Weekend Teaching Series: Do Something (series finale, week 2 of 2)
Sermon in a Sentence: This week’s theme was compassion — we wrote letters to the children of fallen soldiers and learned about what we could do to help with the growing HIV/AIDS crisis worldwide and in our own backyard.
Service Length: 69 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we had 2 different guest speakers help walk our students through the second and final week of the Do Something series. First up was the chaplain from Children of Fallen Soldiers (see their website here) who talked about how we could all make a difference in the life of a child who had lost their parent in the military. He talked students through writing a letter of encouragement to a child during the service – we gave them 5 minutes or so to write down a few thoughts and a message that his organization would deliver to the children. Up in spot number two was Gil Odendaal from our missions team here at the church. He talked about Jesus being moved with compassion and the state of HIV/AIDS in the world today. In the end he led students in a prayer for those affected and infected with AIDS, and had handouts with opportunities to serve locally and make a difference.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week’s service was very interactive and while we didn’t do any games or funny videos we had plenty of students serving in many different ways.

Music Playlist: (forgot to write them down this week, sorry!)

Favorite Moment: It was a really fun weekend – inspiring and moving for sure. I think my favorite part was when the chaplain said that a parent whose spouse had been killed during the way would often read the letters of hope and encouragement to their children like a bedtime story. He talked about the heroes of our country being these amazing men and women – super powerful stuff.

Up next: Thanksgiving 1-off (Jessica Torres speaking)

A sweet little video made by one of our students who went on HSM’s Kenya mission trip last month. Great memories!


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!


It wasn’t that long ago a small group leader in our ministry called me to talk about a big mistake he had made. It involved a group of guys, Buffalo wings, and a little restaurant called … Hooters. The next few hours after that phone call were critical–we were fortunate that it was an experienced volunteer who followed these three steps to re-establish trust with the parents of the kids involved. Here’s what we did:

Own it without excuses
There is nothing like just owning a mistake that you made; honesty and openness are essential for rebuilding trust. The last thing you would want to do is to minimize what happened and pretend it isn’t a big deal. It is a big deal, and it needs an owner. You committed the foul, so take your lumps.

Apologize for what you’ve done and start over
So you’ve been honest about what happened; now it is time to apologize for it and admit you were wrong. This isn’t going to be easy, but it is a sign of humility, repentance, and your humanity. I always tell my leaders, don’t try to appear perfect because it doesn’t set a realistic example for your students to follow.

Earn the trust back one good decision at a time
It might take some time, but work hard not to repeat the same bad decision and play it safe. You are a leader and it is time to get back to leading again. A great way to communicate your good-faith effort is to invite a co-leader into your group or on events with you. Another great trust-building exercise is to give detailed plans of your intentions at least a week in advance. This will give parents an opportunity to address concerns and peace of mind that your plans are sound.

Keep in mind: The longer you’ve served and the more deposits you’ve made into the longevity bank, the more you will be trusted despite a few setbacks.


Loved the post over on Doug Franklin’s blog about common mistakes on a mission trip. Having just come off a great trip, I can totally these warnings spot on, and have experienced many of them in the past. Here’s a couple to get you started:

Three common mistakes I see most often by youth workers.

1. Prepare for logistics not spiritual outcomes
When were preparing to lead a group of students on a mission trip we can feel like all the details are overwhelming and so we focus on logistics. Do we have the forms, housing, work project and ministry set up? This focus is important but it’s not priority. We aren’t just taking students on a trip; we are preparing an opportunity for them to live out their faith in Christ. They need to understand what God’s word says about living a missional lifestyle and living out the power of Christ by serving the least in this world. If we fail to prepare them for this then the trip loses its potential and becomes an outing, nothing more.

2. Focus on trip site not heart
I know the pressure of making sure enough students sign-up for a trip and I know the pressure of having to get parents to believe where you’re going is safe. But are your students more excited about going to ________ (your site location of your trip) or serving the God who made them and has redeemed them? Honestly, have you talked more about the site and what they will see or about the heart they will need to serve those that have less than them?


This past weekend I shared breakfast with my YS roommate. Bruegger’s Bagels and chocolate milk, case you were wondering.

Our discussion centered around the question, how do you know when God is moving you? It a good question and often asked when we feel the push to move on to something else. As we talked, I thought about my own experiences and knowing when God was moving me from one spot to the next. Here’s what I learned:

1. Prayer. Without a doubt, prayer is the most important part of the process. Seeking God diligently is a must. Each time we thought a move was coming, my wife and I bathed the possibilities in prayer. We pray together, we pray separately, we pray for specifics, and we pray for the unknown. We’re not afraid to ask God to answer and provide the details. Like Gideon, we put out the fleece and ask God to send the dew. And don’t forget, prayer is a two way street. Spend as much time listening for God as you do listing your requests and demands. God still speaks, we just have to learn to listen.

2. Godly Wisdom. Wise counsel is priceless. Surround yourself with trusted, Godly men and women, who can give you unbiased and confidential advice and support. These need to be people who love you and can be strong enough to say no. Tell them what they need to know. Ask them to pray specific for you for a designated time frame, then set up a time when you can meet and hear what they think God is saying. And listen! The counsel they bring might not be what you want to hear.

3. Watch and Know. God speaks through what happens around us. Events and circumstances help to push us the direction God wants us to go. I am a firm believer that God opens and closes doors as He deems necessary. Watch what’s happening around. Too often, irony is the hand of God turning a door knob. And know your history. How has God moved you in the past? How has He moved in others lives? How did He move people in the New Testament? How did He move people in the Old Testament? Our God does not change. The same God who moved Abram to an unknown country is the God who might be moving you into the unknown. Knowing how He works will help you recognize when He is moving in your life.

I can’t say that these three things were my own brain child. They were shared with my wife and I many years again when we were considering our first full time call to serve a ministry. We practiced each of these three points then, and God was faithful in revealing what we needed to know and where we needed to be. Since then, we have applied each point for every move we’ve made and we have been blessed.

The only other suggestion I would add is idea of total surrender. Two captains cannot steer the ship. Each one will have his own agenda and desired destination. With both at the helm, confusion reigns. The ship needs one captain and one first officer. The captain commands the ship. He sets the direction and navigates the terrain. The first officer’s place is to obey the captain, follow his lead, and stay on course even when the captain steps of the bridge.

Not too long ago, I staged a mutiny. My wife and I knew we were done serving a ministry and that it was time to move on. What we didn’t know was the where. For us, the when was as soon as possible. So we made some phone calls, did the job search, and let some people know we we’re looking. But really, our minds were made up. We were going back to Philadelphia. My office was packed into boxes, and in my mind, I was already planning for a new youth ministry. We did everything we could to make this happen.

But despite all our efforts, nothing was working out. We pushed and pushed and pushed. But the doors closed every single time.
After four months of trying to force the square peg into the round hole, the final door was slammed in our faces. We were not moving back to Philly. This was a crushing realization for me. Because of the nature of the work I was doing, I had to resolve to do what I was called to do. I asked for a peace about everything and the ability to surrender the situation and wait on God.
Three months later, we heard the youth pastor who was serving the church we were attending had left. We went away for a weekend as a family right after hearing about the opening. My wife and I agreed to pray about the news and w would talk about afterward. When we returned home, I made a call. Three weeks later, I had a new call. God moved me when He was ready to move me. He was just waiting for me to surrender to Him. If you are at that point. The point where you ask yourself, Is God moving me right now? Take the time to pray, seek counsel, watch for the signs, and surrender to what God is doing. He’s got it all taken care of.

Just have to let him Captain the ship, then enjoy the cruise.

Jay Higham is the youth pastor at Crossroads Youth Ministry at St. Paul’s.

I just realized that in my last post I referenced a 5-year plan, then in a search of my blog archive I realized I’ve never articulated it here before. This isn’t exhaustive by any means, I should probably save this to drafts and scour my moleskin for more detail, but oh well. Here’s the plan of focused attack in the first 5-years in HSM, each building on the previous year’s goals and success:


  • Observation – see where the ministry is currently strong and weak
  • Team assessment – see who the players are, figure out capacity


  • Invitation – invite everyone to get on the bus
  • Reorg - put the players in the right position
  • Weekend service – make in entry-level: understandable, fun, inviting, student-driven
  • Refinery – grand opening of our student building
  • Volunteers - make them the core of our ministry, eat dinner with them once a week for 3 months
  • Small groups – revamp, unify, experiment in The Refinery then homes


  • Communicationadd mass texting, update HSM blog in real-time
  • Discipleship – relaunch HABITS, connect it to small groups and weekend teaching
  • Student leadership – relaunch Student Leadership with campus emphasis
  • Ministry teams – overhaul ministry teams to serve the church
  • Response - start a response card system and followup process
  • Pre-steps to fellowship – the jump from the weekend to small groups is big, can we make it smaller?


  • Next step ministry – baptism, CLASS 101, Fresh Start
  • HSM LIVE - live stream our services
  • Track attendance and follow-up - thumbscan attendance swipe, automated follow-up
  • Hit the web – relaunch web presence, finally fully embrace social media
  • Missions – partner with PEACE projects world-wide
  • Upperclass Ministry - specific events, classes, trips for juniors and seniors
  • Local service projects


  • Parent ministry – website, newsletter and regular meetings
  • Take a deep breath … then fix everything that’s broken


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend: Trabuco Hills High School (Week 1 of 3)
Sermon Title: We Come in Peace
Sermon in a Sentence: God gives us peace no matter what we face in life – divorce, death and … finals.

Key Verse: Mark 5:34-43 Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter

Weekend Scale of Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Attendance: up 13% from last weekend, up 79% from same weekend last year
Service Length: 66 minutes

Understandable Message: The talk was divided into three parts – a sophomore girl from Trabuco opened up the talk with some humor and funny pictures, then taught 5 ways to find peace in the midst of real-life. A senior guy from Trabuco then got up and taught the story of Jesus where he heals Jairus’ daughter and how God brings peace and healing in times of trouble. Then a senior girl got up at the end to talk about her life and how God brought her peace after the death of a close friend. More talking than usual, but a great chance to hear students talking to students. At the end, students received a friendship bracelet to remind them of God’s peace.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: Students did everything! Students ran the lights, cameras, music, announcements, shot/edited video, ran the control room, greeted. Amazing display of what students are capable of when given a chance.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The band opened up with a super strong power-ballad version of Trabuco Hill’s alma mater – that eventually built into a great rock song at the end. It was hilarious, complete with 2 fully-costumed Mustang mascots, flag waving, cheerleaders and streamers.

Music Playlist: We Are Trabuco Hills (cover song opener), Take It All, Thank You, It Is Well With My Soul, Came to My Rescue

Favorite Moment: Lots of great moments – my favorite was the realization that the students didn’t just plan the weekend, they worked hard to bring their friends to the services as well. From wearing T-Shirts all week to personal invites, the place was packed and was a blast.

Next up: You Own the Weekend – El Toro High School (week 2 of 3)