Awesome opening video made by one of our HSM volunteers (Nathan is one of the tech arts dudes for our adult services) for the Launch series this weekend. The emphasis was on community, this video went after showing that to our entry-level students.


Here is HSM’s Fall Calendar that goes to print this week – you may notice some echoes of the Summer Calendar in it still. Couple big things we’re starting to really push as we head into fall:

  • Services – 1/4 of the calendar is dedicated to our central program. Our 4 entry-level services each weekend are the top of the funnel where students enter our discipleship process. In some ways, the calendar acts as much for invitation as it does for information.
  • Life Groups - a huge amount of space is dedicated to the 2nd step in our process – getting connected in a Life Group.
  • 1 event – We have just 1 real “event” in the fall – Pumpkinfest is in its 3rd year and we’re still really excited about it.
  • A few activities – We have several low cost, fun activities planned in the fall – each of them are directly connected/linked to a weekend service. I’ll post more on this strategy soon!


DC is on a roll this week – he just posted some great thoughts about how to have a great Fall kickoff. Hopefully something in there will stir up an idea and trigger something cool as you prepare for the launch. Here’s an excerpt, more thoughts if you head over to his place:

  • Push Momentum generators. This is a great time to push what your focus for the fall/school year will be or whatever builds momentum in your group. Our students love each other so we push Small Groups HARD the first three weeks.

  • Have all your ducks in a row. I think this is more important in high school than in middle school (we all know middle schoolers love things more when the ducks are NOT in a row, haha). In my experience some high schoolers are looking for a reason to discount the church as “not relevant to their life” or “just a knock-off of pop culture” and if there is a lack of excellence this opens that door for them…NOT TO MENTION GOD DESERVES OUR BEST! (Also note: You have to define excellence for your context, don’t judge it off of another church, it must be contextualized.)
  • Meet the minimum expectations THEN EXCEED THEM. This one sounds odd at first but most students come to our ministries with a bare minimum expectation of what could/should happen. Some minimum expectations are things like: We will read/open/hear about the Bible, Jesus’ name will probably be used, someone will pray, there might be music, someone will likely talk to us, I’ll have opportunities to spend with my friends. So we try to meet those bare minimums every week (because they’re good ones) AND THEN completely exceed them by trying to constant “redefine church/youth group”. This is especially important considering during the launch phase there are usually lots of new students. (Comment if you want me to write more on this topic).


Got a few emails and comments asking about vacation time for youth workers. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I am in the middle of taking 100 hours of vacation this month to be Mr. Mom as my wife enjoys an overseas mission trip to Africa. I’ve already posted about The Vacations We Take Each Year, and here are a few additional thoughts and ideas about vacation time:

  • VACATION TIME: We accumulate vacation time each work week at our church. Depending on how long you’ve served at the church, the faster you accumulate time off. For the typical employee you get two weeks of vacation, so roughly 1.6 hours per week worked (80 hours a year). You can “bank” up to two years of your annual amount of vacation time.
  • COMP TIME: Officially, there is no such thing as “comp time” at Saddleback. You’re expected to work 50 hours a week, and if you work more it doesn’t matter. Obviously, that makes things like camps or retreats a bit unrealistic, but such is life. As a supervisor myself, I may choose to me more lenient on my team and offer lighter schedules and be keenly aware of the temperature of my team. I don’t always get it right, but I try to be the understanding youth ministry boss that I haven’t always been privileged to have throughout my youth ministry career.
  • FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE: Forward-thinking companies like Netflix realize that in some environments work hours are messy and don’t fit into traditional banking hours. That comp time is impossible to track, and that people who don’t turn it off are better when they take longer more ambiguous stretches of time off. Interesting article in the Wall St. Journal – but don’t expect your church to understand this concept. I would make a guess that the person who is in charge of your office/work culture probably is a bit more traditional/straight-laced to take this big of a risk from the norm.
  • SPIRITUAL RETREAT DAY: Occasionally I’ll give my team a spiritual retreat day, an 8-hour day that are focused completely on personal spiritual development of their heart and to reconnect with God. We work hard, and the biggest shame of working hard would be to not work alongside with the Spirit’s leading. So no busy work or email is allowed, and everyone is asked to send a paragraph report on what God said to them. I should do this more often, if for my own heart than anything else.
  • CAMPS ARE NOT VACATION: Camps and retreats NEVER count as vacation. I read an “out of office” reply last week from a youth worker at camp and it said they were “on vacation” – don’t affirm that terrible stereotype that because you are away you are NOT on vacation. If this is present in your church culture, it is a fight worth fighting in my opinion.
  • CONFERENCE ALLOWANCE: Conferences also do not count as vacation time – our church gives me a couple days of free personal development time as well. I’ve worked in and heard of many others that wrap vacation/conferences into one to save money or because it does use vacation time. In this economy a raise is unlikely anyhow, so perhaps make the ask for a couple paid days away to grow in your expertise.
  • WHEN TO FIT IN VACATION: Late summer works best for me to take vacation time – the summer calendar starts to wain and the fall kickoff isn’t quite here yet. I like to think of it as the calm before the storm. Actually, I’m writing this post in the calm of some time away right now. Feels good. I should do this more often.
  • WHAT ABOUT YOUTH GROUP WHEN I’M AWAY: When I’m on vacation, I give the platform away to trusted voices and voices I want to develop. This block that I’m gone right now I’m having a few experienced and inexperienced voices in front of our students, I’m excited because this weekend a volunteer and his small group are teaching.

How does your church do vacation time? When was the last time you were on vacation? Any tips or tricks to share with the MTDB community?


This week’s poll – how many of your small group leaders from last year are returning to groups this Fall? And if you’re up to leave a comment, what would be considered a healthy/typical/normal drop out rate year-to-year?


August is here – summer programs are winding down and school is about to begin. Scratch that – for more than half the country, kids are already in classes this week! You’re heading toward the Fall kickoff of your youth ministry, and thinking about what’s next. I posted When to Buy Youth Ministry Resources last August, but thought something tangible with solid suggestions for the fall might be a good idea as well. Here are the questions I’m asking with a couple weeks to go before our official kickoff:

1. Is your youth ministry service ready to go?
Take the time to lay out the fall teaching calendar. Create or purchase a teaching series that is compelling and make it easy for your students to bring their non-believing friends. The start of the school year is one of the most opportune times for Friendship Evangelism. Then think about the atmosphere that first-time student will walk into – are a few crowd games or a cell phone poll the way to go? Is the room setup ideally for what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you have a way to contact students during the week? How can you give your youth group a jolt of fresh energy this Fall? Suggestions: 2nd Greatest Story Every Told, Heart of a Champion, Awaken Your Creativity

2. Are your small group leaders and volunteers trained?
Capitalize on the fall to get some good reading into the hands of your leaders or good material into your hands for training meetings. Suggestions: Youth Worker Training on the Go, Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry, Connect

3. What are you reading for your personal development?
You meant to read a few good books over the summer – and honestly, they’re still in the bottom of your backpack. Take them out and get cracking! If you’re looking for a good book Terrace had a good list for young influencers and Kurt’s new book The 9 Best Practices of Youth Ministry looks challenging. My favorite book this summer was Linchpin. Pick up a book for your own development. Suggestions: Tribes, Switch, Steering Through Chaos, Crazy Love, The Next Generation Leader

4. What is it time to launch?
For us we’re talking about helping hurting students, so we’re concentrating on our pastoral care program for teenagers who are at risk. You’ve got the pulse of your student ministry – what is it time to launch? Or maybe what is it time to re-launch? Maybe it is time to stop something, so this January you can breath new life into it? Suggestions: The Landing, Help! I’m a Student Leader, LeaderTreks



Journaled a little bit last week about pastoral care – how we’re called to care for the wounds of the students that have been entrusted to us as youth workers. In the setup we’re launching soon, we’ll have a 3-pronged approach to helping students with the hurts in their lives. Here’s the breakdown:

Small group leaders
One of the most effective groups of pastoral care volunteers in our ministry are the small group leaders. Students that have taken a step beyond the entry-level program of the weekend service come to experience being known, loved and cared for. When they have a problem (or a celebration, for that matter) they most often turn to “their pastor” – a title we’ve quick to award these amazing leaders. The majority (that part isn’t represented well in my Moleskin drawing above, sorry) of struggles and issues are addressed personally and directly here.

Pastoral care volunteers
This is the area where we have a great opportunity to build, we don’t have this yet so I’m talking in more ideal than real. What if there was a team of adults who pray for, counsel, guide and respond to students in need? If a student doesn’t have a small group leader, or needs more than what that leader can provide, we have a response. When a student is looking for prayer on the weekend, there’s a place for them to go. When they finally get up the nerve to call or Facebook, someone is quick to respond back.

The Landing (check out this program in detail here)
On the other end of the spectrum there are kids dealing with major life issues perhaps considered to be “above the pay grade” of the care team or their small group leader. And while we hope leaders know they can take on anything, we want to offer a program with specifically trained and called volunteers who’ve “seen it all” and can help coach and love these students through recovery. That’s where The Landing comes into play – a Celebrate Recovery for students that is available every Friday night of the year.

How do you care for students? Just thinking out loud today – hoping it triggers and idea to care for your students, too!


Quite a few emails and comments from people this summer about the new self-service Pastoral Care brochure racks we launched for our High School Ministry. Honestly, it has taken a whole lot longer to produce each brochure than we originally thought, and they’ve gone a lot faster than I expected – so it’s been totally worth it. Anyhow, some youth workers were recently asking about publishing a topic list of the different pamphlets, so here’s the list of ideas as of today. I wish we could have done them all, but some ideas had to get cut and only a few are [done].

Pastoral Care Issues
1. Relationships, Dating [done]
2. Sexual Temptations/Porn [done]
3. Identity/Value/Worth [done]
4. Bullies
5. Anger
6. Peer Pressure
7. Insecurity
8. Loneliness
9. Marriage/Divorce
10. Death
11. Feeling Lost/Purposeless
12. Unplanned Pregnancy/Abortion [done]
13. Gender Issues
14. Domestic Violence/Sexual Abuse
15. Addiction
16. Parents
17. Eating Disorders [done]
18. Academic Problems
19. Stress
20. Depression
21. Homosexuality [done]
22. Cutting [done]
23. Grief [done]
24. Forgiveness
25. Suicide [done]
26. Stealing

Christian Life
1. Habits
2. Following Jesus [done]
3. Salvation
4. Serving
6. Purposes [done]
7. What It Means to be a Christian
8. Baptism [done]
9. Communion [done]
10. Small Groups
11. How to Get Connected
12. M Video Games/M Music/R Movies

13. Alcohol/Drugs [done]
14. How To Grow/A Few Ways to Grow

1. The Bible [done]
2. God [done]
3. Heaven/Hell [done]
4. Is Jesus the Only Way [done]
5. Theology Terms
6. Environment [done]
7. Humanity
8. Sin

HSM General/Funny
1. Snuggies
2. Fun In the Refinery
3. HSM Insider Terms
4. Ninjas
5. Star Wars
6. Pirates vs. Ninjas

7. Fashion Don’ts [done]

What are we missing? Leave a comment!