dangerWhen it comes to taking kids to fun places, you might try to “sell” the idea from time to time.

This is usually when you’ll talk about something “amazing” that the kids will get the chance to take part in. For example, maybe you’ll mention a huge roller coaster at the amusement park you’ll be visiting. Perhaps you’ll do what I heard one youth group did – the leaders would regularly dare each other and students at a yearly summer camp to jump off a local cliff and fall 50 feet into some water below.

In retrospect, have there been times where you’ve pumped up the danger a bit? Or in contrast, have you always kept everything safe beyond any measure of risk? I’ve found both can backfire, from kids who think church is too “vanilla” to other students who feel “less than the others” because they didn’t want to take part in something that was beyond their limits.

For example, check out this video of a water slide – any thoughts on if the positives or negatives of planning a trip that hypes this up?


tripledogdareWhen is it appropriate to involve an element of dangerous fun in your youth ministry?

We’ve all probably heard stories where this went wrong and kids were legitimately hurt through an experience. What about the emotional damage we may not see – where a kid feels lame because they didn’t get up on a high ropes course like the rest of the youth group.

What’s the difference between appropriate fun… and hazing?

Any thoughts or stories?

After two years of youth ministry I felt like I got in a groove.  I knew my roles and responsibilities.  I wasn’t shocked when a parent addressed a concern with emotion.  I was comfortable asking others to get involved; life was good.  Then five years rolled by and everything started to click.  I felt like I understood systems and structures.  I was okay with droughts in creativity and multitasking.

As each year ticks by your level of confidence as a youth minister will grow.  And that’s because with each year you gain experiential wisdom.  It’s priceless and so beneficial; however, it alone will not take your youth ministry to the next level.  There are going to be opportunities that you need to take advantage of that will launch you to the next level.

These opportunities are like launching pads.  You focus on them, you make them a part of your mantra and they take you to the next level.  Three of those launching pads are:

Spiritual Accountability – On a daily basis you are pouring into others.  Whether it’s teenagers, their parents or your own team, you are draining yourself continuously.  While we know the source for replenishment lies with God, we need men and women who are going to help us out.  Three ways you should embrace spiritual accountability are through an Adult Small Group and One on One Spiritual Direction.  You need people reminding you to trust in the Lord, because without Him nothing is possible.

Embrace Risk – Taking chances is a habit that many of us need to embrace.  It’s not about being clumsy or careless, taking risk means getting over our fears to do something big.  To embrace risk properly you need to Trust in God, Gather Insight and Lean Into The Tension. Granted it might be scary; however, people will want to follow you, because they’ll see your courage.  People want a leader who isn’t afraid to fail and will do what it takes to succeed.

Collaborate With Peers – If you aren’t working and networking with other youth ministers than you are traveling a very lonely road.  When you can network with peers in youth ministry you open yourself up to some awesome ideas.  You give yourself the opportunity to learn, think outside the box and problem solve with a new perspective.  When you work with the other guys, they’ll show you how to get to the next level.  Three places to collaborate are Through Social Media, Over A Cup Of Coffee and Attending Conferences.  Get together with others.

It’s important to ask yourself the question, “How can I continue to grow as a professional youth minister?” When you utilize the right launching pads you answer that question.

What other opportunities can we embrace to take youth ministry to the next level?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

I just finished up Onward by Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks. It was a gift (read: required reading) from my boss Kurt Johnston. Of course, it wasn’t a chore – I’ve been wanting to pick up the book after seeing it recently and am fascinated by how “it” companies like Apple and Starbucks work on the inside. The book was full of incredible insights with tons of youth ministry applications – but let me tell you right out of the gate that it is about 100 pages too long. The amount of detail is staggering, and quite honestly gives you an appreciation for the capacity of Howard Schultz. Here are a a few of the key things that stood out to me:

  • Howard took incredible risks. Some paid off, others totally bombed. When was my last risk?
  • People are what matter most. Period.
  • Howard took his time building an incredible team. Success is never solo.
  • One evening every Starbucks in the nation was closed for training. How much do I value training?
  • Over time, Starbucks changed reporting their “comps” to focus on other measurements. Am I looking at the right numbers?
  • Starbucks rebirth was guided by 7 principles. What are mine? What is guiding me?

Lots of good stuff. Great book.



Josh Griffin —  February 14, 2011 — 1 Comment

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3.-5-6

The older I get, the more I recognize I don’t have all the answers. Unfortunately, I draw this conclusion from the instances I’ve attempted to navigate life on my own and failed to experience the self-affirming outcomes I desired.

The failure I’ve mentioned is a result of pride and our pride is, in part, a result of book shelves lined with resources, a consistent flow of email newsletters, and office door handles cluttered with conference lanyards. All of these resources and experiences are great in and of themselves but they’re not meant to be the central source from which we gain our motivation, creativity, or leadership aptitude.

I will admit that it’s more convenient to lead from past experiences than wait upon fresh revelation but its rarely most beneficial. You’ve heard it said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” I believe the difference between an average leader and a revolutionary leader is their ability to take risks. The fear that every leader has is taking the wrong risks and that is where God enters the equation.

We will begin to increase success and decrease failure if we will intentionally and, at times, patiently wait upon God’s direction. God will do something in us that no book, newsletter, or conference can ever do; lead us to the calculated risks that will transform us into revolutionary leaders.

On Saturday, January 1, 2011 television history was made when the Discovery Health Channel became the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). In terms of taking risks this is a risk few would have the stomach to take, largely due to its $160 million price tag and years of necessary planning. According to St. Petersburg Times TV/Media Critic, Eric Deggans, this move is, “likely the first time a 24-hour cable channel has focused on one person’s brand”.

This is not only a risk for the network but for Oprah Winfrey who is now faced with the challenge of converting a hour long syndicated TV show into a cable channel pumping out 1,200 hours of programming each year. The Oprah Winfrey Show began in 1986 and had been going strong ever since. Some would call her crazy for leaving that kind of legacy behind but I would call her revolutionary. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in love with everything that Oprah produces and I don’t necessarily agree with her religious or political views but you have to admit she is a wise business person.

As followers of Christ we have direct access to THE revolutionary leader and we would be foolish not to intentionally keep him at the certain of our lives. We have to submit to the realization that we don’t have everything figured out. In the presence of God we lay down our desires and pursue His revolutionary plan.

God’s waiting. It’s your move.

Shon Bradford is the student ministry pastor of deviate student ministry in Buckeye, AZ.