Investing into the relationships that you have with your local high schools can be a total game changer for your ministry. To continue building our relationships, we are sending Christmas gifts to some of our local high schools. While we would love to give a gift to each member of the faculty, our budget only allows us to give a couple per school. This year, we decided to send gifts to the principals (because they run the school) and the ASB directors (because they put on the campus events).

To each person, we’re sending:

  • A Starbucks Card
  • Card with our Christmas service times on it
  • Handwritten note (communicating the three points listed below)
  • Contact information

Our gift isn’t extravagant, but I believe that the Lord can use it in huge ways. My prayer is that the recipient will know three things from getting our gift. I pray that they know:

We are thankful. I want them to know that our church is deeply thankful for what they do. I want to celebrate their passion for seeing students grow and develop. We know how hard it can be to work with high schoolers and how rarely words of appreciation are heard, so I want them to stay encouraged and know that we see what they do.

We are here. I want our schools to know that our church is here to serve in any way that we can. If they have a wall that needs to be painted, we want to paint it. If they are putting on a canned food drive, we want to promote it. If something happens to a student, staff member, or the school as a whole, we want to pray for them.

We care. I want them to know that we love their school and that we love them as an individual. This is huge for those that aren’t Christians. To them, our ministry isn’t representing just our church, but the Church as a whole. Every letter, phone call, service project, and cookie plate is a chance to reflect Christ’s love. Investing in these relationships can mean investing in incredible evangelism opportunities.

What is your ministry doing for your schools this Christmas?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

One of the things that the Lord has really put on my heart recently is encouragement. So far, I have realized two things about encouragement: 1) Encouragement is powerful – with just a few words, we are able to affirm, refuel, and inspire others, and 2) encouragement is a gift.  I am blown away by the fact that we have the ability to use our mouths to build each other up.  We can be used by the Lord to communicate His love to His children!  Crazy!

When we encourage others, we are glorifying the Lord.  We are appreciating the unique ways that He has gifted His creation.  We are celebrating the fact that He uses sinners to do incredible things for His Kingdom.  Because encouragement is so important, we need to make sure that we are practicing it in our lives!  In order to make the most with this gift, we should keep a few things in mind:

  • Be specific.  If you have an incredible small group leader in your ministry, don’t just say, “You’re doing a great job.”  Let them know why they are doing a great job.  Talk to them about the gifts you have seen them use.  Talk to them about the impact they are making in their students’ lives.
  • Be authentic.  Don’t say anything you don’t mean!  Giving out insincere encouragement will quickly make your words useless.  Empty words are a waste of the incredible gift that the Lord has given us and can even be damaging to someone’s growth.
  • Be thankful. A great way to encourage others is to thank them.  Celebrate the awesome ways that the Lord has used them.  Make sure they know how much of a blessing they have been in your life and ministry.
  • Be observant.  Capitalize on unique opportunities for encouragement.  Notice the moment when a student steps outside of their comfort zone on a serving trip.  Take the time to write letters of affirmation to your graduating seniors.  This also means that you are making sure you see those that don’t often get praise, the unsung heroes.

Spend time in prayer about this.  Pray for the ability to look at others in the same way that Jesus looks at them.

I challenge you to spend some time thinking about the person in your life that needs encouragement.  Go out of your way this week to write them a letter or pull them aside for an intentional conversation.

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

Weekend Teaching Series: Thankfulness (Thanksgiving 1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Fix our eyes on Jesus – and be thankful for everything.
Service Length: 62 minutes

Message: this weekend I thought it might be fun to change up the format and let you SEE part of the weekend service instead of just hearing about it. Here are two clips of Jessica teaching over Thanksgiving weekend in HSM:

Fix your eyes on something solid… like God! from HSM on Vimeo.

Stop the winky faces!!! from HSM on Vimeo.

Favorite Moment: Jessica is a great speaker – she doesn’t get to speak too often in HSM and that needs to change!

Up next: STORIES (1-off)

My wife just pulled out the Griffin family Thanksgiving table cloth – each year we grab Sharpies and write our prayers and thanksgivings on the gravy-stained memory masterpiece. I can’t wait to see what the kids write down over the years and how it will grow up with them. My wife is crying right now at the table reflecting on the past 12 months. Priceless. Steal this idea now.


The guys over at Youth Ministry 360 have offered up a FREE Thanksgiving lesson for youth groups to use – we might be adapting it and using it as part of our Thanksgiving weekend as well. Thought you should know about it (and the other great stuff they’ve got over there) so there you go. Now … GO DOWNLOAD IT ALREADY!


The guys over at YouthMinistry360 shot me a note to let you know about a Thanksgiving lesson/Powerpoint you might want to grab totally free from their site this week. I checked it out – looks like a nice freebie you should grab ad adapt/edit to your setting or use as is. Might be a nice change of pace for your groups to give them a topic-specific lesson the week before the holiday. Enjoy!