The Scene: Working on the laptop at McDonald’s. A table full of pre-teen guys are trying to eat. The oldest (perhaps a freshman among them) is acting like a social rooster, pecking down the awkwardness of the younger guys, strutting for the girls sitting nearby, nudging the smallest one of out of the booth with his rear end… over and over.

I’ve been praying for several minutes about the best way to respond.

And then…

the others all suddenly had to leave. They hopped on bikes and peddled out. He looked like he was waiting for a ride – it was just him and I. I didn’t move toward him, but stood up while holding my drink and spoke.

Me: (slurp) “So, are you the oldest?”

Him: (a bit startled that I’m talking to him) “Huh? Oh, yeah.” (he smiles… like a security blanket… I’m “bigger than he is.”)

Me: “They look up to you, you know.”

Him: (he pauses, as if to realize it) “Oh, yeah. I guess.”

Me: (a half-step slower this time) “They look up to you.”

Him: (he catches my eye) “Yeah.”

Me: “Use that wisely.”

Him: (another pause) “Yeah…” (another pause) “…yeah.”

I go to get a refill, and return. A couple minutes later he heads out to catch his ride.

As he passes, he says, “Hey, see ya!”


Changing the world? Speaking Life into life? Serving students?

Maybe it happens just like this.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)

I’ve been feeling something for a while now.

Maybe you have, too.

It’s something I’ve even “prayed” about… like how Christians say they pray about things, but really just conclude something they hope God’s okay with.

closedpulpitI plan to leave my church.

I’ll stand in front of my congregation and say,

“I’m going to attend elsewhere. Things don’t feel like they used to. There’s another congregation that seems more put-together and exciting. They even somehow seem more ‘biblical’ over there, too. You guys just aren’t feeding me anymore.”

Such a plan only lasts for a nano-second.

(Translation: I’m not actually planning on leaving my church. I’m confessing a temptation I feel every now and then… maybe you have, too.)

I’m supposed to be mature.

I need to think bigger than that. You need to think bigger than that.

We need to think bigger than that.

As a lead pastor, I do get emails from people who do this almost every season. It’s like the changing weather makes people change their church.

Thankfully, there always seems to be a remnant through God’s grace – a core group who understands things at a healthier level. These are the “for better or for worse” servant-leaders who get it and push through spiritual walls for the sake of what God is doing in them and through them.

The problem is on a general, church-wide scale it feels like when people aren’t “feeling it” they’re eventually gone:

  • “The worship team doesn’t play the songs I like.”
  • “I purposefully didn’t come for weeks as a test. No one from the church called me. Never mind that I’m not in a small group… the point is…”
  • “The building campaign should be run this way…. instead of that way.”
  • “I showed up for an event and it wasn’t what I expected.”
  • “It’s not how it was when I first started attending.”
  • “I’m just not feeling fed.”

It’s the last one that grinds me the most… not because I believe I’m a great preacher, but if God’s Word is the foundation of a message the only reason people couldn’t feel “fed” is if they closed their “mouths.” According to Jesus, God’s seed is good – it’s the soil that has the problem. Maybe it’s just easier to blame a preacher or church than personally own that.

Why am I posting this here?

There’s a reason why your senior pastor seems worn down some daysit’s because your senior pastor is worn down some days.

Senior pastors often feel like plate spinners who are trying to keep things healthy so people stay happy. It’s not our job, but it somehow becomes our job. It ultimately makes us want to work somewhere where people demonstrate long-term commitment and patronage… like their favorite ice cream store. (Sadly, that comparison is truer than we’d like to admit.)

Right now, go reaffirm a “for better or for worse” commitment to your church and its senior leadership. While you’re at it, dare others to do the same.

Feed up… before he or she gets fed up.

What are some of the “reasons” you’ve heard someone left a church? Share a comment. (Maybe by confessing some of the insanity we’ll better recognize it before it comes out of us.)


picture courtesy of

picture courtesy of

After reading yesterday’s post your response might have been one of defeat.

The schedule we keep is daunting.  Perhaps you are great at having “boundaries” but your leadership doesn’t have any.  If you are like me the struggle is you can tend to be more driven than called.   Either way it can translate into days off that are actually “on,” living on an IV of caffeine, and racing through life.  One youth pastor friend once told me,  “I never thought that I could get burnt out doing what I love for whom I love.”

You know, but what are some practical steps you can take to get off this lunatic merry-go-round?

Remember How YOU Love Jesus:

I connect with Christ through music. Some days, I put in my headphones, close my eyes and sing along.  It refreshes me. For me being outside in His creation, talking with Him, soaking in His power is vital.  I have to put aside time for this.  Our  love affair with the Savior must last a lifetime.  What do you do that reminds you, you are connected to the Lord? When is the last time you took the time just for HIM?

The Rule Of 3:

Part of our problem becomes isolationism.  Perhaps we told someone our dirty secret and they told us something like a former pastor told me.  If I just understood that the Sabbath wasn’t a day off it was a lifestyle I would be fine.  “Jesus never took a day off,  he simply stole away for a moment,”  was what he said.  So I would take the time and sit with God and my mind was everywhere else.  I didn’t change. I just stopped telling people about it. That was the problem. I needed others to keep me focused on Jesus.

Who are 3 people you can be honest with?   Let them check in with you. I suggest this combo: One person who has known you forever, that you trust, one person who does what you do but in another church or ministry and one person who is NOT in ministry but local. This may take some work but find them.  Then listen to their advice.  If they tell you to take a day off then do it.   Truth only sounds trite because it is simple.  Make the effort.

Do something you like to do- but don’t have to do.

Through a series of events I have taken up running this year.  It has become an outlet for stress release.  Nope I don’t have time to do it, but I need it.   I like it, and the way it makes me feel like I accomplished something on days when everything else feels out of control.  What do you enjoy?  Reading, writing, skeet shooting, watching Duck Dynasty?  This is a vital step to coming out of the spiral. Put aside something for a moment and just do something you LIKE to do.

Scheduling is a post all on it’s own, and that we will tackle tomorrow. This is not an exhaustive list,  it is merely some starting steps to come out of this season of life.  Remember you are NOT ALONE.  Many of us have been there and just might be there at this moment in time.

What are you doing to practically conquer your burn out?

Asbury Park, NJ courtesy of APP

Asbury Park, NJ courtesy of APP

As many of us attempt to get our students serving this summer, there is often a “trip” of some kind planned.   We plan, give packing lists, and prepare their hearts for  what’s ahead.   As the youth leader we are very focused on what OUR youth will get out of their time, and how it will impact them for eternal transformation.  This is the way it ought to be.


This summer I am on the other side of the mission’s trip.   As an inner city ministry in an area devastated by Hurricane Sandy, we have gotten an inundation of groups wanting to come and be with us for a week.  It has been interesting to be the bridge between those coming, and those who will receive help.  This has got me thinking

As you take off for your trip have you considered what your APPROACH will be?

To The Situation You Will Serve:

It is important to prep your team for the situation they will encounter as much as possible.  What will they see, smell, experience?   Some circumstances of abject poverty or desolation will be shocking.  When you arrive at a site the focus needs to be totally on those you are giving to, while processing your own reactions to the time there.  Students need to be prepped to take the work they will be offering seriously, to stay consistent in their time and efforts,  and to debrief with you in the evenings after their days.

To The People You Will Be Serving:

Destitute people in difficult situations rarely define themselves this way.  Are we giving or stripping a person of their dignity?  Make sure you approach every person you serve with respect and honor.   Before you make any assumptions ASK a person what they would LIKE for you to do for them.  Our opinions of what we feel someone might need,  isn’t nearly as important as the way they will receive our offering.

To The Partnering Site:

Even if you are going with a missions organization there is a group on the receiving end.   Are you respecting their methods and approach to ministry?  Are you asking them what THEY would like from you?  Communication, and follow through of their requests is vital.  Remember they were here before you came and they will stay after you and your students  go home.

If there is one piece of advice I can leave you with it would be this.  Remember, it is a privilege and an honor that a community has invited you in to be with them.   Sometimes we and our students need them really more than they need us.

Senior Pastor questionsA healthy relationship with your senior pastor is a core part of a healthy youth ministry.

It doesn’t matter if your church is large, medium, small or a start-up – your roles can powerfully complement each other if you each discern how to powerfully compliment each other.

A lot gets in the way of that, and it isn’t just about ego or insecurities. Sometimes you both become so busy that a disconnect happens over time. The good news is you can nurture something healthier, starting today.

Here are four questions you need to ask your senior pastor to get the ball rolling:

    • “How often do you want to meet, and what for?”

      In one church I served in, my senior pastor wanted to meet each week so we could synergize our efforts together. It was full of great encouragement and brainstorming. I instigated that pattern in the next church I served in, only that senior pastor found it annoying to meet every week. It ultimately degraded our relationship as he assumed I didn’t know how to do my job and needed extensive coaching. Make sure you both know how often you need to meet and what the purpose of that time will be.

    • “Do you need a safe place to just vent?” 

      When I made the transition to become a senior pastor, I suddenly became aware of perspective I was clueless about as a youth worker. This space is too small to list it all, but I will simply say that it adds up and isn’t always something you can debrief with your spouse about. Offer your senior pastor the chance to dump out what they’re sorting out, be it as a spiritual leader, parent, organizational boss or a human being. Honor that with confidentially and prayers.

    • “How can I serve you this week?”

      You’ll likely be surprised by the answers you hear and don’t hear to this question. As I asked this of my senior pastors I’d sometimes get a quick response, such as “I really need someone to teach this class for me. Can you do it?” Other times I had to pull out something of them by saying, “It seems like you and your wife haven’t had a date night in ages. Can I watch your kids on Friday so you can go out?”

    • “Who can I confront or encourage to help you out?”

      This may be the most awkward question you ask, but it can be the most therapeutic. Your senior pastor has a network of relationships that are similar-yet-larger than yours. You can help pour water on flames that need to be put out and gasoline on the fires that need to grow. Be willing to confront a critic or help spur on the most recent volunteer.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list, but maybe it gets you started. It also helps you better live out Hebrews 13:7: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

What are some questions you’ve identified that we all need to be asking?

A follow-up to last week’s guys eHarmony video for the guys is this week’s over the top dating profile for the ladies. Died laughing!



Weekend Teaching Series: Crazytown (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: 5 Things Guys Wish Girls Knew
Service Length:71 minutes

Understandable Message: This week was another huge hit with students – we covered 5 things from guys that they wanted girls to know. I mashed up some very insightful conversations with guy students, my personal experiences and what the Bible says into a fun talk on relationships and sex. It was super fun to talk frankly with the students and push them into really thinking about the choices they are making and the consequences of a life outside of God’s path. Excited to make this into a resource for others to use in the future as well, too!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment:We had a great weekend planned – we played a hilarious new screen game called Taylor Swift Lyric or Lamentations that was one of the most clever games we’ve ever played. We also had a fun dating video spoof and lots of student involvement. Great energy on a tough weekend (prom at one of our key high schools) and met several students for the first time, too!

Music Playlist: Heart Attack (Demi Lovato cover), Hosanna, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I’m really proud of Travis, he is our new weekend guy and is doing a GREAT job planning the program and keeping things on track. What a great series this has been – 1 more week to go!

Up next: Crazytown (series finale, week 3 of 3)


Weekend Teaching Series: Crazytown (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: 5 Things Girls Wish Guys Knew
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I went after the guys! Had so much fun talking to girls and some college-age women to get some of their perspective and then mash it up with my personal experiences and use God’s Word for the authority of truth. It was SUCH a fun weekend, I was so happy with the student’s response and I was extremely direct, too! We talked through all sorts of practical stuff and hit on some big topics too like objectifying women, boundaries, and more. One of my favorite HSMs of all time!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a hilarious summer camp promo video and a near-perfect game show about celebrity couples. It was incredible and Travis did a great job hosting it. I love it when a game plays out like a skit/standup as well as something the contestants and crowd could participate in. Really strong program.

Music Playlist: When I Was Your Man (Bruno Mars cover), Christ in Me, Take It All

Favorite Moment I loved this weekend in HSM! Excited to turn it into a resource in the future that other youth workers can use in their ministry, too. We tried something new with the stage design, too – notice in the picture above is half physical and half digital? The guys spray-painted gator board so we could light it from behind and then Parker made a digital “extension” of the buildings on the screen with a starry night that moved, complete with shooting stars. Simple, but striking. Perfect atmosphere for the talk!

Up next: Crazytown (week 2 of 3)