Are you creative? The fact that you are involved in ministry tells me you are. Maybe you are a creative speaker, a curriculum developer or a worship leader. No matter what role you play there are times you have to get creative. The problem is sometimes we get stuck in our creative process. So what do we do, we try to find a way to get out of that rut. You might try exercising while you think, perhaps it is writing until an idea starts to flow.

In my church I am the go to guy when it comes to youth ministry, its just me and our volunteers. Because of this it means that I have to do everything my volunteers can’t help me with which means using a lot of my creative brain. The problem is lately I have been stuck in a bit of a creative rut so I decided to try to break out of it.

I have tried a lot of different techniques; from writing with the wrong hand to running while thinking through problems; with not much to help this time. So I decided to go out of what I have read and just do what felt natural. I started by getting some good tunes going and pushing aside my laptop. (Typically when I plan I use a laptop and a whiteboard). I grabbed a pad of paper, a calendar, a sharpie and results from a recent parent questionnaire I sent out. I pushed my chair to the side and started to get moving. (Throwing a ball against the wall and pacing back and forth).

Suddenly it started to happen; questions and ideas began to flow and I started writing anything that came to mind.:

  • What are we doing right?
  • What good things can we expand on?
  • Are there one or more sacred cows that need to be put to rest this year?
  • What would changing our format look like?
  • Who are some possible new leaders in our church?

As I started thinking about these things and my proposed calendar ideas started blowing up for programming, events, volunteer opportunities, parent seminars we could run. Every time I had an idea I wrote it down or printed off something to do with it.(I did use my laptop a little, but no Facebook or Twitter in between).

Now I have an office that looks like I am the guy from a Beautiful Mind; either that or people will think I’m crazy.

So I want to encourage you; if you are starting your new year in a rut; try something a little different that still feels natural. Chances are if you have been spending some time with God before hand and are truly seeking him, the ideas will start to flow. This is just what worked for me. Give it a try; if it works for you great; if not find something natural and go with it.

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.

rut [ruht] – noun
a narrow or predictable way of life, set of attitudes, etc; dreary or undeviating routine

There have been many days, recently, where I have found myself staring at my office walls thinking, “I wonder how many youth workers find themselves in a rut. How often does this occur (for most)? How do they avoid it? How do they get out of it?”

I imagine most of us didn’t get into youth ministry for the promise of a narrow, predictable, dreary, or undeviating experience. And, like the women’s restroom I accidentally walked into the other day, we want nothing more than to get out of this position.

What I am discovering is that sometimes the best way to get out of a rut is to revisit what got me excited about youth ministry in the first place.

Here are a few of my rut busters…

1) Get with students: As our ministry grows and we focus on forming relationships between students and leaders, unfortunately, I feel less and less connected. This is difficult. I need to pray and look for my own opportunities to connect. The other day one of my former students came to me and said, “Hey, do you think we could get together and study a book in the Bible?” I wanted to jump out of my skin! Heck, yes, I do! It gets even better. Then he said, “Oh yeah, and do you still want to come to one of my football games? I’ll get you a schedule.” Is that the Hallelujah Chorus I hear? I’m there! If only all of my students showed that kind of initiative.

2) Get with Jesus: In the first 11 verses of John 15, Jesus uses the word “remain” 11 times. I know that the best version of me is found in Him; it’s just a matter of getting there.

3) Get in community: Ever since the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, I always wanted to be a part of a great team. My best times in youth ministry are when I am sharing life with a team of people, focused and committed to a common goal. My loneliest and most monotonous times are when everything in our ministry comes from the idea bank of me.

4) Get creative: We serve such a creative God. When I accepted the call to communicate God’s love to students, I longed to reflect even a fraction of that creativity. In a rut, creativity is one of the first things to go. I need to allow myself the time and space to get creative.

What about you? What have you found to be your greatest rut busters?

Bryce Gernand is the Middle School Pastor at Jackson First Church of the Nazarene in Jackson, MI where he has served for eight years.

You may have seen a youth group that has just settled. The students know what is coming next in program, you have not done anything new in five years, there is a lot of insider talk going on and any new people that want to come to youth group find themselves left out. You have probably played the same games every four months, the lessons seem to be oddly similar week to week, and praise and worship has become stale. I have been to a couple of them and I find my heart breaking for what more their could be.

I have worked in some very different places as I have served as a paid youth worker. Sometimes the community of youth workers did amazing ministry that inspired me to go far and above what I thought was good enough for youth ministry. Other times, I have served in an area where the youth workers did just enough to look good and get their pay check. The organization I am working with now, Club Beyond, does not settle for good enough.

We do youth ministry in chapels on military bases which means we have high expectations for being great in ministry. Traditions can be a great thing, but if not navigated well, you can fall into a youth ministry rut.

So is your youth ministry settling for good enough? Take this quick survey:

  1. What is the state of the spiritual formation of your students?
  2. Has your youth group format changed at all in three months?
  3. Do your students ask the tough questions and do you address those questions at some point?
  4. Are you excited the day of your meeting or think more about what is going to happen afterwards?
  5. Have your teenagers, volunteers, parents, and yourself been challenged at all in the last four meetings?

These might not be fun questions to answer, but for your students to thrive at youth group, you need to provide a ministry that is thriving too.

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

Life Outside the Church

Josh Griffin —  January 5, 2012 — 1 Comment

We eat, sleep and drink youth ministry.

Every once in a while I (Kurt) will have somebody say to me something like, “Youth ministry is my life…I don’t know what I’d do without it!” To which I want to reply something like, “Gosh…I am so sorry to hear that!”

It makes sense that so many of us feel like our entire lives revolve around our role as a youth worker. Think about it: We love what we do, we are convinced in its importance, teenagers are high maintenance, parents are high maintenance, and church elders are high maintenance! We are typically under a ton of pressure for numerical and spiritual growth in our ministry, and many of us are so insecure we have somehow managed to find much of our identity and sense of value in our roles as youth workers. If you recognize yourself in any of what I just wrote, don’t be too hard on yourself…you are in good company!

For these very reasons, it is vital that you determine to have some sort of a life outside the church! Not sure what we mean? Here are a few suggestions:

Make friends outside the Christian bubble
As much as we need, and love, the connections with fellow believers, be sure you aren’t living in a weird little Christian bubble. It’s shocking that despite all the “missional youth ministry” language that is so popular, so few youth workers truly live a missional life. The reality is the longer you are a follower of Jesus, the fewer and fewer non-believing friends you tend to have, and the less and less time you tend to spend with them. Your circle, instead of increasing and becoming more inclusive, has a natural tendency to decrease and become less inclusive.

Enjoy your hobby
Spend some time enjoying what you enjoy. In the hectic pace of ministry you can lose sight of just “checking out” and having fun. For me (Josh) it is all about Call of Duty or trying not to accidentally crash my Air Hog into the community pool. For me (Kurt) it is all about dirt bikes or reading a good book. Find something you enjoy and do it. We encourage every youth worker to take their day off seriously — don’t sit at home working on that talk that needs finishing. Relax, refresh and re-energize by doing the things you love to do!

Take some extended time off
Building a life outside the church isn’t an easy task — especially if you are in a pretty deep rut. We’ve learned that a single day here and there usually won’t break the habits so many of us find ourselves in. If you have the freedom to do so, consider taking some extended time away from the church. Take back-to-back vacation weeks, escape for a 48 hour silent retreat, Call an old friend from high school and schedule a fishing trip or scrap-booking weekend (that one was Josh’s idea).

Do you eat sleep and drink youth ministry, too? Take a break today!

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.