question markCompanies and organizations often do “exit interviews” and they do so for many different reasons.  But the biggest one is that they get really honest answers.  They do this so they can learn, become better at what they do and more faithfully care for their employees.

I think student ministry pastors need to do this too.  Asking graduated seniors the following questions can help you become better at what you do, be more in tune with the actual needs of your students and provide a natural way for you to give a few things for them to think about as they move onto the next stage of education.  But mostly it’s about asking them questions and keeping your ears open.

Here are 10 questions to ask graduated seniors:

  1. What is one thing you would NOT want to see changed in our ministry?
  2. If you were me, what two things would you do differently in our ministry?
  3. What questions are you thinking through right now? (note: this is a good one to ask because it can clue you into which questions you should answer for the next years seniors!)
  4. What do you think the biggest need is of the students in our ministry?
  5. What aspect of our ministry do you think is the most effective in helping students grow in their faith?  Why that one?  Anything we can do better?
  6. What do you think the students at (name school here) want the most out of life?  What is a way that our ministry can meet/address that desire?
  7. What was it that helped you best connect in our ministry?
  8. Do you feel like you were invested in the way you expect churches to invest in people?  What could we do better?
  9. Was there anything in our ministry that made you feel uncomfortable or discouraged?
  10. Do you feel like you were encouraged in our ministry?  If so, what did you find to be most encouraging?

When our student leaders commit to our program, they are committing to a full six-month “cycle.” At the end of every cycle, we launch applications for new student leaders and we give out renewal forms for the current student leaders. Besides asking if the student intends on committing to another cycle, the form includes a handful of other questions that provide us with valuable information that allows us track the progress of our students and help our program become more effective.

Thinking about putting one together? Here are some questions that I would strongly recommend to you:

1) What is the state of your faith? Obviously, it is important to know where your students are at in their relationship with the Lord.  Some students might be afraid to answer this question thinking that they might get kicked out if they aren’t doing great at that moment. Encourage them to answer honestly, knowing that you are there to help them along no matter how good or bad their spiritual walk is.

2) Recycled Questions. One way to check progress is to reuse questions that are on your application.  It is really interesting to compare their responses with what they wrote on their original application. My favorite question that we recycle is “what does it mean to be servant-hearted?”

3) How has the Student Leadership program impacted you? A more straightforward way to check progress is to directly ask the student how the Student Leadership program has grown or challenged them. Greater insight into how they have grown as a leader and as a servant can help you keep them accountable with the lessons they have learned and it can equip you to be more helpful in finding leadership opportunities that they would excel at.

4) What have you enjoyed about the Student Leadership program? Ask them what works. Instead of tracking the progress of your students, this question helps you examine your program. When the time comes for you to switch things up and refine Student Leadership, it will be helpful to know the strengths of your student leadership model.

5) What can we be doing to improve the Student Leadership program? You can’t refine your program without knowing where it can grow! This can be a scary question to ask, but the answers can lead to some really incredible changes. I love this question because it gives you another opportunity to empower students and allow them to speak into your ministry.

Does your ministry do something similar? What would you ask your students?

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

If you are in a working position in your church likely you have some form of yearly review process. Whether you sit down with your board or your immediate supervisor you will get graded in some way shape or form. In some contexts this can be a real pain, others its just sitting down for a quick lunch. No matter what you do, it is a needed step.
But, my question is what review process do you do of your ministry and yourself?
If you are like me you are probably biased one way or the other. Either you think you are doing an exceptional job or you are constantly critiquing yourself. So I think it is healthy to get an outside perspective, but not from your supervisor(s).
This year I decided to ask those close to me what they thought of my ministry. Some where helpful and gave me direct criticism while others sugar coated the whole thing. So I decided to take it to another level: Asking the parents of my ministry.
Now in some ways this is a big risk: I have parents who can be super critical and others who I am pretty sure send everything right to their junk mail. But I put it out there to see their review of our ministry.
  • Here are some questions I asked them:
  • What was your students favorite moment of this last year?
  • What topics would you like to see covered in the 2013 teaching calendar?
  • Are there ways in which we could improve communication with you as parents?
  • Can you think of anyone you think would be a good addition to our ministry team?
So far with the questions I asked I have heard roughly what I thought I would hear back. The nice thing about this system is it gives you a good perspective. It is like grading in the Olympics throw out the best and worst review and you will likely find common ground in the middle.
So what are you doing as a review process for yourself and your ministry?
Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or 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

My default setting is forward.

I don’t do a good job of looking at the past – in fact, my memory is absolutely terrible. When someone holds a grudge against me I always think to myself, “I wonder why?” because I don’t remember the altercation or conflict that led us there. When people talk about the good old days, I have a hard time thinking that the time I’m living in isn’t the good old days. And while there are a lot of cons to this wiring, as I was journaling this morning I thought of a couple series cons:

When you only look forward …

… you don’t appreciate the past
When all you can see is today forward, you cheapen the sacrifice of those that have come before. While this must be balanced with the temptation to dwell on the past, appreciating and respecting the history is very important. Typically this type of attitude leads to high turnover and or disgruntled people who sacrifice thier souls for the cause.

… you don’t celebrate the past
When you’re always moving forward, there is always the next big thing to tackle and have to hurriedly keep feeding the machine. Celebration needs to be an integral part of every family, team and ministry. Reflect or you just might miss it.

… you don’t learn from the past
This one is the most obvious, even a cliche in today’s world. If you don’t learn from your history, you are doomed to repeat it. There is a reason this sentence sticks around year after year. Debrief, analyze, make it better. Dont’ just rush on to the next tentpole on the youth ministry calendar.

With these learnings in mind – I’d encourage you to take a little time here at the end of the year and appreciate, celebrate and debrief the past season of ministry. Have a few round table discussion, send some thank you notes and tell God about the past … as you start to look forward again.


About two years ago I sat in my office with my wife, as tears welled up in my eyes,.  I said the words out loud that I had only thought.  It had swirled around in my head however; I never had the nerve to speak the words.  Had I spoken it, these dangerous thoughts would be way too real.  I said to her, if I could find another job that would provide for my family I would take it.  I would leave my church and my job as a youth pastor, and never look back.  I could hit the reset button and walk away from a life I had grown to hate.  It is fair to say this would be filed under one of the “bad days”.

I am a husband, father, son, student, and a youth pastor.  At that moment in my life, I hated most of these people, and felt as if I was failing at many of them.  I had lost control of my life.  As my wife listened, she reassured me that my feelings were not true, though she validated my need for change.  She recognized that my life, and ultimately both of our lives were out of control.  It wasn’t until I spent some time with a trusted mentor that I was able to begin seeing out of this massive hole I had dug for myself, my family, and even my ministry.

He challenged me to do one simple thing.  Pay attention to my life.  Track what I do for every minute of my day in thirty-minute chunks for two weeks.  Write it down and evaluate it.  I was either going to do it or I would be putting together a resume to find a new life.  At my core, I love what I do and feel called to it, so I stayed and fought.  I am glad I did.  This mentor did not look at my time log.  He just asked the right questions and allowed my “time budget” to reveal truth in itself.  Like when you track what you eat or what you spend, this exercise revealed much.  Here is an overview…

80/20 Rule ::

Similar to an actual budget of money, much of what we have in finances is already allocated to cost of living.  We have that same “cost of living” in our time. I have to sleep, drive to work, help get the kids ready for their day, and work 40-60 hours a week.  All of these activities take time.  How efficiently I do each of these activities is a different conversation for a different day.  When I step back and look, there is about 20% of my time that I have the freedom to shuffle around.  Instead of being discouraged that I am unable to get away for days on end, I need to take control of that 20% of my life and intentionally use it for my benefit.

Step Back Evaluation time ::

After two weeks I noticed that I allowed my life to happen to me.  Nowhere in my time did I step back and assess.  I didn’t plan or think forwardly at all.  This resulted in too many moments of panic, disorganization, and more chaos that I really want to handle.  As a result I am now waking up 3 days a week an hour before my kids get up to just sit and ponder, think ahead, and allow the silence to prepare me for a life that is pretty chaotic.  I have also injected time away as a youth pastor and husband with my staff and wife.

Lack of Spiritual Presence

I was tempted to act differently during my tracking time because I knew that it would be revealing, but I wanted to learn from my time so I didn’t fake it.  If I was not inclined to spend time with God I didn’t do it.  I wanted to see the “holes” at the end of this experiment and if I spent time with God just so I could mark it down on my budget it would have ruined my true intent.  That being said, I need more time with God.  I am at a spiritual dry season right now where I am not inclined to seek out God so it needs to be intentionally placed in my life.  It is ultimately for my own benefit and His glory.  In time that dryness will dissipate.  For now, it is necessary.

Be intentional about “wasting my time”…make it count.

Have fun with this one because everyone needs to blow off steam.  It is up to you as the person who knows you best to decide how you are going to go about doing that.  My loves are many, but what refuels me is only a couple things.  1.  Time with safe people (wife, dear friends).  2. I need to travel to new places (doesn’t need to be far, it is just the experience).  3.  I need to be physically active (love it and hate it all at the same time).  Too often I release pressure by sitting in front of the TV because it is the path of least resistance.  That’s not good enough.  If I want to watch TV, that is fine but pick a show and watch it.  Don’t allow the TV just drain hours on end away from me and leave me empty and just as tried.  TV is the fast food of the time world.  It feels so good at the time, but does very little for you over the long haul.

Selfishly, I pray that this is one of those moments in my life that I look back on as a turning point.  So far it has been…

Jeff Bachman has been in youth ministry for 20 years and is currently working at ROCKHARBOR Church in Costa Mesa, Ca as the High School Pastor. He is passionate about seeing students becoming followers of Christ.  You can check out his own blog at

Jason Rollin emailed me a while back looking for a way for his team to evaluate him as a youth pastor. I didn’t really have something to point him toward, so he did something pretty awesome – he made his own!

Jason opened himself up for evaluation from his volunteer team in order to make improvements in his ministry and leadership. He’s offered up the form he used for anyone to adapt as well. You can download it right here and see if it is something you would like to do as a leader, too.


Stop the Bottleneck

Josh Griffin —  February 15, 2012 — 3 Comments

If there’s a bottleneck in your ministry, guess what? It’s probably you!

Think about it for a second — you’re the point person of the ministry, so doesn’t it make sense that decisions roll up through you? In a centralized leadership structure (like most churches) there is one central figure, usually a youth pastor, who is tasked with making the call on a variety of issues. But therein lies the problem: everything comes to a screeching halt when that person has too many plates spinning. When they are on vacation, good luck moving everything forward. If and when they leave, it all comes crashing down.

If you’re the point person, aka the bottleneck, consider this plan in the next season of ministry:

Realize you are an equipper
The pastor is not supposed to control everything — your primary job is to equip others to do the work of the ministry. Make sure you are helping others do great ministry, not just helping out with yours.

Give as much of your ministry away as possible
One of the most painful times in ministry is when you begin to give away the things that you love. But you will be healthier, and you will relieve pressure on the bottleneck. Yesterday we talked about giving away the stuff you don’t like, but holding on to too much stuff you do like, is classic bottleneck behavior.

Trust them with decisions
Don’t take back what you gave. Refuse to look over their shoulder every second of the day. Trust them with the tasks and responsibilities you gave them and have confidence their calls. If you’ve done a good job of preparing (and equipping) they’re ready for this. There will be some pains along the way, but they will be growing pains…and it hurts so good!

Regularly evaluate and guide
What if instead of holding everyone back by being the bottleneck, you helped everyone get better. If you give ministry away, you add a new opportunity to coach your people and help strengthen their skills. Next, you can mentor and guide them to give their ministry away, too — maybe this time to a student!

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.

Why is it that I always assume the worst?

What do I mean by that? Let me explain…. In the past several years of marriage and in my decade of serving in ministry I find that my mind often goes directly to the negative. For example, if I ask my husband to help me take out the trash and he neglects to do so (or do it in the time frame that I have allotted in my mind) I assume he doesn’t care about me and the things I need help with. In ministry I may plan a huge event only to have 5 students show up, then I automatically assume — the kids don’t like me, they don’t like the activity, other commitments are much more important.

Both of these scenarios though drastically different are completely related — they both have to do with my mindset — my negative mindset — and that negativity can easily creep into my marriage or my ministry if I don’t make a conscious change! Assuming the worst is a common plague in our “half empty” that feels that constant need to compare ourselves to those around us. This plague can ruin your marriage and your ministry if you don’t make an effort to make a change.
Here are a few things that I have learned over the years in ministry, marriage and counseling that have helped me pursue truth and not assume the worst.

1. First you need to evaluate the value of what you are dealing with. The value of the relationship or the value of the task. For example, it seems to be rather pointless to spend hours worrying about what someone said about you, your spouse, or your ministry if you do not value that person’s opinions or actions. The same is true about tasks, if I look at the garbage example — in the large scheme of daily life, how much do I really value the fact that my husband may forget to take it out 1 out of 5 times. It sounds crazy but maybe it is not garbage taking out that is your issue but insert your situation and ask yourself that question — how much do I value that task or that person’s opinion in the large scheme of life?

2. Next you must evaluate the action. Did my husband really leave the garbage on the porch and not the curb because he wanted to make a point that he doesn’t like taking out the trash. No — he forgot! There was no vicious action planned to ruin my evening, he just forgot since he is still in his church counsel meeting waffle! How about those youth group kids that never showed up for your big event? Well with a little research I found out there was a big event going on at the school that was planned last minute even though I had checked months in advance to be sure there was no conflict.

3. Give your spouse, your students, and the church the benefit of the doubt. Next time a situation arises take a moment to think before you react (sometimes easier said than done). Find out the facts before you jump to conclusions. Talk to those involved before formulating an opinion.

Assume the best! Just a simple change of mindset can change your marriage and your ministry in minutes!

Jana Snyder is a youth pastor and a good friend who blogs at