stirstickI go to Starbucks every morning. I’m like an old man stuck in his routine. It’s where I read, write, think, pray, and drink $2.00 tea that I could make at home for 25 cents.

Today, after ordering my tea I headed over to the condiment counter to add some milk and sugar. To my dismay, in the little spot that normally holds the stir sticks was a note that read, “We are out of stir sticks. Sorry!” I was a little surprised, because for a coffee place to run out of stir sticks seems sorta like a hamburger place running out of buns. Forgivable, I suppose.

What was more surprising to me was that two hours later as I was walking out the door…the little note was still there! How many customers had wandered over to the condiment bar hoping to find stir sticks had been left frustrated? Less than 50 yards away sits a grocery store, and I’m pretty sure they sell stir sticks. Now, they may not sell the eco-friendly wooden stir sticks that Starbucks uses, but they certainly sell something.

Why didn’t anybody on the Starbucks team feel empowered to go buy some random stir sticks from the store?
Is sticking to the “approved stir sticks” cited in the manager’s notebook more important than customer service?
Would it have been totally okay to go buy some, but nobody took the initiative?

Those are all questions that went through my mind as I walked out the door. And they raise some interesting questions for those of us who lead youth ministries:

Are you a leader who is creating a culture of empowerment…does your team feel the freedom to problem solve?
In what areas does ministry to people in real-time trump your policies and procedures?
Do you have people on your team who, if given the freedom, take initiative or do they assume somebody else will do it?

– Kurt

LeaderExpectations are super important between parents and small group leaders. A lot of the issues I’ve run into between parents and small group leaders has been about expectations not being met or unrealistic expectations being casted. In this post I’ve listed a few expectations parents should have of leaders and leaders should have of parents. Now, I would probably add more tactical stuff if the list called for it, but I really wanted to share things that are just sometimes implied but never said. It is important I communicate these implied expectations for clarity between leaders and parents.

What parents should expect of leaders:

  • Communicate – Communication is so important during the small group season. The leader that keeps their parents in the dark is looking for conflict. Parents need to know in advance of any possible changes to the group. They need to know if they are supposed to do something for a party or outing. Again, the more notice you can give them the better. Communicate!!!
  • Support – Parents need to know that your leaders are there to support in leading/mentoring/teaching their child. I use the word support because it’s really a partnership between the leader and the parents. We don’t want to strip the parent of the responsibility of spiritually leading their child. Now, there are some students where we will have to play that roll but we don’t want to make it a practice. We also want to support the student in life, which sometimes mean supporting the family. Whether that’s going to a game or walking with the family through a crisis.  Support!!!
  • Be another voice for the parents – As a leader I have a great opportunity to increase the influence of the parent as well as Christ in the student’s life. My role should be an extension of the parents regardless whether they are believers or not. I’ve personally seen God do amazing things in the lives of parents whose child has heeded the advice to honor their mother and father even though they are not believers. Be that external parental voice!!!
  • Be available – Now, when I say available I mean leaders should be reachable. Parents should be able to text, email or call and get a response, might not always be right away but days and days shouldn’t go by without a response. Not being reachable is another way to create unwanted conflict with a parent. The expectation should be 24 hours at the most. I’ve seen more drama start because the leader gets frustrated and decides they have a choice in whether they have to respond to a leader. Be available!!!

In order for your leaders to be successful you must expect your parents to do the following:

  • Reinforce leaders rules at group. – Parents need to know that they can help herd the cattle by helping their child take the structure and rules seriously. Example: I have a no cell phone policy at group. If they come home and complain just reinforce the rule because they are in place to help not hurt. You play a huge part in the respect your child have for their leader so know that they will have just as much respect for their leader as you do.
  • Have conversations about what’s being taught in life group. – Parents need to be in the conversation of what’s being taught. Whether you’re sending them the lesson or just some questions. I’m not saying parents need to get into a theological debate, but just an easy conversation about what their child is learning will make all the difference. I want my leaders to know that they are working with the parents and not the other way around. So we need to let parents know that we are expecting the stuff taught to be talked about at home.
  • Respect the leaders time. – Parents need to know that leaders aren’t paid. For some of your leaders, every hour they spend with a student is time spent away from their own family. So be on time dropping off and picking up. If the student is not going to be at group, let their leader know. Leaders see this time with students as ministry and vital. So parents need to make sure their child is missing group only when they really have to. Help parents respect your leaders time!!!

Implied rules and the phrase “you should know better” go hand in hand and is just a disaster waiting to happen. It may even sound silly sharing things people should already know, but you will be glad you did.

Two questions:

  1. Do you share expectations between parents and leaders?
  2. If so, what is some other implied expectations between parents and leaders that may need to be addressed?

hope it helps



We’re taking our just-graduated seniors with the HSM Summer Camp this year (2nd year we’ve done it) and Parker made this little video to play at youth group and help get the word out online. Fun!


Homeschool Ministry

 —  June 7, 2013 — 1 Comment

We recently headed into some uncharted waters: homeschooled ministry. We realized that the homeschooled community was something that we never really focused on. We are always looking at ways to reach out to our high schools, but we seemed to let any kind of homeschooled ministry slip through the cracks.

With our recent Prayer Walk, we decided it was a great time to start doing something for homeschooled kids. While all of the schools were meeting on their campuses, we had the homeschooled students meet at classroom at our church. On the walls, we had different things that they could pray for (i.e. graduating seniors, Students transitioning from public school to home school, etc.). It was awesome!

At first, we were unsure if there was even a need for doing an event for homeschoolers. We just weren’t sure if anyone would come and if it was worth it. But, while we were looking at marketing it, we asked our core homeschooled students to invite all of their homeschooled friends. What we realized is that none of our homeschooled students really know each other! That is when we discovered that the HUGE ministry opportunity we had been missing for a while now.

With a new crop of freshmen coming in and a new school year right around the corner, we think the time is right to start to find out more ways for us to minister to homeschoolers.

What are you guys doing to ministry to your homeschooled community?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

Here’s the winner from HSM’s Summer Camp video contest – in all honesty we didn’t get a ton of them, but this one was really, really great!



We’ve been unleashing the 2013 HSM Summer Calendar this week in our ministry, and learned a few things:

  • Make all your fonts big enough for parents to read easily. Before you go to print have a 50-year old man tell you if he can read it or not.
  • There is such a thing as too big of a calendar. This one potentially falls into that category – I am the one who pushed for it to be bigger. We’ve joked about making a pocket-sized edition … if you thought the font size was difficult to read before… look out!
  • Physical printed pieces still very much matter in youth ministry – excited to see these used this summer! Been thinking we should do a photo contest where people post pictures of it hung up on their fridge/house/room.
  • Dates change: at least one of the key events of summer already moved. Argh! :)


we’re headed out this summer on a road trip of 62.1 miles to get to our summer camp venue – was wondering how far the average was for other churches, too. We’ve gone much further in the past (up to 150 miles away) and right now this one is close but feels far away. How about you – traveling this summer for camp? Vote now how far!



Weekend Teaching Series: Crazytown (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Ask anything to our relationship panel
Service Length: 75 minutes

Understandable Message: This week we deviated from our normal weekend and hosted a relationship panel with married couples and single people to help talk about guys, girls, relationships and sex. We had a great time at each service answering the students’ challenging question. The number one question was “how far is too far” and there were lots of asks about boundaries, virginity and secrets to make relationships work. It was super insightful, everyone was great and gave solid answers to many tough questions.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had several fun videos for the weekend including a summer camp promo video, a hilarious slam poetry of a Taylor Swift song (Never Getting Back Together), and a new relationship and dating advice video from new characters Papa Cool and Mama Love. So so fun and a strong program!

 Music Playlist: What Would I Have Done, The Earth is Yours

Favorite Moment: I loved it all! So thankful for the incredible panelists who were honest about their failures, struggles and stories dealing with love, marriage and sex. What a great series to round out the school year. Loved it!

Up next: Worship Together Weekend: June (1-off)