your volunteers need a vacation.  Unfortunately, they might not recognize the need so they overcommit and burn themselves out.  As a youth minister one of your main responsibilities is to oversee the health of your volunteers.  If they are acting slow, or frustrated discuss with them about taking a couple of weeks or months away from the ministry.  Be sure to check in with them during their Sabbatical.
  • Follow Up With A Review:  Reviews and evaluations are done in the professional working world and the same should be done in your ministry.  Reviews help the employer and employees reevaluate the position, productivity and  address any serious issues they might see.  Set-up a review process with volunteers who are struggling and you’ll find it easier to tackle the tougher issues before it’s too late.

Addressing volunteer concerns is never easy.  You grow with these men and women who have sacrificed much of their time to be with you; therefore, it becomes personal.  If addressing a minister about anything serious be sure to partner up.  If it’s with someone of the opposite sex make sure your partner is too.  In the end if you have to let them go, you know that you’ve given them plenty of chances and options.

How do you address minister problems?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)


I was a film major in college, which means a few things: I’ve seen a ton of movies, I’m totally pretentious, and I think Orson Wells is a genius. One of the things I studied in film school is the art of a sequel.  Some sequels can stand alone, meaning you don’t need to know anything about the series in order to enjoy it (i.e., The Phantom Menace).  Other sequels are completely dependent on the first film (i.e., The Empire Strikes Back).  Think of this blog as The Empire Strikes Back.  Confrontation is useless unless you first prepare yourself and your heart.  Because of this, make sure you ask yourself the three questions covered in PART ONE.

Confrontation can either lead to reconciliation or destruction, and anyone who has ever dealt with conflict knows that there is a thin line that separates the two.  We need to make sure we take every step we can to approach our conflict in a way that honors the Lord, and that starts with discerning the condition of your heart and the purpose of the conversation.  If, after prayer and consideration, you decide that confrontation is the best option, keep these things in mind:

1. Pray.  Prepare yourself for the conversation you are about to walk into.  Pray that the Lord provides you with effective words.  Pray that hearts are humble and ready for what’s to come.  Pray for peace and reconciliation.  Overall, pray that your confrontation will be God-glorifying!

2. Balance truth and love.  I feel like most of us are really good at half of this.  If you’re like me, you are REALLY good at being truthful (maybe too much so).  Unfortunately, we often attack others with our words, making it impossible for others to embrace our “truth.”  Others are great at being loving, but their fear of hurting feelings prevents them from providing helpful criticism.  We need to balance both truth and love if we want our conversation to be fruitful.

3. Be quick to listen, slow to speak.  The purpose of confrontation is to voice your feelings and frustrations and work towards reconciliation.  It is important to keep in mind that the person you are confronting wants to be heard and understood just as much as you do.  Even if you think you’re right or know you’ve done nothing wrong, make sure you allow the other person the opportunity to give their side of the story.  Remember that you are there to seek understanding, not to voice your opinions.

These are just a few ways to make the most of your confrontation.  What would you add to this?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

One of the first life lessons that we learn is that conflict is inevitable.  We are a fallen people and, because of that, conflict is a part of our life.  Whether big or small, conflict is able to make its way into every one of our relationships.  Unfortunately, our ministry relationships are not excluded from that reality. Whether it is with a parent, a volunteer, another department of the church, or the head pastor, we WILL eventually have conflict.

As believers, we are called to confront and resolve our conflict. That being said, if we don’t approach reconciliation appropriately, conflict can be incredibly destructive.

Today my friend (who works at the same church as me) and I were debriefing a confrontation he had that afternoon.  He was frustrated with a miscommunication he had with a member of another department, so he talked with them about it. Long story short, it did not go well.  Their relationship took a huge blow and both walked away more frustrated than they were before.

Thankfully, they are in the process of repairing their relationship.  But it is important that our confrontations don’t produce similar outcomes. If you are deciding whether or not you should confront someone about a conflict, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Did I pray about it? At the first sign of conflict, pray. Pray for guidance and discernment as your navigate your next step.  Search your heart to find out what you are truly upset about.  Say someone isn’t responding to your e-mails or phone calls, are you upset at their laziness or are you upset that they aren’t valuing your time?  Finding out your true feelings about your issue will help you effectively communicate your frustration.

Is it worth it?  Finding out your true feelings will also help you pick your battles.  Frequently communicating small issues is discouraging to others and has the potential to alienate you.  Not communicating important problems can severally damage your ministry and even your church as a whole.

Am I considering the entirety?  Take some time to think outside yourself (outside student ministry), and consider the “big picture”.  Remember that you and your ministry are only small pieces of a large puzzle. Are you looking out for our own interests, or the interest of the Church?

What are some things that you consider before you approach a confrontation?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

There are a lot of different hats that we wear when leading students, from bus driver to fundraising champion, to cook,to first aid attendant, to counselor. But the two hats I find I wear most often are Pastor and Advocate. Stay with me here, because I strongly believe these are two roles that we have to perform, but require different skill sets and both are needed to lead effectively.

Pastor: Although the word only appears in the New Testament one time (Ephesians 4:11) it in many ways is the primary function of what we do. We lead and shepherd our students, leaders and parents week in and week out.  This is such a rewarding and meaningful part of my role in the Church as we get to experience people encountering God is such a real way. I am called to be a Youth Pastor, to invest in our students and champion their cause in the Church. I cheer them on, intentionally pastor their leaders to foster spiritual growth of our students as well. The challenge is that sometimes making decisions that affect people, potentially negatively is difficult with my Pastor hat on because the pastor in me loves harmony and values shepherding, so its then I have to go into advocate mode.

Advocate: When I am in advocate mode, things are different and here is why. My role at the Church is to be the Pastor of High School Students and that means advocating for the needs of each student. The question I am constantly asking is, what do these students need from me, from their leader, from our youth group in order to grow in their relationship with God? I met with one of our leaders recently who had been slipping in his commitment to his small group and the results were obvious. When we sat down, the conversation quickly got to reminding this leader what it is that his students need from him:

-       A leader that calls them each week and checks in and invites.

-       A leader that engages them at youth and takes an interest in their life

-       A leader that commits to praying for them

-       A leader that shows up EVERY week.

I was firm, not harsh but reminded him that I am looking out for the needs of the students entrusted to me, and asked simply, “can you be the leader that these students need you to be?” Its was an honest question, and framed this way that leader could say yes, or no. Had they said no it would be understandable why we would need to find someone else to fill that role.

The same is true with events, retreats and camps as well when we ask, is this event the best things for the spiritual development of our students? Sure its fun, and well attended, but is there something that could be more effective.

When it comes to making tough decisions, its always with my advocate hat on, because when I am in that mode, I am more willing to take on challenges and situations that when I am in Pastor mode I might let linger. We owe it to our students to provide for them what they need, which is not always what they want at the time.  My experience has been that leaders respond well to the challenge and as a team are more understanding of changes when framed within the cause of growth of our students.


If you give students responsibilities within your youth ministry, sooner or later they will mess up. Not because they’re incompetent or irresponsible, but because they’re students and therefore only human. How you handle their mistakes can have an enormous impact on them. Here’s seven golden rules to keep in mind when your students mess up:

1. Confront them right away
If they have made a mistake, don’t delay in telling them. Pull them aside and confront them as soon as possible. Usually, they’ll know they have messed up and the agonizing wait for you (or any leader) to say something can be a huge stress factor for them.

2. Be specific
Be sure to tell them what they did wrong and be specific. Don’t leave it at vague stuff like ‘you should have organized the service better’, but name the facts: ‘you forgot to inform the worship leader of the changes in the service’. Check if they have understood what they did wrong.

This may seem like a total superfluous thing to you, but often people ‘close off’ once they know they’re going to get ‘reprimanded’ and they can remember completely different things from a conversation than what you were trying to get across. Add in the factor of students reacting emotionally to emotional stress and you can have a drama on your hands (‘he said I was a total failure and I completely suck at organizing’). So do make sure they understood you correctly.

3. Show the big picture
It’s important that they know what the consequences of their actions are, so give them the big picture. Hoe has their mistake affected the youth ministry? Not to make them feel guilty, but to make them aware. And there’s a huge difference!

4. Affirm them
After you’ve told them what they did wrong, do not forget to take the time to affirm them. Tell them how much you value their efforts, their time and hard work. Don’t say this because you feel you have to, say it like you mean it.

5. Keep it short
Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of negative feedback, so keep it short. This whole conversation doesn’t need to take more than say a minute or two.

6. Forgive them and trust them again
The most important thing for you after you’ve had this conversation is to forgive them and start trusting them again. This can be hard, especially if they messed up big time. But students need to know and feel that there’s room for mistakes, that they get second, third and even fourth chances.

7. Protect them
If possible, protect your students after they’ve made a mistake. While it’s perfectly okay to make a mistake, don’t underestimate what shame can do to students. Protecting them by not revealing their role can give them the courage to try again without losing face. I’ve more than once taken the blame for something others did and I never regretted it. I could take the criticism, they couldn’t.

A couple of years ago, two of my student leaders messed up big time when organizing an event. They signed a contract with a company without my knowledge or permission and it ended costing us about $1000. But years later, these guys came to me to thank me for how I’d handled this. Nobody ever knew what had happened and they had kept serving in youth ministry, both having learned a lot from their mistakes. My trust in them had meant the world to them and had given them the confidence to keep growing as a leader.

How do you handle it when your students mess up?

Rachel Blom is a Dutch youth ministry veteran, now living in southern Germany, who is focused on training youth leaders worldwide to grow in their roles through www.youthleadersacademy.com. You can also find her on Twitter via @youthleadersac

What happens when they move the podcast to the morning? You’ll have to watch to find out. Doug, Matt, Katie, and Josh get together early to talk about confronting a defensive student, communicating with leaders, costs of putting on your own summer camp, double messages to Junior and Senior High services.


If there was one skill that I have grown into in the past year, its been calling students out. Calling them out for their actions, the words, their apathy, their judgment or just plain attitude. I love my students whole-heartedly, but there comes a time when I need to be the leader and not a friend and have a tough conversation with a student. How you handle these conversations can determine if they leave feeling loved or condemned and can dictate if they are going to stay or leave your group. Here is the way that teach our team to have these chats, its called “The Rebuke Sandwich” …

Slice 1 – Pull the student you need to talk to aside, away from their friends. Now before they know what hit them, affirm them! It could be a simple as the fact that you value the fact they attend, or it could be that you see leadership potential in them. Be sincere and truthful, but starting with something you appreciate about them is very disarming and will allow step two to happen much easier.

The Meat- Tell them what it is you are concerned about or which action or behavior needs to be addressed. Be factual and honest, this is the meat of the conversation so be sure that you are prepared with exactly what has spurred this conversation. This is the tough part because when students and people in general get called out, our pride is hurt and we get defensive, this could cause tears or anger or both. But no matter what happens, don’t pull the chute here or let them pull the chute on the conversation until you get through step three.

Slice 2 - Now its time to affirm them again, this is the most important part because they are likely feeling wounded or hurt, but they need to know they are loved. This is the step that shows them that despite the fact that you needed to speak to them about their behavior, it is truly in love that you are doing it when you can build them up after calling them out. Once again, it’s an affirmation that is sincere and truthful that could highlight a gifting you seen in them. **If you are a hugging youth group, now is the time.

The Rebuke sandwich is an effective tool for confronting to students because it builds them up, shows them what needs to change, and reminds them of your care for them. Confronting students is not easy or fun to do but having an honest conversation one on one is important and above all Biblical. I have found time and again that using the “Sandwich” can be very effective at resolving an issue and restoring the Pastor-student relationship quickly.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

There are few things that give me that uneasy feeling more than the flashing voicemail light the morning after a Youth Event. Things didn’t go well, you might have brought the students back an hour late from the amusement park, lost your temper with a kid, allowed a trout to be thrown across the gym and land in the church’s air intake vent (this happened to me). These things happen, and they can really put a bee in the bonnet of a parent or colleague. Here are 4 proven ways to diffuse a hostile and angry person or situation.

Get the Facts Straight: If you know in advance that you will be speaking with an upset parent take the time to speak to several parties involved, get a timeline, who was there and how it happened. If you are uncertain of the event, or worse did not know that it happened, things are not going to go well. Parents want to know that you are in control and aware.

Genuinely Listen: The person that has called you has likely rehearsed in their head what they plan to say, how they planned to say it and the three points that they wanted to make. If you interrupt them, this will take them off their script, and likely make them more upset. Listen intently, subtle verbal cues (if on the phone) or physical (no crossed arms) will tell them you care about what they have to say. Repeat back to them the facts that they have presented so you are clear on what they are concerned about.

Own it: If you screwed up, admit it. Nothing and I mean nothing will diffuse a situation like saying, ” you are right, it was totally my fault, and I am sorry.” You admitting fault will catch them off guard, passing the buck or blame shifting will only make them more irrate. Once you have taken the blame, tell them what you are going to do about it. Have a plan for making it right and be sure to see that it happens.

Affirm the Concern: In the midst of the anger and potentially yelling, find something to affirm the person who is upset. It could be that you appreciate that they cared enough to come down, or that they are involved in their students lives to a point that they would find out what happened and come talk to you about it.

Angry parents are inevitable in Youth Ministry, but knowing how to deal with them and getting them back on your side quickly will help. Show Grace always, and avoid getting upset yourself.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church.