I am coming to the end of my very first year in paid ministry and, of course, it has been a huge time of reflection. There were so many successes and more than a fair share of failures. While the failures might have sucked in the moment, there have been so many lessons that the Lord has taught me through them. One of my biggest failures (but biggest learning) happened at the very beginning of my career.

My first taste of ministry was interning for one of the guys on the High School team. I learned a ton from him because, frankly, the guy is a legend. He is a logistical mastermind, has a huge heart, and is a total servant. I saw the incredible impact he was able to make not just in our ministry, but our church as a whole. Being so new to the game, I wanted to be just like him.

So when I went out on my own, I tried to do just that, be just like him. The problem was that in my pursuit to be more like him, I lost what made me, me. I smothered the parts of myself that wanted to dress up for events or make a fool of myself on a video in order be just as reserved as he was. I slowly started abandoning the pastor that God created me to be.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one that has been there. So many of us have seen someone that is incredible at what they do and, in hopes of capturing their success, strived to be just as funny, just as smart, and just more like them.

While we might think that we will be more effective this way, we are actually hurting our ministry in the long run. When we try to be more of something we aren’t, we are completely mismanaging ourselves. We try to make our weaknesses our strengths and push our strengths to the backburner. We cripple ourselves.

This stems from the insecurity that makes us believe that we aren’t effective. Whether we are consciously thinking this or not, we are thinking that God can’t use someone like us. But the truth is that God can and wants to use someone like you. Each one of us is an essential part of the body of Christ. If we are using the body as a metaphor, don’t try to be a foot if you are a hand. God placed you exactly where he wanted you. If He wanted another foot in the body, He would have put one there. If He didn’t want you in the position you have, you wouldn’t be there. Trust that God doesn’t want you to be someone else.

In short, your ministry needs YOU. It needs your gifts, your personality, and your heart. Be authentic. Be real. Your ministry needs it.

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

This post from YouthMin.Org blog supposedly isn’t for everyone – actually the stuff in here is super for everyone even if it is directed toward megachurch youth workers. Super, super stuff in here – I grabbed a clip to share here but for sure head over there to read all of the post called 20 Ways to Succeed in a Larger Church:

1. Realize you’re on a team. Upgrade your interpersonal skills.
You will need to learn how to deal with disagreements and conflict in a healthy manner. Read up on this stuff and don’t assume that you’re great at it.

2. Learn your place. Be quiet in staff meetings. Spend the first 6 months – 1 year listening.
Do not go into ministry thinking that previous programs or successes will transfer to a larger church. Each church has their own personality. Keep quiet about past successes. No one wants to hear about what awesome thing you did last year. They want you to lead in your current condition. This transfers over to staff meetings too. Spend time listening.

3. Develop a thicker skin. Get ready for input from your team leaders. Be ready for performance reviews.
If you do not have thick skin, then get ready for your feelings to be hurt. In larger situations, you’ll have more people who evaluate your ministry and give constructive criticism. Just because a leader sees an area that needs improvement doesn’t mean that they don’t like you. They aren’t out to get you either.

4. Know your place. Communicate directly with your supervisor. If he/she says no, don’t go above his head. Respect the chain of command.
Be ready to explain your ideas. Know how what you want to do fits into your current system. Larger churches do not like to do something just for the sake of doing it. Your leader WILL tell you no at some point. When that happens about an idea that you’re passionate about, do not go over their head. This will destroy trust and make you look like a brat.

5. Be ready to plan ahead. Larger churches like stability. That means you need to start planning out programs and events 6 months – 1 year in advance.
Long gone are the days where you can plan a month or two out. You’ll need to know what you’re preaching on, what your small groups are learning, and any events that you’re planning (as well as prices of those events) well in advance. The further you plan out the better you’ll look and less parents will complain.

Thanks to Blake for the tip, too!


After a long ministry season, things are winding down for the school year and I am starting our usual post mortem on the year and thinking about the all of the things that we would do differently. I think this year more than any other that many of the things I would change have more to do with my heart and perspective than anything we taught or sang. Maybe you can relate to the things I am asking the Lord to work on in my heart.

Pre-service stress: My favourite moment of the night is always right when we start because once things are moving, there is no changing it, we are LIVE! Unfortunately I have made the time leading up to it an often-miserable experience. I find myself wondering what else we could have prepped? Is the message as good as I think it is? Where are all the kids? Did the leaders call their students? I allow myself to worry about things that needn’t be worried about. The truth is, we were prepared but I still allowed doubt to cloud my mind and that has to stop.

Number crunching: I am pretty good sometimes at reading a lot into attendance numbers and can be pretty hard on myself when there is a low night. I feel responsible; wondering if we offended students the week before, or maybe our group is boring, unfriendly, cliquey, and spiritually shallow or any number of things. My colleague Jason was meeting with his grandfather who worked in youth ministry who shared with him this incredible piece of wisdom. “We used to give each other high fives when 40 students showed up, and beat ourselves up when only 39 came.” It’s so true, and I have been guilty being frustrated when students don’t show up and allowing that to distract me of ministering to those that did come and that is a lose-lose situation.

Not trusting: This can be a big one, where I sometimes don’t trust. I don’t trust that our leaders read the curric or called their kids, that the worship team is going to be ready, that my message is good enough. Worst of all, I don’t trust that God is going to make it happen, and when I do that I try and do it on my own. I have been there so many nights where God did crazy things and transformation happened but somehow that doubt creeps in that tonight might not be that night. I know He is in control, and our leaders care so much for our students and sometimes life gets busy for them too.

I am sure each of us have been here at some point, but the Fall is right around the corner and its time to spend the summer focusing on my heart to make sure that next year I do a lot less of these things. It sounds like I am going to read Philippians 4:6 a few more times too I think.


Where are you letting doubt enter your mind and how does it affect your ministry?

Geoff – (Twitter)

A couple weeks back at our State of HSM annual meeting I shared a few things that I believe that make a good team great. Thought I would share them with you as well!

We all share a common, unifying vision in our high school ministry – seeing students on the outside of faith meet Him face to face (evangelism) and their lives be changed forever. And for those that have trusted Christ to be connected (fellowship), grow (discipleship), serve (ministry) and honor (worship) Christ deeper now and into adulthood. The clear vision helps bring a team of like-minded and passionate people together. If someone is out of line, the vision brings them back into the unity of the common vision.

This year our team is going to unify by learning together. We’re going to go to a conference together – the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this March – come hang with us! We’re going to go back to the basics and read Doug Fields’ 1st 2 Years in Youth Ministry together and have some discussions about our experiences and how we can grow together as youth workers. Youth pastors must keep learning and moving forward.

It is so important to laugh together. I want us to play together. Have inside jokes. To dig a deep well of relationship that bond us together and make us quick to forgive and trust when hit with the unexpected.

Dependent on God/Prayer
Your walk with Jesus is critically important. This season we’re all reading the New Testament together. We’re trying to make sure our walk with Jesus is more visible and something we talk about as easily as we would Sherlock Holmes or the new Coldplay album (both of which are excellent by the way). Your walk with Jesus is person, but it is also communal. As a team we need to strive to e


I got the call last week that I was invited to be a sessional instructor at a local Bible College teaching Youth Ministry Philosophy in the fall. I am really excited to be returning to teach, not only to share my heart for ministry, but the chance to meet young leaders just exploring the possibility of going into vocational or volunteer youth ministry. Its so exciting to spend time with young passionate leaders ready to change the world for Christ. In many conversations I have with young leaders there is a few things that I encourage and warn them about and here are a three of them.

Find a balance early: I have seen it before, the new young youth pastor comes into town, single and ready to impact students lives, spending 40 hours a week making a great youth ministry, planning, dreaming and studying. But when the workday is over, heading off to watch a students basketball game, then a badminton tournament, teaching a bible study. Soon that 40 hour week has become 80. The challenge is that students can begin to expect that and when the single youth pastor meets a significant other and eventually transitions into marriage, it can be really hard to dial back the time expectations that students have gotten used to. Find a work life balance early, learn to go offline and be available, but not too available.

The Honeymoon period is real: If you are new in a Church, there is a certain amount of time (sometimes as much as a year) where you can do no wrong (within reason!), and if there is something you need, its time to ask for it. If the 30lb laptop that used to belong to the Senior Pastor isn’t going to work ask early for something that will suit your needs and vision. Your ideas are fresh, people want to help you get settled and build momentum, so ask for it early, as they are more likely to approve legitimate needs. Don’t be shy, but don’t be greedy.

The person before was better: (read further!) Not everyone experiences a healthy ministry hand off and you might be picking up a neglected or abandoned ministry. If so it is inevitable that no matter how poor the situation you are inheriting, that there is likely something that the person you are replacing did better than you. They may have neglected the leaders, hardly taught the Bible, slapped together events, but if the former leader was great at giving high fives, you will hear about it. Students can be guilty of romanticizing the past and their teenage honesty will have them reminding you often of the glory days from before you arrived that were not as glorious as they might think. You are you, God has equipped you to lead and placed you there, and students may have very vocal and unfair expectations of you, but try your best to not let it get to you. If you are lucky enough to inherit a ministry where the leader left really well after a great tenure, the shoes you are stepping into might be huge, just stay the course, be gracious in receiving criticism and focus on what God wants to do in the ministry.

There is something really exciting about meeting and working with young leaders, and helping them navigate through some of the pitfalls is even more rewarding when you watch them come through it and thrive.

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. Get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself, too!