Just finished reading Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley – easily one of the best books for church leaders of this generation. I loved the candid discussions about the history of North Point Ministries and then a full disclosure about the how and why they do what they do at their church. It was incredible getting an inside look into their values, the vagueness of leadership and blessing that God has given to that church. Couple things really stood out to me:

  • A couple times I immediately bristled at what he wrote – then Andy promptly called me out for it in the next sentence. Loved it.
  • They don’t have it all figured out, which is true of everyone but refreshing to hear!
  • As a leader, Andy constantly stands in the tension of going where the Bible goes and stopping where it doesn’t. Not afraid to tell the truth, not afraid to back away from things we have turned into “truth”
  • The church being a movement … that is an exciting way to see it. Not a building, not people, but a movement.

The books feels like another important book for the church to process as we unapologetically seek and to save the lost. I want to create the type of church!


Fun night trying a new outreach event – lots of new students at church tonight. Part capture the flag part first person shooter, got a bunch of kinks to work out but students had a good time!


I am not sure how we didn’t figure this out sooner, but after a few years of following up with new students to our ministry we never really had any sort of overwhelming response to what seemed like pretty intentional follow-up. We would call students, asked if they enjoyed coming to our group, asked if they had come with someone and always very cordially ended those conversations with something to the effect of “we hope to see you Thursday.” Nothing exciting, a simple phrase, which was true, that we did hope to see them out at youth.

What we didn’t realize until this year, that the wording of that was fairly non-committal for us, and for them. In response to this we have removed several commonly used statements that we often used when speaking to students on the phone, or in person. They include:

  • Hope to see you at youth group!
  • We would love to see you at youth!
  • You should come out this week!
  • It would be great if you could make it out this week!

The Facebook generation has pushed us into non-committal “maybe” type people and all those phrases can potentially elicit a maybe and since we didn’t expect an answer they could forget it all together. So we have changed how we speak to students and have replaced those statements with one simple question that we use before hanging up the phone or saying goodbye:

“Will you be at youth this week?”

It’s a question and not a statement and it opens doors for us to be better leaders. Firstly it requires and answer and thus commitment. If the answer is yes, of course we are delighted and look forward to seeing them. But if the answer is no, or a maybe, it allows for us to dig in and find out why? It is through these follow up questions where we can find out what is really going on. It could be school work, tests, family challenges or any number of things, and knowing the reasons allows us to be able to offer prayer to our students and support them even when they can’t attend.

Statements don’t often elicit honest answers, but questions can. I am not sure if the students have even noticed the change, but as leaders the change had had significant implications in our attendance and retention of new students. We follow up weekly with all guests to the program and simply ask if they are going to come this week. That invitation says a lot to a student and being asked to come back is a powerful statement.

This shift is minor, but the results have been significant. Try making “The Ask” when communicating with students; you might be surprised by the results.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

Enjoyed stumbling across this old blog post from Ron Merrell (he was our camp speaker this past summer) about the 4 P’s of Church Stickyness. Program, People, Placement and Promise. Here’s a clip of his thoughts on one of them – head there for the rest:

PEOPLE – Friendly. Welcoming. Diverse. Kind. Warm. Knowledgeable. Genuine. Sincere. Safe. Compassionate. Able to listen. Loving. Respectful. Gentle. Energetic. If these words described everyone in your church, you’d be the most magnetic place in town. And I’m not just thinking about your “greeters” or “staff.” I’m thinking about your congregation. As the Lord does His work in your people, you hope that it produces the qualities above and more! People. But what can you do to develop the second “P” of church, especially when there is a less-than-friendly vibe to your crowd?

This is a hard one, because as a staff person you can create several things to allow people to connect, get them integrated into relationships, feel welcomed initially, etc. But… there’s a difference between “having a church full of winsome, loving, genuine people who go out of their way to greet others” and creating a “greeting team.” The first is better, but WAY harder to create! Focus hard on this one. You can’t train, teach, emphasize, and value real, Christ-like community enough. People WILL tolerate a subpar Program if the People are amazing. But, over the long haul, People will NOT tolerate subpar relationships even if the Program rocks.

Is your church … your youth ministry … sticky?


I was reading an article in Group Magazine about magnetic ministry. The article pointed me to a video on YouTube entitled “What if Starbucks marketed like the church?” After watching this silly, but accurate, portrayal of the church, I once again pondered the way the church looks to those on the outside looking in. From the early days of my ministry, I have constantly made an intentional effort to evaluate my methods based on the perspective of the outsider. I’m not an advocate of making sure everyone feels comfortable all the time, because the gospel is uncomfortable to unbelievers. My goal, however, is to remove all obstacles before coming to Jesus. Unfortunately many people reject the church out of hand long before they make a decision for or against Christ.

Many church leaders bristle at the words “seeker-friendly church”. When they hear those words they think of “rock-n-worship”, tattooed youth pastors, and senior pastors teaching in shorts and sandals. Though that is an apt description of some of my most remembered worship experiences, that is not the point I am trying to make. The ambition is not to be “seeker friendly” or to adopt a certain style within the church, but to remove anything that stands in the way of pointing people to Christ.

When was the last time you visited a church for the first time? Visiting a church can be a very intimidating experience. Though it is impossible to eliminate that aspect of church it should be the aspiration of every church to alleviate the awkwardness as much as possible. How can we do that? Here are a few suggestions for worship meetings that are most likely attended by first timers. For most churches this is the Sunday morning service.

  1. Speak modern english, even while praying. God can understand you even if you don’t sound like Shakespeare!
  2. Dress casually. If the point of the meeting is to worship freely 6 inch heels and 3 piece suits may not be the best choice.
  3. Have all song lyrics and bible passages readily available on handouts or on the projection screen.
  4. Eliminate traditions that aren’t easily understood.
  5. Explain the why behind even the most routine things. I once had a couple ask me what was going on during communion. What seems routine to some is brand new to others.
  6. Give them what they came for. No one comes to church for the first time on a whim. They need the love of Christ in their life. Show them the way!

Dusty Smith is a youth ministry veteran of 12 years. For the past 5 years he has been serving in a mid-sized church in Marshall TX. He is married to Kristy and they have 3 kids. Born on Super Bowl Sunday 1980 Dusty is a life-long Steeler fan!