How To Grind It Out

 —  February 5, 2013 — 4 Comments

There are those days in youth ministry where it feels like you are running through mud.  They are slow, there is no significant progress and the only thing moving is your blood pressure rising from the frustration you feel.  I can’t tell you when these days will come, they just seem to emerge and when they do they are awful.  So what do you do when ministry is mud?


That means having a plan that is going to help you move forward, no matter how hard it is to be creative or productive.  To develop that plan means:

Setting A Firm Schedule: A framework to your day will make sure you aren’t wearing yourself out.  That means start time and stop times.  Breaks and times when you just sit back and learn.  During the times that you schedule for writing, creating and developing you may notice little fruit; however, having the framework will make sure you aren’t dwelling too long in the frustration they might bring.

Fuel And Rest Up: Just like an athlete when the days get hard you need to make sure your energy level is at it’s highest.  That means not staying up later, eating right and taking care of your body.  Sometimes the writer’s block that you feel is because you are tired or not feeling well.  It’s at these times when it’s important for you to focus on your health and not your productivity.

Become A Learner: You could simply be out of ideas.  Taking the time you would usually write and create and devote it to reading, watching podcasts or meeting with other youth workers.  Listening to others and reading their thoughts will sometimes kickstart the productivity engine.  Just make sure anything that develops you write down.

Spend Time In Prayer: When you are in a void of ideas it’s easy to feel disconnected.  The best way to reignite this connection is to talk with God.  I find that quiet time in scripture calms me down and takes away the frustration that I may feel when it comes to a writer’s block, lack of ideas or a hard day at work.

Youth ministry is just like any industry where you’ll find moments where you just need to grind it out.  Do not stress, just go to a plan that will help you move forward.  Stay focused, put your head down and lean in.  Remember these seasons are temporary.

What would you add to the plan?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

7am: Wake up, read the paper, drive to work
9am: Start work
12pm: Lunch break with lunchtime workout
1pm: Back to work
3:15: Coffee Break
5pm: Home time
6pm: Dinner
8pm: Kids to bed and TV Watching
10pm: Bedtime

Is this what your routine looks like? Mine neither. As youth workers we often have some weird schedules. We are up late so we start in the office later. Some days are 12 hrs long while others wrap up in a just a few, because we just came in for a meeting.

No matter what your day looks like to be effective you need to find a rhythm. Music sucks without it and so will you. What does having a Rhythm look like?

I don’t believe that every day has to look the same, in fact if it did that would be rather boring. However, I strongly believe in finding what times of day I am productive in and when am I least productive.

About a year ago I sat in on a seminar Doug Fields was leading at a conference and he was challenging people about living a balanced life. One of the things he talked about was finding your productive times and using them well. For some people that time is morning, for me it’s mid afternoon. So that’s when I focus on getting things done. I would strongly encourage you to do the same find this time yourself.

In order to figure out our productive times and how to fill them we need to look at two things:

  • Priorities: For me this looks like the time I spend with God for personal time and for work it is writing talks and strategizing. If it’s the most important thing to me shouldn’t it be what I am giving the best of my time and brain power
  • When do I have maximum brain capacity: This took some searching and messing around with the order I did things during the day. I tried writing at the beginning of my day, the middle and the end. I’ve tried starting off my day with God and ending my day with God.

Through this investigation I figured out how to make my life at home and work more effective. While my day looks nothing like what I wrote above it does have some consistency. I slot my Bible reading and message writing for mid-afternoon. I often have a snack and drink before I do this. When others are hitting that wall or slowing down, I find I can break away and really focus on God.

Now some people may be wondering what I am going to do in my less productive times, and for them I answer the things that take less brain power. I find looking for graphics, updating Facebook or twitter to require less from me so I do them during this time.

So what is your Rhythm? If you have found it, have you put your priorities in place? Are you honoring God with your time and your efforts? I want to challenge you to mix up your day and see if there is a way to make better use of it. We are never perfect but we can strive to be better.

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

Clear Your Calendar

 —  December 13, 2012 — 9 Comments

It’s the end of the year and for many of us the days are moving faster and the amount of work is multiplying at a neck breaking speed.  In youth ministry you have those seasons that pull, push and beat you up.  The ones where you wonder whether or not you can hold on for another round.  You try to tell yourself, “This season will be over soon and then I will rest.” But the end never comes and the busyness continues on.

The solution to combating those busy seasons is by simply CLEARING YOUR CALENDAR.  That’s right take an eraser, whiteout, samurai sword or hand grenade and blow that thing up.  Actually, take a breather, refrain from using those measures and try these four steps instead:

STEP #1: Prioritize Your Week - Look at what you do and categorize them in the following ways:

  • Must-Do
  • Negotiable
  • Totally Unnecessary

If everything appears as a must do then sit down with a trusted friend or coworker and have them analyze your schedule with you.  Let them ask why and whether something can be adjusted or eliminated.  Put what’s important in your highly motivated times.  Delegate and eliminate the unnecessary and watch your calendar breathe.

STEP #2: Frame Out Your Days – It might differ depending on the day; however, by marking down consistent start and end times into your schedule you will create a framework of discipline.  The reason your day runs long is because there are no boundaries.  With no boundaries chances are you are taking too many breaks because you do not feel the pressure of a deadline.  By finding that you can work 40 hours in a week and still be effective is liberating.  It allows you to have a life outside of youth ministry.

STEP #3: Build In ME Time - You might be incredible at scheduling your professional life; but, how are you at your personal?  It sounds wrong to plan in quiet time, family time and even when you eat; however, if you find work bleeding into home life you need to take drastic measure.  By building in ME time you’ll find your relationship with God and others drastically improve.

STEP #4: Revisit Consistently – Granted you can’t always plan a busy season; however, as you feel the pace of your schedule change take the time to look at your calendar.  Repeat steps 1-3 and make the adjustments that are necessary to survive and thrive.  Have someone you know analyze your calendar with you.  Allow them to tell you where they see holes and areas of improvement.

While you can’t clear you calendar completely, you can take better control of when you need to do what you do.  It’s not the most attractive discipline; however, by managing your time you enable yourself to grow as a leader and youth minister.

How do you guard your time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



POLL: December Pace

 —  December 10, 2012 — 6 Comments

This week’s poll is a question about the pace of December for your youth ministry. In talking with some visiting youth workers recently it seems like the month of December was one of the craziest months of the year – then in talking to another on the phone this week it sounded like for them it was super slow and a great change of pace. Those conversations inspired the poll question this week:

What is the pace of December like for you?


POLL: Family Dinners

 —  October 15, 2012 — 1 Comment

This week’s poll was inspired by yesterday’s blog post talking about family dinners. How many nights home do you have family dinner on a normal week? Vote now!


Changing Things Up: 7 NIGHT

 —  September 12, 2012 — 2 Comments

The summer this year flew by and I can’t believe we are going to kick off our new school year of Journey in just a few days. Over the summer, I spent a lot of time praying and thinking about what we needed to change this year and set out a few goals and one of them being:

We need to break up the year so that our youth gather wouldn’t continue to be a replacement for Church.

The reality was that with worship, preaching, small groups and community, it ticks off most of the boxes as far as what life in the Church is like. There is huge value in all of those things, but we discerned that we needed to make some adjustments to break up our year to help students connect more on Sundays and from that came 7 Night

We have Journey (our youth group) Thursday nights with Jr High from 6:30 to 8:30 and Sr High from 7:30 to 9:30 with them overlapping for worship. It has been a great model for us, but we have been finding that especially in the long stretch after Christmas, we would lose momentum, as the program was similar week in and week out. Not only that, but few students are attending on Sunday services but since we are not “Church” we are free to rejig to help alleviate these challenges we have noticed.

So this year we have decided to work in 6-week teaching modules with the 7th week being something totally different called 7 Night. The start time for 7 Night is 30 mins later for the Jr High and 30 mins earlier for Sr High. If we do an event that night, we are committing to the cost being only $7

7 Night happens every 7th Week @ 7:00pm and cost $7

The first 7 Night is the week of Halloween, the second is 2 weeks out from Christmas, the third is Valentines day, the fourth right after March break and the last on is near the May long weekend (Canada).  So far we are planning a student run talent show, 5 minute film festival, Inner-city missions night, and are working on finding a youth group to crash one night.

Our student leaders and volunteers are pumped about it. Ask me in June if it was a success but with buy-in like we have, I think its going to be a huge success.

-Geoff (Twitter)

See You in 7

 —  March 30, 2012 — 4 Comments

I close each youth service with the phrase “See you in 7.” It reminds kids that our ministry is here every week for whatever they need and also lets them know I’m inviting, even expecting, them to make church part of their life and routine. Yet it’s also a sometimes-painful reminder to me that another service is right around the corner, no matter how this one turned out.

Creating a compelling youth service or meeting every week can feel weighty. Just as you collapse to recover from one, you have to prepare to do it all again. My team has been discussing a new strategy to get things accomplished with such short turnaround. Our services are on Saturdays and Sundays, so you may have to adjust the days below to fit your program.

“See you in 7″ falls from my smiling mouth to my ringing ears each week. But with the right preparation and goals, it’s an achievable task.

Delegate —What tasks do you need to dole out to ensure success? For that matter, what are you even doing next week? Make sure all the projects, videos, music, humor, and handouts have an owner; then be confident that people will follow through. Ideally, list program elements on a whiteboard so a few volunteers can start moving on their assignments. For me, as the primary communicator, Tuesday is an important day to get a jump-start on message preparation, too.


Do—This is the day to really accomplish things. Shoot the video. Buy prizes. Test out games. Whatever needs to happen for the weekend, do it on Wednesday. As I write this, a student is preparing a testimony to share, a volunteer is editing video, and my sermon draft is halfway complete.

Done—Today it all comes together. The student outline is finished, slides are made, videos are selected, handouts are copied, and anything that was ordered is ready to go. By the end of Thursday, the sermon is largely done and in the hands of a few trusted friends for review.


Dream—You must make space for greatness and creativity, so force yourself to finish things early instead of succumbing to the uncontrollable chaos of last-minute details. That cushion also allows you to work ahead a bit and be intentional about relational ministry.

Originally appeared in the November/December issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

Not long ago, we were chatting it up with a couple of students who had expressed interest in being youth pastors. Our conversation ran through various aspects of youth work when it hit us: youth ministry is a calling of extremes. If you’re new to the gig, you might not feel it just yet — but ask anyone who has been doing it for a while and they’ll tell you it is true.

Extreme schedule
In youth ministry there is no such thing as a typical week. Quite often every day is completely different from the last. This summer alone I (Kurt) ran from event to mission trip to vacation to camp to … I don’t even remember what came next because the schedule was so extreme. It was even busier for Josh…in addition to all the youth ministry stuff, he had to schedule time play video games, watch Star Wars and snack on pretzels.

Extreme emotion
Youth ministry lives on both ends of the emotional continuum. I’ve (Josh) been sitting with students laughing my head off about something one minute, and get a phone call about one of my students being in a terrible car accident the next. Youth workers are there when things are extremely good and when things are extremely bad.

Extreme salary
Youth ministry pays extreme. Extremely little.

Extremely critical age
Youth ministry is focused on what may be the most critical age group in our churches — when students are figuring themselves and their faith out and parents are at the most challenging point in relating to them. We ask these students to give over total control of their life to Jesus . We invite students to be baptized, to demonstrate their faith to their friends, family and the world at the time when peer-pressure and image are the most crucial in their life. That’s some extreme stuff!

Extreme expectations
There’s a lot of pressure on youth workers — from senior pastors, staff, parents and largely from the person who is the hardest on you: yourself.

Extreme hours, extreme emotions, extreme work. Youth ministry pushes everything to the limit. So why in the world would anyone want to do it? Seems like a nice, safe, well-paying nine-to-five job in an air conditioned office is more what most people look for in life, not this.

Why? Because of the extreme fulfillment. We wouldn’t want to do anything else. You?

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.