Someone actually did this.

It’s called “The Infinite Cat Project.”

infinite_catFirst of all, I hate cats.

Hang on… “hate” is a strong word.

Allow me to clarify.

I hate cats.

For all the reasons that have already been covered by stand-up comics, as well as the fact that when I was eleven a cat attacked me.

I’ll tell you what, though… he did catch some amazing air when I defended myself.

Allow me to clarify.

I hate cats.

That said…

this is brilliant, right?

It got me thinking…

what is something I’m up to that someone else hates?

How can I get them to look at it from another angle and end up saying, “This is brilliant, right?”

What is that “thing” for you?

How could you share it from a new, creative angle and gain a new hearing?

10397027_812420915457057_1526065733405536655_oLast week I had the privilege of emceeing Challenge, the national conference for EFCA students. There were about 4500 students and 1000 youth workers. The energy was high, the students were dialed in to learning and serving, and the adult leaders were committed shepherds…I was encouraged and impressed. These “6 Things I Learned About Youth Ministry While Emceeing a Conference” are not brand new, but they rose to the top of my learning as good reminders of why and how I do what I do as a youth worker. These 5 things are mirrored in youth ministry but were amplified in a way that helped sharpen me in my ministry. I hope they do the same for you.

  • Pray:
    This conference was prayed for like no other event I have ever been part of. When I was asked to take on the role of emcee I received a job description with direction and expectations. Prayer was in it multiple times, and not in a churchy way, but in a way of humility and expectation…”we cannot do this without prayer.” Leadership was asked to pray before entering into any work for the conference. So, if I was going to sit and work on a game idea for 30 minutes I prayed first. They weren’t being legalistic, they were being expectant…This is God’s. Let’s raise the level of prayer. This has changed the way I enter into any work I do.
  • Make Students the Stars:
    In the picture above you see me with a hand full of students on a couch. It’s an idea I pitched to the leadership asking them if I could bring students on stage every morning and run a 5 to 7 minutes small group recapping everything from the conference. This helped thread the theme throughout the entire week and it put peers on stage which was a huge win. When preparing for ministry nights I look for ways to put students on the stage in a way that makes them and Jesus look good (if I can find ways to have them communicate biblical truth to their peers I let them). How are you doing this in your ministry? I would love to hear in the comments below.
  • Every time I am behind the mic I am an influencer (and every time a student sees me off stage I am an influencer):
    Anyone in the spotlight has a measure of influence. I have heard professional athletes say, “I did not sign up to be a role model.” It does not matter if that is reason they signed up…people are watching (impressionable people). I am not comparing myself to a pro-athlete. I’m just saying there was a stewardship of leadership on and off the stage. Just like walking in the halls and teaching back in my church, I needed to be intentional with my time and words.
  • Get the rest you need:
    Sure, I need to take care of my body, but I need to be ready to engage in conversation at any moment. I need down time and I have never noticed it as much as I did this week. Without rest I am crabby, short, and impersonal. With rest I am ready, have more patience, and am more fun to be around. Rest = Readiness. When I am reseted I can focus on others better, when I am exhausted I focus on me more.
  • Every interaction has the potential to be special:
    I am not a big deal (I was there to serve), but students thought I was a big deal, so they thought it was a big deal, when I treated them like a big deal.
    I prayed with students.
    I interacted on social media with students.
    I jumped into small group conversations with students and their leaders.
    I ate with students.
    I leveraged my position to make their experience great. How can we do that in our ministry context? How are you making a big deal out of the students in your ministry?
  • I need others:
    When you are on stage or needed somewhere else, or on vacation, or whatever…who will be taking care of the other things (students, administration, the music, your leadership team, etc). If you do everything you are in danger of burning out and not letting others shine. Watching all the moving parts reminded me how important it is to nurture my volunteers and student leaders. Ministry nights are not about “ME,” there are built by “WE.” Together more can happen, multiplying is hard but worth it.


My buddy Matt, the youth pastor at our Irvine Campus, and I just returned from helping launch Saddleback’s first international youth ministry in Manila.

The week was filled with hype, hope, and hard work around the launch. In fact, we were talking so much about “Week 1″ that I finally felt compelled to remind them that we were launching a youth ministry, not just a one-time event. Brittany Hinzo, who helps me with our international stuff had delivered a beautiful little baby girl just a few days earlier so I used her as a launching pad.

“Remember how excited we all were to hear about Brittany’s new baby girl, Navy? Guys, anybody can have a baby! The reality is the birthing process is the easy part; anybody can do that. What’s tough is raising a baby! While I’m just as excited as you about the launch, and largely responsible for creating this excitement, I’m more concerned about week #2 and week #28 and week #84 than I am about week #1″

Youth workers are notorious for new ideas, big plans and fireworks. We love “having babies”! And we are often equally notorious for being terrible at raising them. We have programs we never should have birthed, we are neglecting the health of important things because we are excitedly birthing new things. etc.

We love to ask each other what we are doing that is new, fresh and exciting and rarely ask each other what things we have been doing faithfully for 5 or 6 years that are bearing good fruit.

So while I’m excited about the birth of Saddleback Student Ministry’s addition to the family in Manila, I realize that anybody can have a baby. Can we raise one? I hope so.


A leadership principal I’ve adhered to for years, and tried to help others recognize is that “The pendulum almost always swings back”.

In organizations and in culture things change, futures are predicted, proclamations made, trends noticed etc. Oftentimes this results in a sudden pendulum swing toward the “new way”. Folks who want to make sure the change sticks, or anxious leaders afraid to be late to the new party, often respond aggressively to the swing. As a result new rules and policies are implemented, articles and books are written, and seminars are taught.

But in time….usually not a drastically long time…the pendulum swings back. Maybe not all the way back to the old ways, but back to what is a more accurate “new way” or “new normal”. The pendulum swing was a good thing because it ultimately helped things progress…but they almost never progress as far as the initial swing.

The best, most recent, youth ministry example of this is the issue of faith abandonment; or more specifically the cause of faith abandonment. Suddenly the pendulum swung (or is it swang?) and youth ministry was to blame for most of the church’s problems. Everything we had ever believed about youth ministry was being questioned at best, or under attack at worst. We were doing it all wrong….or the fact that we were doing it so well was actually doing it wrong because it created a shallow, undeveloped faith in students. And there was some truth in all of that; SOME truth.

But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen that the pendulum has already begun to swing back to the middle…not all the way back to the old ways, but back to what is a more accurate “new normal”.

Below are just a couple of recent examples of the pendulum swinging back:

Ed Stetzer

Mark Matlock

I’m glad we had a pendulum swing because it forced us to take an honest look at this beautiful mess called youth ministry. I’m sad some folks jumped on board the pendulum too early, giving a black eye to something that I don’t feel deserved it. And I’m thrilled that the pendulum is beginning to swing back to a new normal!

What have you learned makes a serving experience or camp a great one?

Doug Franklin over at Leadertreks has some great thoughts on how most of this is up to the posture of adult leaders. Here are ten of his observations:

  • Mission_TeamGoing is not enough: “…we don’t just want them to go, we want them to grow.”
  • Be a trip mentor: “A trip is a great place to develop a long-term, life-changing relationship with a student.”
  • Have a purpose for the trip: “What do you want your students to look like when they return?”
  • Inspire spiritual growth: “Students will feel a need for God while on the trip, and this is a great opportunity for you to introduce them to spiritual disciplines”
  • Find teachable moments: “…mix a student’s experience with the truth of God’s Word.”
  • Challenge students: “… [it[ starts with challenging the top performing students."
  • Get sleep: “Trips become increasingly ineffective as team members become tired.”
  • Add value to your adult volunteers: “… the number one problem I see over and over again is adult volunteers who have no idea what they are doing on the trip. They come because youth trips need adults, but beyond that they are not sure why they are there.”
  • Remember Boundaries = Love: “Don’t give students what they want; give them what they need.”
  • Stay connected to God: “You can’t impart what you do not have.”

(Read the rest of Doug’s solid article here.)

I think Doug is spot on. Just last month we had a major difference in a serving camp experience because of the investment we made into our adults, which in turn helped them better invest into students.

Which of his points most stands out to you?

Is there anything you would add or subtract?

Today I made a statement I’ve never made before. I said, “College Ministry is sort of like being a foster parent.” I believe that to be true for a few reasons, perhaps the most obvious reason being college-age people are in many ways “orphaned” by the Church structures we typically live under. But there is another reason I made the statement. Let me explain…

I had a meeting this morning with a pastor of a college ministry who emailed me to see if we could connect. Although I don’t have a ton of time for these types of meetings I always try to make time and really enjoy them. I love meeting new people and especially ministry leaders. He was sharing his heart for college students and expressing his struggle with having to say good-bye to them once they graduate. He really enjoys the relationships and is always in a bit of turmoil when it comes to people moving on from his ministry. One of the questions he had was about whether or not I could relate to the pain of that.

I, of course, said I cannot – I don’t like people.

Just kidding! Obviously I can relate a great deal to this and really appreciated his heart for those he invests in. We talked about how to navigate this, but I did address one thing he pointed out. He was telling me he finds himself, at times, distancing himself from them because he knows they will at some point leave. I totally understand this tendency and this is when I said the statement I mentioned above.

You see, many people say they could never do foster care because they don’t think they can handle the emotional pain of having the give up their kids at some point. I fully understand that protective tendency, but my point this morning was that I find this reasoning to be in opposition to Jesus’ call to deny ourselves daily. In other words, not to care for the orphans of our society simply because we want to protect ourselves from feeling pain seems to be pretty selfish and therefore inappropriate when held up to Jesus’ call for continual selflessness. So, in this context and in light of the gospel call toward self denial, I was trying to encourage him to hang in there and continue to invest himself into as many people as he can – knowing full well it would be hard. It was an encouraging time of discussion with this new friend. We also discussed ways he can have more sustainable relationships, which was fun to talk about as well.

- Chuck

frozenThere is no shortage of parodies surrounding the movie “Frozen.” 

You’ve likely seen your share.

I apologize for sharing another one.

The leadership team at this church came together to create their own, all related to a pastor who is working on his sermon and won’t come out of his study.

Cheesy? Sure.

Unnecessary? Perhaps.

I do have a few questions of my own, though:

  • How do you think the church reacted after seeing this on a Sunday?
  • Why?
  • What in your church/ministry could elicit a similar reaction?

My opinion? Without knowing this church, I see a snapshot of leaders who love doing life together. Everyone got involved… and I can only assume you felt that, too. I wonder how they’re nurturing that.

Any applications or desires for your ministry?

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 7.23.10 AMOkay, personally, I was over the whole acronym thing about 15 years ago. That said, for the first time in that time frame I have come up with one that I think works well. How’s that for internal contradiction? Anyway, I came up with this a little while ago and has served as somewhat of a guideline for putting together my staff, and more specifically, the “pastoral” staff. However, I do believe this can serve as a guideline for any leadership team.

The way I say it is, “I believe every staff is held together by P.A.S.T.E.” I would say that to have the best team possible we should have people in each of these areas. I’ve written brief descriptions of each below so read through them and compare it to those you lead with or those on your team. Also, see where you might fit into the bigger picture yourself.

P – prophetic. This person tends to be concerned with having reverence for God and caring for the poor and needy (like the prophets in scripture).

A – apostolic. This person is a starter of new things, likes having a lot of plates spinning and can generally boil things down into a simple vision people follow.

S – shepherd. This person is caring, a good listener and will generally give people hours of their time in counseling.

T – teacher. This person can bring refreshing and practical perspective on the scriptures for those who are being taught.

E – evangelist. This person can bring the truth of the gospel into an area (whether that be an entire city or a neighborhood or a workplace).

Every person on my staff has at least 2 of these.  For me, mine are Teacher, Apostolic and Evangelist (not necessarily in that order).  How about you and your team?