Thomas Strock is the 16-year-old student who designed and built a new app in the iPhone App Store called Share Prayer. Love it when students step out and do something big like this? Super cool, here’s 5 questions with the man:

Tell us about the app!
SharePrayer is an app that helps people put God first, even in a world full of distractions. SharePrayer has two main features – the ability to set alerts to remind you to stop what you’re doing and pray, and the ability to share and receive prayer requests from friends and family.

Where did your inspiration for it come from?
When I was 12, I published a children’s book called Tomato Turtle, and since them I’ve been involved in a Christian author Facebook group where we share ideas and tips about promoting your book.  Since it was a Christian authors group though, lots of people would also post prayer requests there.  That’s what gave me the original idea for the app.  I see prayer requests not only in that group, but also on my main Facebook feed, Twitter, and also through email.  I’d love to be able to pray for everybody, but it’s hard to keep track of all the different places you see prayer requests.  So I wanted a place where I could have a list of everything I wanted to pray for plus keep everyone else’s prayer requests in one location so I can remember everything.

16 years old! Amazing … what’s next for you from here?
Honestly, who knows?  Maybe more apps, maybe more books, maybe something completely different – it all depends.  I love doing things that are fun and challenge me.  So in the future, whatever meets those two criteria, that’s what I’ll be doing!

What would you say to other teenagers with a dream to do something like this?
If you have a passion for something, the only way you’re going to achieve it is through action.  Whether your passion is becoming the next great baseball player or making mobile apps, unless you take action, you’re never going to get any closer to your goals.  Before making SharePrayer I knew nothing about making mobile apps.  It would’ve been easy for me to use that as an excuse to wait until I’ve taken classes on app development, learned more about the business, etc. to actually take action.  Instead, I dove in head-first and took action, learned from my mistakes, and eventually found success.  The same holds true no matter what your passion is – Albert Pujols didn’t becoming an All-Star baseball player by reading books about how to play baseball.  He became one by taking action everyday and practicing.

Prove your not a robot. Tell us an embarrassing moment from your childhood!
When I was around six, I didn’t really like playing soccer, but my parents would sign me up anyway to make sure I was running around and getting exercise.  I normally did OK, but one game a bunch of my family was there to watch me but I was particularly bored.  I found a big red leaf in the middle of the field that was apparently more exciting than the actual game.  I don’t remember the game too well now, but it turns out my mom was videotaping me, and for around 10 minutes I was standing in the middle of the field walking in a small circle around this big leaf.  Meanwhile, the game is continuing and everyone is running back and forth across the field while I’m still just standing there doing my own thing, walking in a circle around this leaf.  Wasn’t too embarrassing at the time, as I was so fascinated with this leaf and had no idea what was going on around me – but it’s really funny to go back and watch it now.

Thanks for sharing, Thomas! Student leaders rule! Get the app and more info here.


I was a film major in college, which means a few things: I’ve seen a ton of movies, I’m totally pretentious, and I think Orson Wells is a genius. One of the things I studied in film school is the art of a sequel.  Some sequels can stand alone, meaning you don’t need to know anything about the series in order to enjoy it (i.e., The Phantom Menace).  Other sequels are completely dependent on the first film (i.e., The Empire Strikes Back).  Think of this blog as The Empire Strikes Back.  Confrontation is useless unless you first prepare yourself and your heart.  Because of this, make sure you ask yourself the three questions covered in PART ONE.

Confrontation can either lead to reconciliation or destruction, and anyone who has ever dealt with conflict knows that there is a thin line that separates the two.  We need to make sure we take every step we can to approach our conflict in a way that honors the Lord, and that starts with discerning the condition of your heart and the purpose of the conversation.  If, after prayer and consideration, you decide that confrontation is the best option, keep these things in mind:

1. Pray.  Prepare yourself for the conversation you are about to walk into.  Pray that the Lord provides you with effective words.  Pray that hearts are humble and ready for what’s to come.  Pray for peace and reconciliation.  Overall, pray that your confrontation will be God-glorifying!

2. Balance truth and love.  I feel like most of us are really good at half of this.  If you’re like me, you are REALLY good at being truthful (maybe too much so).  Unfortunately, we often attack others with our words, making it impossible for others to embrace our “truth.”  Others are great at being loving, but their fear of hurting feelings prevents them from providing helpful criticism.  We need to balance both truth and love if we want our conversation to be fruitful.

3. Be quick to listen, slow to speak.  The purpose of confrontation is to voice your feelings and frustrations and work towards reconciliation.  It is important to keep in mind that the person you are confronting wants to be heard and understood just as much as you do.  Even if you think you’re right or know you’ve done nothing wrong, make sure you allow the other person the opportunity to give their side of the story.  Remember that you are there to seek understanding, not to voice your opinions.

These are just a few ways to make the most of your confrontation.  What would you add to this?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

One of the first life lessons that we learn is that conflict is inevitable.  We are a fallen people and, because of that, conflict is a part of our life.  Whether big or small, conflict is able to make its way into every one of our relationships.  Unfortunately, our ministry relationships are not excluded from that reality. Whether it is with a parent, a volunteer, another department of the church, or the head pastor, we WILL eventually have conflict.

As believers, we are called to confront and resolve our conflict. That being said, if we don’t approach reconciliation appropriately, conflict can be incredibly destructive.

Today my friend (who works at the same church as me) and I were debriefing a confrontation he had that afternoon.  He was frustrated with a miscommunication he had with a member of another department, so he talked with them about it. Long story short, it did not go well.  Their relationship took a huge blow and both walked away more frustrated than they were before.

Thankfully, they are in the process of repairing their relationship.  But it is important that our confrontations don’t produce similar outcomes. If you are deciding whether or not you should confront someone about a conflict, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Did I pray about it? At the first sign of conflict, pray. Pray for guidance and discernment as your navigate your next step.  Search your heart to find out what you are truly upset about.  Say someone isn’t responding to your e-mails or phone calls, are you upset at their laziness or are you upset that they aren’t valuing your time?  Finding out your true feelings about your issue will help you effectively communicate your frustration.

Is it worth it?  Finding out your true feelings will also help you pick your battles.  Frequently communicating small issues is discouraging to others and has the potential to alienate you.  Not communicating important problems can severally damage your ministry and even your church as a whole.

Am I considering the entirety?  Take some time to think outside yourself (outside student ministry), and consider the “big picture”.  Remember that you and your ministry are only small pieces of a large puzzle. Are you looking out for our own interests, or the interest of the Church?

What are some things that you consider before you approach a confrontation?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

One of the things that the Lord has really put on my heart recently is encouragement. So far, I have realized two things about encouragement: 1) Encouragement is powerful – with just a few words, we are able to affirm, refuel, and inspire others, and 2) encouragement is a gift.  I am blown away by the fact that we have the ability to use our mouths to build each other up.  We can be used by the Lord to communicate His love to His children!  Crazy!

When we encourage others, we are glorifying the Lord.  We are appreciating the unique ways that He has gifted His creation.  We are celebrating the fact that He uses sinners to do incredible things for His Kingdom.  Because encouragement is so important, we need to make sure that we are practicing it in our lives!  In order to make the most with this gift, we should keep a few things in mind:

  • Be specific.  If you have an incredible small group leader in your ministry, don’t just say, “You’re doing a great job.”  Let them know why they are doing a great job.  Talk to them about the gifts you have seen them use.  Talk to them about the impact they are making in their students’ lives.
  • Be authentic.  Don’t say anything you don’t mean!  Giving out insincere encouragement will quickly make your words useless.  Empty words are a waste of the incredible gift that the Lord has given us and can even be damaging to someone’s growth.
  • Be thankful. A great way to encourage others is to thank them.  Celebrate the awesome ways that the Lord has used them.  Make sure they know how much of a blessing they have been in your life and ministry.
  • Be observant.  Capitalize on unique opportunities for encouragement.  Notice the moment when a student steps outside of their comfort zone on a serving trip.  Take the time to write letters of affirmation to your graduating seniors.  This also means that you are making sure you see those that don’t often get praise, the unsung heroes.

Spend time in prayer about this.  Pray for the ability to look at others in the same way that Jesus looks at them.

I challenge you to spend some time thinking about the person in your life that needs encouragement.  Go out of your way this week to write them a letter or pull them aside for an intentional conversation.

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

I can’t believe we are only 8 weeks from September, and that means my attention is fully on Summer and September at the same time and thinking about the fall has me asking a lot of questions. Yesterday I met with two of our core students who are truly invested in our group and talked cadidly about how we have not done a good enough job of challenging students to serve regularly. Sure we give them chances here and there, but creating a greater student ownership at our weekly program has been lacking. We have half heartedly suggested from the platform that serving was important but this year we are taking a much more proactive and thoughtful approach. We chatted, I repented for doing a poor job, and we came up with a strategy.

That strategy went into place this morning when we began the process of emailing / messaging every regular attending student personally and asking them to take a few weeks and pray about how they could serve in the fall. Here is an example of a message that went out:

Hey Madi, hope you’re having a great summer!

We’re already starting to dream about the fall and are praying about what the next season at Journey is going to look like. I look at you and I see a really gifted young person, and I’d love to give you the opportunity to take on a bigger role at Journey. 

Over the next three weeks can you do me a favor and pray about these two questions?

1- What talents and passions has God given me (Madi)?
2 – How could I use them to serve at Journey/ Peace Portal?

To get your mind going, here’s a few places we have a need:

Hosting/ Welcome team
Prayer team
Worship Team
Tech team
Creative team

Blessed to have you a part of Journey!

Pastor Geoff 

I am pumped to see what putting even more of the ministry in the hands of our students could look like and are praying that this is the beginning of new things. We have the feeling of “Home” as a core value of the group and having students bought into that vision and serving accordingly could be a game changer. Praying for BIG THINGS this year.


If you’re like most youth workers, just reading that headline probably made you shutter a little bit. Youth workers get uncomfortable talking about money and might even be a little uncomfortable managing it. Besides, economic times are tough, and it seems selfish to ask for a bigger piece of the pie, especially if the pie is getting smaller.

But here’s the thing. If your ministry is healthy and growing, an antiquated budget can absolutely be the thing that limits your growth. Don’t let that happen. It’s time to approach the overseers in their financial tower and ask for a bigger budget. Before you march in there, make sure you have your bases covered.

Explain how a bigger budget will help you to do bigger ministry.
If you’re asking for more money because you want to more easily sustain status quo, you’re doomed before you even begin. Explain how many more students you expect to reach or how many more service projects you’ll be able to complete. Be prepared to be measured on these later.

Demonstrate at least THREE ways you’ve worked to cut costs.
This is likely the first question you’ll be asked. So what have you done to save money in other areas? If you can’t answer this question, you need to start here and not with the budget proposal. You can’t win a bigger budget if you can’t illustrate that you’re trying to be an effective steward.

Make it clear that your new goals are good for the entire church.
The first time I asked for a budget increase, it was so we could continue to build our outreach ministry. Several new students had become part of our program, and two of those students brought their parents on Sunday mornings. After I shared this story, I was no longer asking for a budget increase for myself. Suddenly, it was for the benefit of everyone.

Know the names of the people on the Finance Team.
Rookie mistake. I called a guy Jeff for an entire meeting. His name was John.

Treat your proposal like it’s important because it is.
The first time I wrote a budget proposal, I was a 21-year-old in Business School. My proposal was 17-pages and impeccably formatted with color charts and graphs. I even had one of my professors review the thing for me. I found out years later that no one on the team actually read past the third page. But I got the budget approved because according to either Jeff or John, “If it was that important to you, we figured it should be that important to us.

Saturate the entire process in prayer.
Just because it seems like a business transaction doesn’t mean it’s not a spiritual one. You’re talking about the allocation of the gifts that other people have given unto God, and you’re likely having that conversation with several people who have to make several difficult decisions. A little of God’s wisdom is absolutely necessary.

This entire process can be pretty intimidating, and you’ll likely have more questions. I’ll be happy to engage you in the comments and answer any questions you might have.

Aaron Helman is a youth minister in South Bend, Indiana and the creator of Smarter Youth Ministry. He wants to reduce your frustration so that you can do ministry forever. Join his free email list to get a copy of his Budget Questions Worksheet.

A few weeks ago I got a phone call from one of my small group leaders named Lauren who asked if I could come by her house and meet with her and her family.  I had a feeling this call was coming at some point, but we had prayed for months that it wouldn’t. Lauren’s dad had been fighting cancer for several years and where hope had been, now was the realization that the end of his life was near. I have performed many funerals in my short ministry career but never have I had the opportunity to sit with someone and discuss their own memorial. Challenging doesn’t beging to describe it, but I can also say that it was a tremendous opportunity to encourage her dad and to affirm what a tremendous job he had done raising two remarkable daughters.

You need to understand a bit of her Lauren’s journey to truly appreciate this story so here it is in a nutshell. She is a graduate of our youth ministry and gave her life to Christ near the end of high school and has never looked back. She has served as a leader in our ministry for 3 years now and pours herself into her small group girls week in and week out. While she diligently led and prayed for her group, she was also praying for her dad in the midst of his illness that he would come to know Christ as well.

Lauren would send texts and ask people to pray for her as she had conversations with her dad, asking us to pray when she gave him a Bible, sharing the wins and losses in her sharing Jesus with her dad. There were times in the past years where you could sense fear and discouragement from Lauren about her dad, but she always remained hopeful even as his health declined and her dad could have easily hardened towards God.

As our discussions around memorial plans wrapped up Lauren leaned in and said, we also wanted to talk to you about baptizing my dad and my sister. The look on her face as she said that was something I will not soon forget. Her dad had given his life to Christ not long before we met that day and you could see the joy on Lauren and her sister Georgina who had spent years sharing their faith with their dad as now he was sharing his desire to take this step of baptism. Georgina is graduating high school this year and had been thinking about getting baptized for a while so the thought of taking this step with her day was one she could not pass up.

We wasted little time and a few days later, I met the family at their house again and found Lauren, Georgina and their mom meeting me at the door and behind them in his house coat and swim trunks was their dad. We made our way down to their hot tub and where first Lauren, her mom and dad watched as I baptized Georgina who no sooner was she under the water, but was back up and helping her dad into the hot tub. Georgina sat beside her dad keeping him stable and comfortable as he we went through the standard baptism questions and then carefully helped me as we baptized her dad.

The water was warm and Richard enjoyed feeling buoyant so the three of us decided to stay in and spent the next hour in the hot tub while Lauren and her mom sat beside and I was able to just listen as they shared countless stories and memories about their family.

We don’t know how much longer Richard has, but do have certainty about where he will go when he does pass on.  Its days like that, that remind me that lives are transformed when we are bold enough to talk to people about Jesus and its moments like this that put the toughest days in perspective and make it all worth it.

GS -Twitter

How to Leave Well

Josh Griffin —  May 11, 2012 — 6 Comments

Leaving a church is a tough decision. You’ve already weighed, deliberated, and debated the decision for months (or perhaps very briefly and acted impulsively) and the transition plan is quickly coming together. You want to leave well…but how do you do that? It’s challenging even under the best circumstances. And even if you’re leaving under tension, there’s no reason to let students, volunteers, and friends get caught in the crossfire of an ugly departure. Here are a few ways we think you can leave well no matter the situation.

Announce it far and wide.
People need to hear it from you—so make sure when you go public you make the reach as far as possible. Not to add to the drama but to make sure that people hear it from an official channel instead of through the prayer chain, errr….grapevine. If you talk about it in church on Sunday, by Monday morning it should be on Facebook and the church Web site just so it stops confusion and slows down rumors.

Keep the transition short but sweet.
Once you know, and your leadership knows, shorter is usually better. Although we love to romanticize the idea of the handoff and peaceful transition of power, an abbreviated timeline is usually the best route. Once you announce things you’ll be perceived as “halfway in” and a lame duck, so a graceful exit is preferred. By the way, has anybody ever actually seen a “lame duck”? Just wonderin’.

Maintain unity.
We aren’t suggesting you hide the truth, but we are begging you to protect the fragile unity of God’s church. Don’t dare to think your exit is a time to grandstand for change and call for resignations. Leave in the spirit of unity and you’ll never regret it. Not everybody deserves or needs to know the “whole story.”

Really leave.
You’ve made the transition plan public, quick, and abundantly clear—now stick to it! Resist the urge to babysit the students. Fight the arrogant belief that no one will care about them when you’re gone—God loves them far more than you do and will watch over his children. Besides, you always said you were working yourself out of a job, so here’s your chance to see how you did. Don’t meddle; it isn’t your place anymore. Resist the urge to ask friends and former students how the “new guy/girl” is doing. Don’t let yourself become critical of changes he or she begins to make in your absence.

Pray for the church.
The church will go on without you. In fact, it may even thrive once you’re gone. Oftentimes staff transition allows the leadership of the church to be more focused in their vision and retool any errant plans to accomplish that vision. And while it may hurt when something you built from the ground up gets unceremoniously axed, pray that God will further his Kingdom while your Empire crumbles. Besides, if you really leave like we suggested above you won’t know they changed things!

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.