It happened again.

I watched someone get up to speak to a large audience. The total time of what was going to be said would’ve been about 15 to 20 minutes.

Just as I was getting ready to hear the message, I watched one of my pet peeves unfold.

waterbottleWater bottle swagger.

Why do some public speakers saunter up onstage with a huge water bottle and take swigs from it every five minutes?

Maybe I’m being unfair, because I’ve certainly had an occasion or two where I needed water. I was under the weather, perhaps, or had just been doing something loud and crazy before I spoke.

What I’m more referring to is how unnecessary this feels. It almost comes across as a status thing – like when you ask a friend if they can hang out… and they pause, slowly take out the latest smartphone, make sure you can see the model/logo, and then proceed to talk about how they have to check their calendar because of how busy they’ve been doing this or doing that.

Again, maybe I’m being unfair.

On the other hand, it feels like the people who should do this don’t seem to do this. I’m referring to the “big name” speakers who likely teach on a regular basis… people I’m never seen bust out any water bottle swagger even after a 45 minute message.

It got me thinking about other pet peeves in ministry circles:

  • The Spirit of Urination: When I (or someone else) gets up to teach or proposes a question for some audience interaction, and right at that moment a few people noticeably get up to go to the bathroom, as if the Spirit of Urination came upon that row all at once.
  • Recycled Rally Cries:> You likely know that “Youth aren’t the church of tomorrow. They’re the church of today!” Chances are you know it because it’s our standard go-to phrase when we feel like we’re supposed to say something profound about serving students.
  • “I Can’t Hear You!”: That awkward moment when my worship to God becomes about the worship leader having to hear me sing it a little louder.
  • facepalmBad Transitions: When one thing ends, be it a moment in a program or a song, and there’s a long pause before anything is said/done. Even worse, when in-jokes occur between one person and another and everyone else has to sort of wait on them to finish.
  • “Circling” Sermons: I’m all for someone making a great point in a message. I’m not a huge fan of having someone tell me what I need to circle in the notes or in my Bible. It’s like an old 20th Century way of begging for a retweet.
  • Critiques About Tithing: I’m so glad you’re walking with Jesus in such a way that you don’t feel “bound to the Old Testament concept of tithing.” I’m likewise aware that you wish we didn’t talk about money so often when the budget is in another crazy crisis. Meanwhile, my household is going to keep regularly and consistently tithing 10% of our firstfruits at the bare minimum and looking for ways to be generous beyond that… ways that draw attention to God and not ourselves. So quit telling me how much more mature you are for being random, and start supporting your church in such a way that it doesn’t have to beg you to do it or suffer when you’re taking such an enlightened approach.
  • anigif_enhanced-buzz-2917-1390416222-17Christian Wining: You know those folks in your church who drink wine all the time? So does everyone else, especially through social media. I’m not making a statement about alcohol here… but I am saying that it stinks when we have to talk to someone who’s turned off by how much carefree drinking an active person in your church does.

These are just a handful of my pet peeves. Maybe the fact that I have them is one of your pet peeves.

For that matter, what are your pet peeves in ministry circles?

worldaroundmeThe world doesn’t revolve around what you’re doing.

You wouldn’t consciously disagree with that, and yet it still seems hard to believe, doesn’t it?

  • It’s why you get frustrated with “clueless” parents.
  • It’s why you wish your church leadership would just “get on board.”
  • It’s why you yell when students are lacking in their “commitment.”

(Notice the words and phrases with the quotes around them. Maybe you don’t use these, but you likely have your own collection of “accusational grammar.”)

When you’ve spent chunks of your life on something you believe in, you hope it becomes viral. If everything fizzles and what you’ve been up to doesn’t become a part of the local social dialogue, it can be dishearteneing. You’ll take it personally, when in reality it just may be that the season was wrong or people were distracted by something else that they felt was more important (and it may have been).

It’s nothing short of difficult, which is why you’ll be tempted to do one of three things:

  • Walk off. You’ll eventually grow weary of the fatigue, politics or misunderstandings and find/create/justify a self-righteous reason to give up on the Divinely-righteous thing God called you to do. There will be rare occasions when this is God’s plan, but the majority of the time you will simply be tired and looking for validation to quit. Don’t argue with me on this – be honest, and let’s own this temptation.
  • Play the game. There’s likely a “system” that you can work within to get the margin or resources to do what you really feel called to do. Actors do this all the time, doing big budget movies to earn what’s needed financially/professionally so they can make independent films. Some call them sell-outs for doing it, while others ascribe value to their ingenuity.
  • Push through the disillusionment. Maybe what you’re experiencing is a matter of your own immaturity, which is way easier to see in others versus ourselves (raise your hand if you know a punk who doesn’t know how good he has it). On the other hand, maybe it’s more of an issue with legitimate roadblocks that are in front of you. Either way, you are not done… you are simply paused/stuck/stalled – and you don’t have to stay paused/stuck/stalled. You may never see the “thing” become “right,” but you don’t need to let that stop you from doing the right thing.

stalledcarPicture your ministry like a car that has a dead battery, a flat tire and is out of gas – you wouldn’t give up on the whole vehicle simply because of these hindrances. Even if you had to bust out your jumper cables 12 times in a week, you’d do it until you had the means to get a new battery; even if you had to replace all four of your tires, you’d replace all four of your tires; even if you were leaking gas from under your car, you’d find a mechanic who could work with your budget to fix it.

I dare you to quit saying, “Yeah, but…” – you’re better than that. There is greatness in you and the thing God has asked you to do.

The world doesn’t revolve around what you’re doing. It won’t ever, nor should it.

What you’re doing should help people revolve around God. The reason it’s so hard is the very reason why it’s ministry – there’s a need for someone to minister. If it was easy, God wouldn’t have needed you to do it.

So… how will you take a different path toward achieving what you seem to be struggling with achieving?

What drives you crazy?

 —  February 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

So… what drives you crazy?


It can be the little everyday things.


It can be decisions other people made you can’t understand.


It can be the carelessness of others.13

It can be the misrepresentation of what is promised.


It can be mixing two things that don’t belong together.


It can be in how something has been packaged and presented.


It can be in the lack of forethought that made something feel like an after-thought.


It can be something that is so easy to fix, yet would be such a mess to even try.


It can be in that one little, tiny thing only you notice.


It can be the pattern that you can’t seem to find or form, even after you stare at the problem in front of you for lengths of time.


So… what drives you crazy?

What everyday situations did these images remind you of?

What does all of this have to do with 1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

How can we pray for you?

The week before going to camp or this case a retreat is always hectic with tons of plans and last minute details that have to hammered out. The stress level is high and patience is running low as we rush around sourcing out pens and extension cords. We do a retreat every year and somehow we hadn’t learned from the year before and were allowing students to sign up after the registration deadline which increased the workload for our team in shuffling cabins and bus lists but we knew it would be all worth it and after all the more the merrier of course!

In the craziness of last minute registrations and final details we were experiencing a problem bigger than insufficient pens and power bars. With two days remaining until we were leaving for camp, a significant number of our leaders were not committed or not coming to camp. When our leaders sign up for the year we give them two weekends we were all hands on deck for and this was one of them and they just weren’t committing to be there.

I was frustrated.

I was frustrated because they had said they would be there and now nearly half weren’t coming. Some had to work, others had weak excuses and others did not respond to multiple emails and texts. We had a leader crisis two days before camp.

I didn’t know what to do, so I drafted up a long and well articulated email that outlined my frustration, reminded them of the commitment the made and tried to explain the life change that happens at camp and basically tried to take them on an all expenses paid guilt trip. It felt great to write, to get my feelings out but I quickly realized that while helpful for me, it was not going to be helpful for our team. I left the message for an hour and after showing my colleague, rewrote the email shorter, clearer and outlined THE NEED -More volunteers for the weekend THE ASK – Would you consider shuffling the weekend to spend with our students at camp THE WHY - Help them understand why our weekend camp is the most important event we do all year. The result was 11 more volunteers committing to being there.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Anger, Frustration and Rebuke are not best communicated via email.
  2. Let someone you trust get you off the ledge by showing them your draft and chat with them about your frustrations.
  3. Deal with the need before the event and follow up one on one after you have cooled down.
  4. Remember that God is going to do something in spite of you, or your volunteers.

There are going to frustrating situations where you might be tempted to use email to let someone or a group of people know how you are feeling, and while it might feel good for the moment its not the place for conflict. Deal with immediate need and once you have sorted out your feelings, take the time to meet one on one with your team when the extra time to meet will be worth it in the long run.

Long story short: Don’t send that email.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

At anytime there are Churches all over the world in the process of searching for a lead pastor or recovering from the departure of the last one. It’s not an easy place to be, but the statistics would say that many of you reading this have been through this or are in the middle of it right now. I am currently entering the 15th month in my church without a lead pastor and it has been a challenging season for sure, but I thought it might be helpful to share about the good and bad of a time that each of us will likely face at some point. For some, this transition period is healthy, and the successor simply steps into place taking the baton and running with it but many on the other hand are sudden departures, with no one to fill the position in the wings and it is these transitions that are the most challenging and painful, mine has been the latter.

The obvious challenge of being leaderless has been a loss in momentum of the Church as despite the effort of our team, losing the “face” of the Church has meant a partial loss of identity and we have spent many months trying to regain lost momentum. For us loss of momentum came with a noticeable migration of attendance and the subsequent drop of in giving. It was not long before budgets tightened and decisions became tougher to make.

There have been staff casualties; hours cut back, positions not filled after departures increasing the amount of work to be shouldered by a decreasing number of people. In the midst of these challenges and growing collateral damage of the reality of Pastoral transition, I am thankful that of all the groups in the Church, our students have remained almost unaffected by the process. Even as parents decide to move churches, students have remained where their friends are.

While the youth have remained fairly unscathed, the same cannot be said for their volunteer leaders and quite frankly myself. It has been very challenging to lead in this uncertain time, with no clear voice or vision to execute; it has taken a great amount of patience and trust in the Lord believing that there are better days ahead. I have had to manage my expectations of what decisions can and will be made in the past 14 months. Even changing obviously broken systems is not easy in with out a leader.

Much of what has changed in the past months has been incremental as stability is often the focus in times like this, and thus a young, passionate leader can become frustrated when we have to put a pause on new initiatives and programs for an indefinite period of time. For some churches it could be 6 months to find a new leader, for us we are going to be 16-20 months at a minimum.

In the midst of a growing portfolio of work, I have had to remind myself that my first priority is my students, their spiritual growth and shepherding. When I look at the relative health that has remained in the youth group, I am actually excited because I am deeply convicted that from this health is an opportunity to shape the future of our church and to be an encouragement in a discouraging time.

Working in a Church without a lead pastor is challenging to say the least, its often difficult, and could seem like a logical place to jump ship. But please, please, please consider what you have been called to. Like a marriage, I chose to work at my Church in sickness and in health and it is not until the moment I am called away that I would even consider leaving no matter how challenging the circumstances.

Chances are each of you will experience a time of lead pastoral transition, I pray for you that it is not as long as ours. Stick with it, trust the He has better days in store for your Church. The workload may seem like too much and the road too tough, stick with it and serve the Church. The refining process for lack of a better word stinks, you feel overwhelmed with work, disheartened by declining attendance and longing for the day when the right leader arrives and takes the reigns. In the mean time, I have to stay faithful and love my students, my Church and focus on doing what I can to lead well in a challenging season of ministry.

PS – If you are in the midst of this and want to chat sometime, email me! We are in this together

-Geoff (Twitter)


Does this complaint sound familiar to you? It can be frustrating to try and lead a youth ministry, only to get thwarted by your youth leaders who just don’t seem to get it.

They don’t get that they’re expected to focus on building relationships with the students

They don’t get that they need to make an effort to stay up to date on teen culture

They don’t get that as a youth pastor, you don’t have the time to connect with every single student

They don’t get that they’re the best method to recruit new volunteers

They don’t get that they’re expected to show up at all events

They don’t get that even though you’re on staff, you can’t do it all and thus had to cancel the retreat

Your youth leaders just don’t get it. But do you?

Sometimes we forget what it’s like to be a volunteer, to do what we do besides a full time job. We forget that our youth leaders don’t have the same access we have to resources, that they don’t have the time to read up on youth ministry blogs, or to watch the latest video gone viral. We forget that we have been in youth ministry for a long time, that we have learned and know exactly what to do and where our priorities should be…but they may be new and don’t know what’s expected of them.

So if your youth leaders just don’t get it, look at yourself first and ask yourself some honest questions:

  • How well have you communicated your vision for the youth ministry? Do your youth leaders know it and support it?
  • Have you made your expectations clear, do they know what their task as youth leader entails?
  • Do you have any expectations that you have not communicated, that you consider ‘normal’ or ‘self-evident’?
  • Are your expectations realistic, given the amount of time they can dedicate to the youth ministry?
  • Have you given your leaders the training they need to do their task well?
  • Are you supplying them with the information and resources they need to excel in what they do?
  • Are you investing time and energy in team building and motivating your leaders?
  • Are you available to them when they need you, or is there someone else who they can go to with questions?
  • Are you communicating your decisions well enough, so they understand why you do things?

Let’s face it: when our youth leaders don’t get it, more often than not it’s our fault because we’re just not communicating well enough. If you want your youth leaders to ‘get it’, to excel in what they do in your youth ministry, you have to invest more time in them. Make training, coaching and motivating your leaders a priority and you’ll see that they will get it.

Rachel Blom is American at heart, Dutch in origin, but living in the south of Germany. She’s a youth ministry veteran who has the passion to help youth leaders worldwide serve better through her blog She’s a big fan of Twitter, where you can find her as @youthleadersac.


I had such an incredible time at SYMC connecting with so many youth workers passionate about sharing Christ with the next generation. Of the countless people I connected with in Louisville there was one that stood out. He was a young ministry volunteer who was really excited about exploring the idea of going into vocational ministry one day and he was lucky enough to be brought to SYMC by the Pastor of the youth ministry he volunteered in. He was full of energy and a sense of calling to minister to High Schoolers and his gifting was obvious. I loved hearing his heart for students .

His Pastor on the other hand was another story… I asked if he was enjoying the conference and the he began to share is displeasure with many aspects of the conference especially how tired he was of some of the people teaching at it. He seemed so jaded and bitter toward many of aspects of Youth Ministry and the conference he had spent a lot of money to attend.

I had to ask myself, how does someone get to this place? Could my love and sense of calling turn into bitter resentment, could my desire to learn from educated experts turn into resentment by not being asked be one of them? Or worse, would my hard heart and frustrations become engrained in my ministry colleagues, volunteers and students and potentially taint their ministry experience?

It’s a really scary thought, so it begs the question. Where is your heart at this week?

Can I ask that together we guard are hearts from being hardened towards one another, to value the input that each of us can bring to the table from the unique contexts each of us are called to.  We need to encourage one another and affirm what we see God doing through one another but also to honor those that have given their lives to equipping us as youth leaders. To honor those leaders who care deeply to equip leaders, not to make much of themselves but to make much of the Christ.

Take time this week to encourage someone on your team, a few of your students, your pastor, your mentor or maybe someone who has no idea the impact they have had on your life or ministry. We are all working to build the same Kingdom.


I (Josh) remember during one of my most painful seasons in ministry I got an email from a fellow youth pastor. The message was short and sweet — it consisted of 3 words:

“Hang in there.”

Today I’m heading into a painful meeting with a volunteer. He needs to be removed for us to move forward. I had a tough interaction with a parent who was upset about an illustration I used during our recent series on relationships. I had to call out someone for spreading gossip and hurting the unity of our church. It feels like every day this week I’ve been hit with something big or tasked with something extraordinarily difficult. What I need someone to say to me right now is, “Hang in there.”

Thankfully I’ve got some genuine cheerleaders on the sidelines of our ministry. They realize the long hours, tough conversations and painful weeks in ministry add up and, if unchecked, run you straight into burnout. I’ve heard a ton of encouraging words this week that even in a season like this — God isn’t quite done with me at this place. That even when things are tough, God is good and faithful. Remidners that He is changing lives even when the circumstances around our ministry are less than ideal.

So today, please hear this from me: Hang in there.

Fight the battles you need to fight today. Be strong where strength is needed and give in and be weak when it doesn’t really matter. Ask your mentor for prayer this week, grab coffee with a friend in your youth ministry network so you can vent and then gear up for another run.

No one said youth ministry was going to be easy. In fact, I think Jesus might have said our lives would be just the opposite.* But know that He is faithful and is building and shaping you and the people around you. I would imagine that you’re probably not done where He’s got you — that maybe you need to bloom where you’re planted, even if there is a little frost on the ground this morning.

So hang in there. And please remind me of this article the next time I’m about to quit, too.

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.