If you ask people in ministry about their “calling” they give you the answer about what they now “do” for Jesus. You know what I mean. We are “called” to be youth pastors. However, I believe that “calling” is a far more transformational experience than any “one thing.”

I remember once having a conversation with the office manager in our ministry, “I don’t really get where this idea of calling comes from?  Everyone is always talking about it.  I can’t really say I know what it is.”  

This got me thinking about how often we categorize this idea. We often site God literally “calling out” to Samuel in the middle of the night to be a prophet or Jesus “calling” the disciples to follow Him as our Biblical examples of the concept. Therefore, it obviously has to do with being in the service of ministry. What is funny is that in both of these examples the “point” was that these men would be willing to be close to the Lord following Him where He goes.  In the process they would have words to speak and tasks to perform.

The problem of course is that we get caught up in the tyranny of the “or” instead of the grace of the “and.”  We think we have to be “called” to be one thing: Pastor OR Homeschooler OR Stay-At-Home Mom OR Missionary. The issue with this way of thinking is there lacks space for any “extras” that the Lord might have for us. We can ONLY be a part of this OR that.

I know what it doesn’t look like:

We wouldn’t be about miracles OR healing OR feeding people OR taking care of the broken. We wouldn’t be preaching in the church OR on the streets. We wouldn’t care about one people group OR another. We wouldn’t decide we have to be an evangelist OR a Mom OR a worker OR a this OR a that.

Instead, in being with Jesus we become willing to move with Him, realizing He uses each experience to transform us more into His likeness.  In my own journey I started out with the Lord showing me a generation of youth who did not know Him.  This led me to be a youth pastor in a rural setting then He brought me to the suburbs.  Then He walked me through the door of an inner city ministry and planted me there.  In the midst of this He sent me a partner in my husband.  He moved me from singly being with him to serving Him with another.  A little while later as we continued on He blessed us with children.  I thought this meant I had to choose my kids OR youth ministry.  Instead, He reminded me that my husband and children are part of the journey with Him.  He showed me how to not focus on them OR others. While this lesson was in process He called my family to move into the community we serve and be neighbors to the hurting and broken. As I reached out to the students He showed me that I couldn’t be about youth without caring about their parents. He showed me that I was believing that only “some” parents would truly engage with their children.  Along the way I realized the power of family ministry.  Now he challenges me with what the definition of family ministry is WHILE being a wife AND raising four kids AND being a part of a local church body AND learning to be closer to Him.  See what He did there?  Embracing my own calling is far more than any one “thing.”

Recently, someone asked me what I want to “do” next.  It was a hard question to answer.  I could tell them about my passions, and the cry of my heart. However, I realized that to fit these ideas into a job description was not my “calling” at all.  It’s about the willingness to be molded by the Lord as I go with Him it includes the word “and” far more often than the word “or.”

What about you?

How do you embrace YOUR calling?






Ahhh summer.  In ministry it’s filled with camps, trips and exhaustion.  In the world of my children it’s filled with more flexibility, days at the beach,  and of course camps. School starts for us in a week or so.  While I am looking forward to a “schedule” again, this time of year makes me feel more inadequate than every other time of the year combined.  As I read articles on how to “engage” us parents this Fall, I thought I would throw out some helpful hints from the Mom of three in JH and one in college.

Give Me Time
(And A Little Grace Too)

I am so thankful that you have calendars, planning and notices for me.  If you are offering “vision casting,” for the year even better.  While you are doing this, I am trying to get my feet under me as we return to the Fall and all that means.  Everyday involves pick up from soccer practice, football, and guitar lessons on top of school projects that are broken into “teams,” staying on top of homework being finished, the house not falling apart, dinner being made and eaten, and the “regular” stuff that never goes away. (I didn’t even mention we are in full time ministry too.)   I am getting voice and e-mails  along with texts from the school daily about another “need to know.”  I have had 400 papers shoved in front of me in the first 3 days of school.  I care, I am overwhelmed by re acclimating to a schedule that I don’t control.


Don’t Ask Me For Money

For three “at home:”

School Supplies: $400 (Why does every teacher require a “special” binder?”)  Uniforms/School Clothes:  $600  (This is with two pairs of pants and 3 shirts each.)   Shoes: AT LEAST $50 a pair if not more. (Once they hit “grown up” sizes all bets were off.) Sports Fees: $100 – $300 per sport (This does not include the “extra” money I am asked/required to bring for raffles, team snacks, new cleats and pictures.)  School Field Trips: $50- $60 per kid  (Thanks for starting the year off “right.”) The youth pastor not immediately asking for a deposit for the “Fall Retreat:”  Priceless. ( Please note “Only $150 per kid” is actually $450 for some of us BEFORE we ask which child wants to “sit this one out.”)   I have not even factored in the gas it takes to drive my children all over or regular “life expenses.”   It’s not that I “don’t care,”  I can’t give what I don’t have, at this point this includes time (see above.)  Notice I didn’t even touch the college student…


Before You Judge

I admit it, we can be “that parent.”   I am trying desperately to keep up with everything. It’s not fair, but the 15 different ways you communicate with me are helpful. AND I KNOW BETTER!!  If you have single parents, divorced parents, kids in Foster Care,  ask before you decide “the parent has just checked out”  My husband and I partner together in everything, plus I am always trying to push closer to Jesus.  AND  I feel like I am an abject failure most of the time.  We probably won’t offer it up, but if you genuinely ask, “What can I do to help?” we might not take you up the offer.  However, just offering makes it better.

In the end I am not asking for you to make a “special exception” for my child.  I am just reminding you that the unfortunate truth is youth group does not have the luxury of getting my single focus. We need you as a partner with us on this crazy journey with our kids.  My children need you as another Christ focused role model in their lives.

If you just give me until November I will have the Fall figured out, just in time to start looking at Basketball, Cheer and Christmas-  Oh and the Spring Retreat and next summer’s missions trip

broken families


Proverbs 13:12 (NIV) tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Many of us work with broken families with so little “hope” they are the portrait of a dying heart. Survival and entitlement have become a generational legacy.  Honestly, it is easier to criticize these families than to partner with them.

Last week we had two missions teams of youth serving in our ministry.  During morning devos one day I asked students to close their eyes and raise hands if they agreed with any of a series of questions. These students were primarily from upper and middle class suburban families. From this little exercise I learned many students felt disappointed or even hurt by their parents.  One of the youth actually told their youth pastor their “life story” as a result of the trip.  No one knew this precious student was living in poverty, with parents who at best neglected them.

Even in this situation I learned parents have a greater spiritual influence in the life of their children than anyone else.  Our attitude can be dismissive to “certain” families.  Instead, we must take an attitude of equipping EVERY family to grow closer to the Lord.

How?  Teach struggling families using five senses of Jesus:


Someone asked me last week how I live in the inner city, with the families there without losing hope. It would be easy to believe the break is just too deep.  How do I persevere?  Have the visionary eye of Christ.  See each person as Christ is molding them into his image.  Show the parent Jesus and then encourage them in ways they can show Christ to their children.


Ask families what they need, or are looking for to equip their children for the future. Listen to the frustrations and inadequacies they are feeling. Hold a brainstorming session that allows parents to tell you how to help them help their family. Find ways to let parents know you are there for them, and are not trying to replace them.


After a brainstorming pick one or two practical needs you as a body can meet, and start there.  When a family has a tangible need met, they feel the love of Christ.  What can you do to sit and get to know them, tell them reasons why you love being a part of the life of their child.


Take time to get to know individual families to learn how to walk with them in their journey with the Lord and their children.  Set up a system of people who build relationships with parents.  Teach parents quick and easy ways they can connect with their kids in 5 minutes or less.


Those existing for tomorrow forget tenderness.  Encourage parents in ways that they can tell their children how they love them.  Find simple ways to show parents you love them as well as their children.

In everything remember in Christ:

Changed Parent = Changed Family= Changed neighborhood= Changed community=Changed world

What are you doing to reach into broken families?

Parents Ministry, Family Ministry, or Inter-generational Ministry whatever you want to call it seems to be the hot button topic in youth ministry today. From mega churches who are learning about it to smaller country churches who have been doing it forever but want to get a fresh perspective on it, we all cannot debate it’s place in our job description or its value on the spiritual development of our students.


While there are many different theories and strategies out there, I’ll give you an insight to one that has taken off at our church. When I hold a parents meeting I cannot get more than three or four sets of parents there at the same time. So the nifty resources I get for them only make it in the hands of a few parents. So how to get the other parents resourced became a priority. So I designed a nice looking resource table, placed it in the church foyer, and since then I cannot keep the resources on the table. I could make guesses as to why it works, our parents want help but they want it anonymously or they don’t want the other parents thinking they don’t have it all together but the fact of the matter is the resources are going out with great results. I’ve had a ton of parents call me to discuss this or that from a book or article so as long as its working I’m good with that.

In case you were wondering what the top resources are at our church, here ya go:

The key to this idea, like anything in ministry is the follow up. When I talk to a parent I ask them if they grabbed any resources lately and if they say yes I ask which one they’ve enjoyed and we talk about it. Plus all of our parents know if they have any questions with the resources that I am always there to help.

Kevin Patterson is the youth pastor at Dawson Springs First Baptist Church in Dawson Spring, KY. Be sure to check out to regularly get in on his learnings, too!

Thought that Greg Stier wrote a solid post to kickoff the New Year – here’s a clip from his post, 5 Reasons I’m Excited About Youth Ministry in 2013 that I think is worth the read:

1. A lack of budget triggers a more mature approach to youth ministry.
The value of a strained US economy is that smaller church offerings can lead to tighter youth ministry budgets. Before you call me crazy remember that a smaller youth ministry budget can lead to less goofiness and more seriousness when it comes to youth ministry programming. And that’s a good thing.

God has blessed me with the privilege of leading a ministry called Dare 2 Share for the last twenty years. We train teenagers to share their faith all across the country. Because much of our income is donor related when “The Great Recession” hit in 2008 we had to cut staff, slash programs and sharpen our focus. While these were challenging times God has used it in powerful ways to make us more serious and strategic about a much more singular mission. The same can happen for youth ministries that get their budget slashed. Sometimes a “fiscal cliff” becomes a bridge to a more mature approach to youth ministry. Less sizzle, more steak.

4. Youth ministry and family integrated ministry find their groove…together!
There is a battle in many churches over the role of the traditional youth ministry model and the family integrated model (moms and dads discipling their own children.) It seems to me that there is a “best of both worlds” solution that some youth ministries are starting to tap into. The power of parents leaning into the spiritual development of their own children combined with a setting where teenagers can relate to other teenagers spiritually could be the model that catapults youth ministry to the next level. The more spiritually mature adults who are willing to mentor their children/teens and other children/teens the better! This should happen at home and church! The youth leaders who are seeing the power of Titus 2 (older women mentoring young women/older men mentoring young men) should do nothing more than accelerate the mission of the youth leader and godly parents. Sure, there will still be the “our way is the only way“ people, but, most youth leaders should be able to merge the power of both approaches into their youth ministry models.


This post is from the church of my friend, John Mulholland. Long-time YP, he’s just begun serving as FP at this IL church.  Love what they’re doing for this Sunday. 

So here are my questions for you, my fellow small church peeps: What would your church say about this?  What if this were EVERY Sunday? Pro’s/con’s?

I really want to know since I’ve heard all versions of this, especially for the summer time…which is another topic for another day.




Brian Berry is a youth worker and author of the just-released book, As for Me and My [Crazy] House from Group Publishing and Simply Youth Ministry. Brian was kind enough to answer a few questions for the blog!

Tell us about your new book, As for Me and My [Crazy] House!

It’s a book that flows from my everyday crazy life. I’m just your average guy who is sincerely trying to follow Jesus, love his wife, and raise his kids to love Jesus in the midst of being a full-time youth pastor. I’ve been a youth pastor in 2 churches for a total of 18 years and I’ve been married for about that same amount of time. I’m also parenting 5 kids: a freshman, 6th grade, and 4th grade sons along with 3rd grade twins: a son and the only daughter of our family.

Several years ago I felt like God spoke to me as I was praying for my marriage and I wrote down three sentences that flowed from that experience. This book is built around them, each taking up about a 1/3 of the book. They are:

the best gift I can give my marriage is a healthy me.
the best gift I can give my kids is a healthy marriage.
the best gift I can give my ministry and community is a healthy family.

What is your favorite story from the book? Were there any stories cut or deemed too far over the line?

Here’s one from the second chapter that still makes me laugh: “When our boys were little, they found great joy in naked running. No, we didn’t raise them in a nudist colony, but that didn’t stop them from running naked wherever they could. Change a diaper without a new one ready to go, and they’d likely break free running naked. Give them a bath, get mostly dry, and sprinting naked would often ensue. They evidently found great joy and laughter in the hilarity of naked feet slapping the floor and unrestricted movement of clothing-
free moments. We often would joke and call out ‘NAKED PARADE’ as they went by laughing. We even have a child who, if you sent him to the bathroom, would strip naked to poop. We called him the Naked Pooper. Thankfully, he only did this at home.”

Um, lots of stories were cut to keep the thing at a level I’d be willing to read myself. As for too far over the line… sure, but if I printed it here I’d be in trouble too :) Take me out for coffee and we’ll swap ridiculous stories.

That’s awesome – you’re on for coffee. Have you got a failure story from parenting just to prove you’re human?

A few months ago at Christmas we were shopping in the mall. We decided to stop and go to dinner. After we were done, we headed to the bookstore next door. We were in there for a good 15 minutes when this random lady walks up to us and says, “Hey, did I see you guys eating next door?” We said, “Yes, that was us.” Then she said, “Um, I think you left your daughter in there and she’s confused and crying.” We looked around and much to our horror, discovered Becky wasn’t with us. She’d gone to the bathroom and we left without her. Now, every time she goes to the bathroom at a restaurant she makes everyone at the table tell her we won’t leave without her before she’ll go.

I recently wanted to take my kids with me to Mexico to serve with our high school team and I had all 4 boys in my truck. I met the students and leaders at church and then discovered I had miscounted and I was 1 seat short. So I had to call my wife to come and get one of my kids. I won the loser dad of the year award that day.

do I need to go on?… this is getting painful.

Hahhaah … OK. So what would you say to the youth worker who doesn’t have a family yet, but wants to prepare for one well?

Rock on. Being married and raising kids is awesome and a joy. But it’s hard. Maybe the hardest thing you’ll ever try and do.

Getting married or having a kid will change your life, it just won’t change you. If you have trouble saying no or keeping your priorities straight between marriage and ministry now, a family will only compound the problem, not solve it. I honestly believe that the best gift you can give to your marriage and even to your kids is a healthy you. It all starts there. So take a good long look in the mirror, invite God to speak, and keep working on being the man or woman of God you’ve been created to be. Then when a spouse or kids are added to the mix, they’ll be so stoked you are who you are… most of the time :)

What is the key to balancing a great youth ministry life and a great family life?

Honestly, there is no key… or at least I haven’t found it. And if you read this book you’ll find out I actually think balance is a myth that we should rethink all together.

So to that end, I don’t have all the answers nor can I guarantee success. I don’t know how to do that and I’m not sure God even grants us that. But I can tell you I’m in the trenches with you in this. So I guess I’d say: take care of your soul, love your spouse, be a parent, and be a youth worker. In that order. That’s the road I’m on, and the only one I know how to write about and share with you. My conviction is that its also the path that has the greatest chance of landing myself, my marriage, my family, and my ministry in the will of God.

Thanks, Brian! And you can pick up Me and My Crazy House today!


Last week I did two of the most difficult funerals I’ve ever done in my life. They were both high profile deaths in our community (you can read about them here and here), and after some reflection I thought I would share a couple of learnings from performing both ceremonies:

Funerals are heavy and humbling
There is never a good time for a funeral – but they are an unforgettable gift to a family in crisis. They are one of the heaviest aspects of pastoral care a pastor is called to do. I’ve felt it the past couple of weeks. It isn’t easy, but you have the chance to walk through a dark place with the family and show them God’s light. This is why you are here. Thank God that He has allowed you to be trusted with this.

Funerals are an incredible opportunity to share Jesus
Without a doubt, having a platform to give comfort and hope to people in need is the most fulfilling part of carrying such a heavy burden. Pointing them to Jesus Christ and the Good News is central to a funeral message. I do my best to share John 14 in every service, even if the person you are eulogizing wasn’t a Christian.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6 NLT

Funerals are the beginning of a relationship with the family
A funeral is not intended to be the end of a relationship with the family – they are just the beginning. Often times members of the family will need additional counseling or help possibly navigating the future ahead without their loved ones. By performing the funeral, you are now an honorary member of the family and can help them in the days, weeks and maybe even years ahead.