Running on Empty?

Josh Griffin —  March 1, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.12We know the feeling well. The energy of the fall is gone, seniors are already starting to head toward the door, and you’re questioning your own sanity because you were the one championing the junior high overnighter this Friday night. What do you do? You’ll need to find what is right for you, but here are a few suggestions to help you push through the funk.

Take an hour.
Sometimes you just need some space to clear your head for an hour or so. Go for a walk. Journal. Be silent. Exercise. Get a haircut that you haven’t had time for…you’re starting to resemble John the Baptist. Look at your Outlook calendar right now and make and appointment with yourself.

Take a personal day.
Not everybody has the luxury of being able to sneak away for an entire day…but if you do, DO IT! An entire day of rest, relaxation, reading, reflecting and rejoicing might be just what the good doctor ordered. Of course you CAN do things that don’t start with the letter “R” but they probably won’t be as rewarding (see what we did there…another “R” word).

Get some sleep.
When you’re robbing yourself of sleep at night, you’re robbing yourself of energy the next day! Put down the controller, step away from the refrigerator, and find a pillow with your name on it. If your MacBook has sleep mode, you should too.

Clear the calendar.
In some of the most extreme cases, the wisest thing you can do is slow everything down. Trim the calendar. Slash the calendar. Talk to your supervisor about changing office hours expectations. Cancel that thing that has you stuck.

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.

Youth Ministry Don’ts

Josh Griffin —  February 25, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.19This week we’re taking on a few youth ministry do’s and don’ts! With our experience, we’ve learned a few things about both sides of this—we’ve both had some solid successes and some epic failures! Would love for you to read these, and then add your own in the comments, too!

Don’t avoid the stuff that doesn’t come easy to you.
Too often youth workers simply ignore what they don’t want to do, or what they aren’t good at. That explains why the chairman on the finance committee is always shaking his head at you when it comes to receipts. Just because something isn’t natural or in your gifting doesn’t give you a free pass to avoid it and hope it goes away. It doesn’t go away; it gets worse! Ministry is full of what we call the “hate to/have to” stuff we hate to do, but we have to do!

Don’t avoid the difficult part of youth ministry.
Follow-up with that parent. Don’t leave someone hanging. Report it to the authorities. Speak the whole truth—do it in love—but speak it all to them. Receive criticism well. Be a learner.

Don’t give up on your relationship with the rest of the church.
For many youth workers, they want to take a rowboat out to youth ministry island and live there. Be a part of the church! Otherwise you’ll create a great ministry at a church your graduates will never attend. Be one with the leadership, the vision, direction, and the whole church.

Don’t miss the small things that matter to other people.
Be on time. Fill the van up with gas. Let someone know about the problem before they stumble onto it. Clean up the youth room. Pick up that trash as you walk in from the parking lot.

Don’t be ignorant of your perception.
A wise man once said, “perception is reality” and it is never more true than when we apply it to youth ministry. Know your reputation, know your weaknesses, and work to get better on the stuff you fail in. If you are blind to your blind spots, you will be blind-sided.

Just a few youth ministry “don’ts” to get your week going. Got one to share with everyone, 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.



Youth Ministry Do’s

Josh Griffin —  February 21, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.20This week we’re taking on a few youth ministry do’s and don’ts! With our experience, we’ve learned a few things about both sides of this—we’ve both had some solid successes and some epic failures! Would love for you to read these, and then add your own in the comments, too. Here are some things we think are big time “Do’s”!

DO stay committed to the basics.
Youth ministry isn’t rocket science. In fact, some of the most important parts of a healthy youth ministry are actually quite simple: remembering names, following up with a newcomer, visiting a sick student at the hospital, sending a birthday card, remembering prayer requests, etc. Staying faithful to the basics is often what makes the biggest difference.

DO work to win the trust of parents.
I (Kurt) have a favorite saying: “If parents are for you, who can be against you?” And one of the best ways to get parents “for you” is to earn their trust. Here are three simple things that help build trust with parents.

  • Consistent and accurate communication
  • Treating their children well
  • Having a “transparent” ministry where parents questions, concerns, etc. are welcomed

DO empower your leaders.
Your ministry’s ability to grow, expand and advance the Kingdom is largely determined by your ability to empower your volunteer team and give them mass amounts of ownership and responsibility.

DO get out of the walls of the church and look around!
There is a big, wide world of youth culture out there that you need to understand! Read what your students read, watch what they watch, and listen to what they listen to…not because you like it, but because you care enough to be educated. Hang out at the movie theater on a Friday night and take mental notes. Volunteer to chaperone the winter formal. Good church work often requires getting away from the church!

DO take care of yourself.
We know you hear this one all the time, but you’re going to hear it again! Your ministry really is only as healthy as its leader.

Those are a few things we thing every youth worker needs to DO! What would you add to this list?

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.

article.2013.02.05New, new, new!

For many youth workers a big part of their job description seems to include “Think outside the box on a regular basis”… constantly coming up with new ideas and innovative programs that are bigger and better than last year, last week, and last night. And while there is certainly a place for risk-taking and improvement in each new season, sometimes what you really need is tried and true, solid stuff. Stuff that is actually totally inside the box!”

Ask yourself these questions as you look at planning the season ahead:

  • What has worked really well in the past year?
  • What is a “classic” that would be fun to revive?
  • What were people talking about after last summer?
  • What is MY favorite event of the year?
  • Where did we see the most life-change in the last season?
  • What is easy to plan but brings the ministry a big win?

There’s a fine line between tradition and boredom, so be careful as you plan—but sometimes, the best things you can do are ones that already worked in the past.

Here are a few examples of ideas that started off as new ideas and have become traditions in our youth ministry:

You Own the Weekend—This is a series where students completely run youth group. It has had an incredible response every year!

Pumpkinfest—We don’t do a ton of big events, so we tend to really do our best to go “all in” on just a couple a year. One is this fun festival in the fall that students now know and love.

Guys Trip / Girl’s Trip—These fun summer overnighters have become really popular with out students and were one of the highlights of just last year. So guess what? We’re doing them again this summer.

Take a second to think inside the box for your next season of ministry!

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.



article.2013.01.29Church office hours—what a great subject! And while this might not specifically apply to everyone getting the newsletter, we’re hoping there are some principles that will help everyone, whatever their role is in youth ministry. So how do you make the administrative side of ministry work? Here are a few ideas that have helped me a ton:

Make your preferred method of communication known.
If you are a phone person, put your phone number everywhere and on everything. If you hate the phone (like me!) make sure that everything points to the way you work best. In my case, email is the most effective way to manage the incoming streams of information, complaints, and requests. I still check voicemail occasionally and have learned to live with another inbox (thanks, Facebook) but I want to make sure people know where I’m most available and where they can get the best results. Otherwise someone may be expecting an immediate phone call in return when that priority is much further down on my list. Go public with how you tick.

Don’t let others manipulate your time.
Every meeting has a starting time; why shouldn’t it have an ending time as well? Meetings, committees, and unexpected drop-ins have a way of eating up an enormous chunk of our day. And I need more Facebook time (just kidding). So when you start a meeting, lay out the goals and the time they need to be met by. When someone drops by, early in the conversation let them know your boundaries to help them find their way to the point of the drive-by. Of course, the idea here is not to create an assembly line of care or artificial community, just a candid revelation that at times you have to have good boundaries in every area of your life—even office visits.

Drop everything for pastoral care.
Okay, you might read that and go too far with it. But you are never more valuable then when there is a crisis. Get to the hospital as soon as you can. Rearrange that lunch with an old friend from college so you can go to the funeral. Don’t miss the big things, and at least be aware of the small things. Of course, remember this principle has boundaries as well, but as a general rule: When a crisis shows up, you do, 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.

Seniors That Stick Around

Josh Griffin —  January 28, 2013 — 2 Comments

article.2013.01.22Since last week was Kurt’s birthday, we thought this week would be a good week to write about seniors. Not senior citizens….the seniors in your high school ministry.

One of the sweet joys of this time of year is seeing students who “GET IT” really hitting stride as they head toward the home stretch of their senior year. There’s the other side of it, too (we’ll cover that tomorrow) but for today let’s talk about how to get seniors to stick around.

As we processed this topic, we came up with three key areas that seem to help seniors make it to the finish line. What you do with these—how you infuse them into your ministry or create programs around them—is up to you, but we think these will make sense as you process this topic this week.

GROWTH: Challenge them with senior-specific stuff.

What are your seniors getting when they come to youth group, small group, or Sunday School class? For most churches, the answer is simply more of the same. More of the same lessons and stories they’ve heard since they were a kid fidgeting all over and around the pews in the sanctuary. What would it look like if you had a new voice and / or a new focus for your student groups? What if you broke them out for a special youth group night occasionally or had a unique senior-specific curriculum. Give them something to look forward to that they can only get if they stay until the end of their senior year.

INVOLVEMENT: Give them a reason to stay.
Is it possible to help them stay through the end by also reserving special trips and service opportunities until their last year? In our ministry, seniors are the only high school students we allow to be eligible to be small group leaders in our junior high program. We’ve toyed with the idea of a fun senior trip or a missions trip that is super small but super awesome only for seniors. Seniors who have skin in the game are less likely to slowly fade away during their senior year.

EQUIPPING: Give them help for the next step.
The reason many seniors start looking for the door early in their senior year is that they no longer feel is it relevant to the stage they are about to enter. And part of that is true and healthy—but what if you took that last 3-4 months of their last year in high school and offered special field trips to visit other churches so they get a chance to see what it will be like to pick out their own church when they go away to school? What if you took a night of small group and researched churches around their college campus or investigated parachurch ministry presence where they are going to attend? If you are guiding them into their next step instead of “losing” them to it, they’ll likely welcome the support.

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.



article.2013.01.16Yesterday we talked about gossip and how destructive it can be within the church culture, and devastating to those outside the church walls. So let’s fight back! The best way to stop gossip is right where it starts – with your team and with the people you influence. Here are a few things we’ve learned about how to create unity and continue the uphill battle against gossip.

People who are informed are less likely to gossip.
Oftentimes ignorance can create a breeding ground for gossip. When you keep people in the dark, sometimes their mind plays tricks on them. They read into a situation or conversation, and the lack of communication creates gaps they gladly fill with their own speculation or opinion. If you want to create a unified team, keep people in the loop! When you communicate well, you crush the early growth of gossip.

People who have great history have unity.
If you have a few key volunteers who have been with you since the beginning, you know how sweet it is to be with them, serve alongside them, and do the hard work of ministry together. You literally and figuratively have each other’s backs, and unity is your middle name. On the other hand, when you have high turnover or a collection of young, immature, or inexperienced youth workers serving with you the total opposite can happen. If you want to know the joys of a gossip-free team, work harder than ever to keep them around for a long time.

People who laugh rarely turn on each other.
We’ve noticed again and again in our years of youth ministry trench warfare that when people laugh together, they love each other more. When you are in relationship with your people – great stories, memories and inside jokes – the stronger you are together. When was the last time you spent some time just playing with your team? When was the last time you had an awards ceremony and gave out awards for everyone? Laugh together and unity quickly follows.

How have you seen unity built in your ministry?

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.


I was watching a children’s ministry podcast this past week and heard a great question – as a youth worker, do you like your children’s pastor/leader? Thought it was an interesting question, watch their podcast for lots more on the subject but first vote in today’s poll!

JG