Every Tuesday I eat lunch with our Children’s Ministry Pastor, Steve Adams. I do it for three reasons…He’s a good friend, an extremely strategic thinker and every youth pastor needs to be in cahoots with the Children’s Pastor.

Last week, while I chewed on a bun-less chili burger (Yes, chili burgers are totally healthy if you exclude the bun), Steve shared three key questions he asks about his ministry on a regular basis. Pretty simple stuff, really, but I suddenly realized It had been a while since I asked these types of questions myself….and I think they are worth asking!

* Why Does Our Ministry Exist? This probably isn’t one you need to ask over and over, but have you ever asked it? Knowing why your ministry exists helps determine just about every other decision you make.

Where Are We Headed? You may actually want to ask this question two different ways; one as an assessment (“are we heading the right direction?) and one as a point of clarity (“Where are we headed? HERE!”).

How Are We Going To Get There? Once you know where things are headed, you need a strategic plan. Aiming for a target is good, but impossible to hit without some arrows in your quiver. Going on a a grand expedition is exciting…but could be frustrating without a map!

Who Can We Bring Along? Not, “Who do we need to help us?” (which is a good question…but that’s a task question, not a leadership question). Instead, ask “Who can we bring along who will learn from this, grow from this, and as a result help multiply our ministry and the Kingdom?”

Steve keeps saying he’s gonna write a book about church/team leadership. I sure hope he does because it will be a good one! But until then, I’ll just keep stealing his thoughts and creating blog posts about them.

9161284I’ve learned that the things that frustrate us the most as youth pastors/youth worker/volunteer are the things we can’t control in the first place. I believe that one of the top reasons we get frustrated is that we forget to remember the things that should keep us grounded in the mission of what we were called to do. So here are 6 we need to remind ourselves of on a regular basis:

  1. God called you to stewardship over the ministry, not ownership. Frustrated over things not going exactly your way. I think the frustration comes because we start to think the ministry belongs to us, and it doesn’t. You need to run, oversee, and manage out of stewardship, not ownership. It makes a big difference.
  2. Reaching the lost is primary, so don’t be apologetic about it. Frustrated over size. Strategize to reach the lost just as aggressively as the devil does to keep them lost. Stop believing the lie that numbers don’t matter, in the since that your job is to preach and serve the students in the four walls of your ministry only. We are commissioned by Jesus Christ to do both. So give both equal attention, and go aggressively after both. Don’t let the disapproval or criticism of those who preach “my four and no more” stop you.
  3. Leave God’s work to him. Frustrated over hearts not being changed. Know where your work ends and His work begins. Click here for more on this subject!
  4. We minister out of who we are. Frustrated over trying to be two different people. You should be the same person in your ministry life, as you are in your personal life. Inconsistency in the two will lead to frustration and eventually the destruction of the two. If you have to work at this then something is not right. I would find some counsel quickly.
  5. You are not bulletproof. Frustrated with temptation. Remember that you have the potential to screw up just as badly as the people you minister to, so you need to be fed yourself. You should be attending adult services and Bible study. You need accountability all the more being in leadership. Ministry does not exempt us from those things.
  6. It’s about purpose, not ego. Frustrated over the lack of recognition. So many youth ministry leaders fall because their stage is built on praise and applause, instead of purpose and the one true cause which is Christ being glorified in and through the lives of students. Appreciate the praise and applause when given, but build on the purpose and cause. Youth ministry is not a stepping stone for aspiring ministry star power. We have the honor and privilege to serve the church and world at the level that will affect future generations. It should be viewed that way.

When we (and I say “we” because we’ve all been frustrated at one time or another) are frustrated with ministry we should asses our own life, and see whats out of alignment, instead of looking for someone or something to blame. Try sharing this at your next staff meeting, and see what type of feedback you get. Would love to hear about it.

hope it helps,


Tjimmyfallonhis is a big week for Jimmy Fallon – between taking on the Tonight Show and all the press that’s involved with it.

Critics will be waiting to pounce on him, eager to summarize if he “nails it” or “fails it.”

There will be a lot of leadership lessons for you as you watch it all unfold. As you think about it, share any learning curves you’ve already observed about it (or circle back here throughout the week as you pick up on some more). For example, some people have already made up their mind that “no one will ever compare to Leno.” Have you ever faced that in life, your career or in a ministry as you took over from your successor?

Meanwhile, enjoy this fun riffing that Jimmy and his crew offer on their different church experiences growing up. This dates back to 2011 when Kirk Franklin was to be a guest and Jimmy’s house band The Roots started to play some “Gospel music” with a nod to their understanding of church.

bleeding woman touches jesus

Every year our junior high, high school and college teams sneak away for “Staff Camp”. We jam-pack the 36 hours away with training, dreaming, planning, laughing, playing and eating…lots of eating.

It’s at Staff Camp that I introduce the area(s) of our ministry that I’d like us to give extra attention in the upcoming year. Usually, I pick aspects of our ministry that have tangible, measurable results affixed and challenge our team to give these areas a little boost in the next 12 months. But not this year. This year I decided I wanted our team to focus on ourselves instead of on our youth ministry. Granted, as we boost these two areas personally, it will impact our ministry but that wasn’t the ultimate goal.

So this year, I’ve asked our youth ministry team to strive to be more faithful and faith-filled. Here’s how I hope that plays out:

FAITHFUL: A big part of being a youth pastor is simply showing up; being faithful to your role….making the donuts. Knowing your spiritual gifts and using them faithfully, being consistent in the little things, refusing to bury your talents, etc. are some of the ways we can be more faithful in our roles as youth workers.

FAITH-FILLED: One of my favorite Jesus encounters in scripture is when the bleeding woman reaches out to touch his robe as he walked by. Her “If/Then” faith is astounding. She didn’t know much about Jesus…mostly stuff she had heard through the grapevine, but she had the faith to think, “If I can touch him, then I will be healed”. I want our team to have that kind of faith! I want our team to do youth ministry with an “If/Then” mentality! What might it look like if we minister in a way that assumes Jesus will show up if we give him the chance!

Chances are you and I haven’t met. I don’t know if you are full time or part time; the leader of your youth ministry or part of the team. I don’t know the size, style or denomination of your church; if your youth groups meets in a spacious youth center or in the janitor’s closet. I don’t know the challenges you’re facing or the victories you’ve won.

But I do know that you can be faithful and faith-filled….and if you were on my team, that’s what I’d be hoping for you this year!


Let me tweak today’s title: Have you hugged your pastor lately? Okay, one more tweak: Have you hugged your pastor, EVER?

So you aren’t a big hugger. That’s okay (neither am I, as indicated by my awkward side hug above), because I’m not really talking about the physical act of hugging your pastor, rather what that physical act represents. A hug can represent affection, friendship, gratitude, camaraderie, and more. A hug is sort of an “I’m glad I know you, and that we are in this thing together” action.

So let me tweak today’s title: Have you told your pastor that you are glad you know him/her and that you are in this thing together lately? EVER?

If not, here are a few fun ideas:

* Take detailed notes of his next sermon. Write all over the bulletin/hand out, and drop it in his inbox with a letter saying something like, “Thanks, Pastor, for consisting preaching God’s word in such a powerful way.”

* Invite him to be a counselor at your next junior high sleepover. Chances are 99.9999% he will decline the offer. But it always feels good to be invited.

* Steal her car while she’s in a meeting and have it washed. For a couple extra bucks you can get Armor All put on the tires which adds a nice touch!

* Make a note of his birthday and anniversary. Send a congratulatory card.

* Drop a Starbucks or other gift card on her desk for no reason other than to say “I’m glad I know you, and that we are in this thing together.”

* Or, just give him a hug!

Reading this simple little post isn’t easy for some of you, and actually implementing an idea or two sounds almost foreign due to the fact that your relationship with your Pastor is strained or maybe nonexistent. There is no sense of affection, friendship, gratitude, camaraderie or, “I’m glad I know you, and that we are in this thing together”.

I’ve been there. And while it’s only one man’s experience, my experience is that when I have chosen to dwell on what’s lacking in my relationship with my Pastor, things seem to get worse. But a “hug” seems to go a long way.

This might be a good post for some of you with good relationships with your Pastor to share a few tips that have helped it along the way…



Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.05.17 PMI know that title may sound a bit odd, but I mean it.  I literally want our youth pastor to fail in our church.

As the pastor of a church, I say this because I believe failure does at least the following 4 things:

  1. Gain needed wisdom.  Good decision making today is usually the result of poor decisions made in the past. The truth is we don’t learn as much from our successes as we do our failures and the more we fail, the more we will succeed.
  2. Shows consistent innovation.  I push our staff to try new things. Some will work, some won’t.  That’s okay. I love Facebook’s slogan on this issue: “Move Fast And Break Things.” This phrase is painted onto the walls in their facility.  I don’t want to negate our past experiences (see #1 above), but I also don’t want our staff’s thought processes to start with what they’ve seen. We want to think about our context, our people and then work toward something unique to those that will help us move forward.
  3. Keeps us humble. Success doesn’t necessarily mean we will become arrogant, but I’ve never seen success develop humility the way I’ve seen failure do it. When a leader has failed in the past it produces humility and wisdom. Someone who has not failed a lot is going to lack both.
  4. Develops team.  Failure makes us realize that we need others around us. We realize the beauty of inviting people to speak into situations and ideas. Most of all, over time we realize that people have better ideas than we did. This is when leadership is developed and team atmosphere becomes exciting.

Do you think you are failing enough?




Recently in a youth ministry seminar the presenter asked the question, “How many of you feel like you have enough volunteers in your ministry?” One guy raised his hand. The rest of the room wanted to punch him in his smug, little, “I’m awesome” nose. Because almost nobody who leads a youth group feels like they have enough volunteers, a popular discussion when we get together is sharing ideas to help persuade/recruit/guilt-trip/trick/entice folks to join our youth ministry team.

I’d like to share with you the world’s easiest way to get new volunteers: JUST ASK.

Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask. And when you get rejected, ask.

* Bulletin announcements are fine, but not as good as an ask.
* The senior Pastor pleading from the pulpit is great, but not as good as an ask.
* A youth ministry booth at the annual ministry fair is fun, but not as good as an ask.

Who should you ask? Everybody. If there is an adult who loves Jesus and likes teenagers, ask.

Who should do the asking? You, your current volunteers, your students. Believe it or not, the most effective asks usually come not from the “paid spokesperson” (you), but from the “satisfied customers” (current volunteers and students). When a teenager approaches an adult and asks if he/she would be willing to help out in their youth group, it’s tough to turn down! when a current volunteer tells a peer that serving in the youth group is rewarding, and worth the time commitment, it makes a powerful statement.

Don’t say somebody else’s “no”. I first heard this from Bill Hybels. Too often we assume somebody is too busy, uninterested etc. so we say “no” on their behalf without ever actually asking them to serve. Don’t assume. Don’t say somebody else’s “no”.

There are probably more people in your church willing to work with students than you think. You just have to ask!

In my next post, we will take a look at some strategies that will help make “making the ask” a little bit easier.


Many people believe that leadership is a science; that there are rules or irrefutable laws that apply to every leader, all the time and in every situation. I’m not one of those people. I believe leadership is more art than science. BUT, even art has some rules, guidelines and principles that apply which is why one person’s art is magnificent and another’s is horrific. A good artist learns the tips and tricks of his craft. She is constantly evolving and growing in her skills. The same is true of a good leader.

Today, want to share one tip, a “trick of the trade” of leadership:

A good leader knows when to be a thermometer and when to be a thermostat. Let me explain.

A thermometer exists solely for the purpose of identifying the temperature. That’s it. It doesn’t set the temperature, it just reads it. As a leader, you ALWAYS need to be a thermometer. One of your primary roles is to “read the temperature” of any situation. And part of the art of leadership is knowing whether the temperature is okay, or if it needs to be adjusted.

A thermostat exists to adjust the temperature. As a leader, you OFTEN need to be a thermostat and adjust the temperature. When things are too hot, you cool the situation down. When things are too cool, you turn on the heat.

The art of leadership (and it’s not always easy) is to determine, in any given scenario, whether your role requires you to be only a thermometer or if you need to be thermostat. There’s not a scientific, irrefutable law of leadership that determines which is appropriate; it requires an artist’s touch.