As a youth minister, I usually have one or two activities each month. I am usually good at planning great events. I make sure that each event has a purpose (evangelism, equipping, encouraging). I work hard at doing good things for the right reason.

Unfortunately, I sometimes miss the most important aspect — inviting God into the planning, action, and follow up of my event planning. Sure, I’ll pray that events go well, I’ll pray during them (especially lockins! You need prayer during lockins!) And occasionally I pray afterwards, usually when things go wrong and I am mad at God for letting all MY great planning go to waste.

From talking with youth ministers that I know, this is a common problem. Its nothing malicious or devious, its just that we…forget. We get so caught up in our great plans, our great devices, that we forget to check if this is on God’s agenda. So when things go right, we did a great job. When things go wrong, God messed up. Really? I don’t think so…

Here is how I believe we should approach praying for our events and activities –

1. Preplanning — Event planning often goes back 6 months to a year. Before you even sit down to plan your calendar, you should kneel down and ask God for guidance on what He wants HIS youth ministry to be doing in the next year. As you pray, reflect on the students you have, pray for them and ask that God gives you the wisdom on how to minister to that student. Think about the students in your community, and pray that what you do will reach them this year. As you think through the calendar, pray about each individual event, asking God to bless it and do more than you can even imagine. Finally, when you’re done, pray again over the whole year (or six months or three months) and ask God to work throughout this year in you, your ministry, and your students.

2. Preparation – Sometimes events are quick to get ready for. Sometimes they take hours and hours of time and energy. As we get ready for events, the first action we should do is pray for the event. Pray over the steps of preparation. Gather together with your leaders (students and/or adults) and pray for it. Some events like a trip to Kings Island or Laser Tag won’t require tons of prayer. But don’t neglect the power of the “fun event” because those times of relationship building are often more valuable than a big evangelistic outreach. Ask God that your students will be open to talk with and that your words will reach them in some way.

3. During an event – If you don’t have a prayer team, I encourage you to recruit 3 or 4 adults (or more if you have them!) to pray for your teens. Give them a list of stuff to pray for during an event. BE SPECIFIC! Don’t just say, “Pray for life change”. If you know a student is struggling, say, “Pray that Bobby will give up his drug habit” or “Pray that Suzie will overcome her eating disorder.” I would be careful of giving out names in certain situations, for obvious reasons. After all, God knows who those students are. But we need to be praying for specifics, not just generalities.

4. Following an event – Do you pray after an event? Its sometimes weeks or months later that something might hit a student, so we need to be following up in prayer that what went on will positively affect a teen.

I wish I could say I was faithful in doing all these things all the time. I am striving to do all these, but its hard moving from self-reliance to God-reliance, even in ministry. Yet I know that if you do these things your ministry will be blessed, as will you.

What do you do to invite God into your ministry events?

Bill Nance blogs at

I walked into Fields’ pre conference session right as he was teaching about the purposes: evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry. It was great and it never gets old. I’ve heard it a million times, and I still love it.

I first heard this teaching when I was a sophomore in college. I came down to hang out with Doug and a conference was happening at saddleback. Rick said something definitive like, “this is what the church must do.” I remember thinking in response, “Is that ALL that the church is supposed to do? There’s got to be something else.” I spent a year thinking a lot about the church. It was on my mind every time I read scripture or heard something in class or at church. At the end, I came to the conclusion that I liked his five words, I felt like they were a great way to explain God’s will for the church.

I like the words, but it’s not about the words themselves. Ministry is about doing God’s will, in the way that he’s called me to lead. I think every ministry needs two things

Every ministry ought to have a biblical foundation. (duh) It’s too easy to get caught up in results or flash or feelings or opinions or, worst of all, tradition and history. (ouch) A ministry doesn’t need to be “purpose driven” but it does need to reflect God’s will, and we need to be able to articulate that clearly. (oh yea)

Every ministry ought to have leaders to act out of their spiritual convictions. It’s not enough to have great programs and happy people. Ministry is personal, at least it ought to be. God work through people because he needs us, he’s not limited to our efforts. He’s working through us to transform us to become more like him. Transformation comes when we act from the convictions God has given us.

There’s nothing extra special about the words: evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry.

There’s something extraordinary about the leader who loves God and others enough to do ministry God’s way according to personal conviction.


Derwin Gray is teaching right now at SYMC … he’s really good! You may know him from a few years back as the “Evangelism Linebacker.” Be sure to check out the video (embedded above) if you haven’t ever seen it or could use a laugh – good stuff. Derwin is a former NFL player, now a junior high volunteer and communicator.


Last year, one of our very biggest series was called You Own the Weekend. A student and I were talking about student involvement, and he asked what I thought about giving each of the local high schools a chance to create their own weekend from start to finish. At the end of our conversation, a great idea was born. You Own the Weekend went on to be an incredible series (we actually did 2 of them last year, for a total of 6 weeks) with many changed lives. We just announced Sunday that it is coming back!

The idea is simple:

1) students do everything

2) we believe there is a strong connection between friendship evangelism and student involvement/investment

3) it is more than creating a program, the idea is that EVERYONE from your school gets an invitation to come to a service.

You can read more about it in the archives if you want, I’ll post lots more about it in the coming weeks!


Shared a few learnings about social media in the youth ministry track of Radicalis. Doug asked me to talk a little bit about getting community students into our crowd program, here’s some of what I jotted down in my Moleskin before jumping on stage:

Start to text your students immediately (SMS)
One of the very first moves I made when I became the High School Pastor at Saddleback was to move us quickly to texting. Email is dead to a teen. There are a ton of great texting services out there, we use SimplyTxt but you can check out Tatango, Duffled and more. Move to SMS right now, and please know it won’t be long before Facebook (and whatever’s next – ha!) ruins SMS as we know it, too.

Encourage students to update Facebook about their church experiences/decisions (Facebook)
I love it when a student updates their Facebook status with something about faith or church. We encourage it on a weekly basis – you can grab this promo slide and add it to your rotation this weekend, too. Their friendship circles extend far beyond yours, they have acquaintances that will see what they post and hopefully respond.

Don’t let your best stuff sit on a hard drive (YouTube)
Too often we work hard to create a powerful video or skit, play it for our students, then let it die a sad death in the corner of an old hard drive. Never again! Think about the latest video you created as an opportunity for social media marketing. When someone from your community searches Google or YouTube about your student ministry – what will they find? If you’re serious about taking some good first steps in social media for your student ministry, upload every video you can and let the community stumble on them and get in on the conversation.


Thought I should compile some links and info that we talked about during the Radicalis youth track. Even if you’re not here there might be some stuff that catches your eye, so click away!


Weekend Teaching Series: Each 1, Reach 1

Sermon in a Sentence: Sharing our faith should be a normal part of our lives – we show it by our actions and our words.
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we took a panel approach to teaching the lesson on friendship evangelism, Taffy (our worship pastor) was the speaker and he enlisted 10 students to come on stage and answer questions as he gave his talk. It gave the message a very grounded feel – these are normal students like you, praying for their friends, walking as best they can with Jesus, and sharing their faith. This is always a tricky subject to teach on at our entry-level program, but it gave me a chance to affirm our belief that the weekend is the place to invite your friends for the first time and give them an idea of the exciting stuff in the weeks ahead for HSM.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: Students greeted and ran the lights, camera, sound and band. Students appeared on stage as part of the panel in the message and cleaned up after each service as well.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We were weak this week in this area – we had a nice highlight video of the recent Killball tournament, as well as some funbanter over HSM’s latest Facebook page, called You Know You go to Saddleback’s HSM When … which got a good response. I liked this video, too.

Music Playlist: Solution, With Everything, To The Ends of the Earth, Tell the World

Favorite Moment: We gave each student a candle on the way in this week, and at the end talked about the power of each one, reaching one. In just a few seconds the entire room was filled with candlelight, which students’ help through the song. We encouraged them to pray for their friends that they could invite, or look through their recent calls/texts and consider how they might be a part of that person’s spiritual journey.

Up Next: Q: (Aplogetics series featuring Sean McDowell)

A fun little evangelism video we used this weekend, we cut it before the product tag line at the end. Clever!