I like it when people pick up the tab for my food.

A guy named Doug approached me years ago when I transitioned into a church as its youth pastor. He’d been a faithful student ministry volunteer and wanted to start a friendship with me. We connected at a nice restaurant where we swapped stories and yapped about youth work.

We eventually got onto the topic of missions, and I learned that Doug had a heart for Alaska. He’d traveled there earlier that summer so he and his team could share Jesus with the locals and help villages prepare for the winter months. He wanted to take another trip there, this time rallying all our students to join in.

The only problem was I hadn’t been to Alaska and didn’t have any attachment to it. Doug could’ve been talking about Russia or China and my reaction would have been the same for the very same reason. I wasn’t invested into a process that gave me that vision.

Intentionality, if you will.

I awkwardly shared this with him, not to shoot him down but to ask how we could get kids to care about areas of the world beyond their own. It occurred to me (perhaps for the first time) that I’d never done this in previous churches and much of the enthusiasm for mission trips or certain areas of the world came from me. Students may have had good experiences once they jumped in, but it really required me asking them to get passionate about what I was passionate about.

Using Acts 1:8 as a model, we wondered, “What does Christ’s mission to reach ‘Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ represent to us?” We brainstormed a four-step strategy to warm the hearts of students toward doing more than events and trips but progressively thinking like a missionary. Think about how this plays out for your ministry:

  • MissionsOne-time local opportunities: How can you help students have a no-strings-attached experience in blessing others locally? Maybe it’s using a youth group night to do yard work for homes near your building, or perhaps it’s a Big Day of Serving event you bring to town. How could you give them their first taste of the joy of serving?
  • Area partnerships: Who in your area could you create a relational commitment with? For example, if you have a high number of teen pregnancies in your area should you partner with a Christian crisis pregnancy center? What about identifying an area or need close by for a Week of Hope project?
  • Drivable distances: Where could you take a road trip to help teens experience different cultures within your culture, so it still feels like what they know yet presents a different demographic or perspective? Is there a before-and-after story they can join into, such as a Group Workcamp?
  • Extended opportunities: What parts of the world should you care about and send teams to? Is there a ministry students could keep track of and hear regular updates on how their investment is paying off? For us, it was Alaska. For you, it may be something through LifeTree Adventures.

A process like this gives kids a taste of evangelism and serving at one level before they jump into the next. An obvious benefit is they can take steps forward as they’re comfortable. A hidden benefit is they don’t just go on a trip “somewhere else” without having a foundation of engagement where they live.

Intentionality, if you will.

Is this the one thing that’s missing in your approach to missions? Might some type of strategy like this or something else give you the forethought needed for the future to helps kids think about sharing Jesus today? I’d love to interact with you on this, so toss in your thoughts and let’s figure this out together.

Thank you for loving students!

– Tony

Teenagers generally don’t voluntarily get up early on Saturday mornings.


The group at Big Day last year in Akron!

As a Community Director for The Big Day of Serving, I’ve watched hundreds of students defy that trend. One year I even watched as the early birds created a red carpet experience for their peers who arrived later, cheering and high-fiving them as they came in.

That may sound like a commercial, but I’d like to ask you a question, tell you a story, and then leave you hanging. It begins with the Cross itself, for if you stare at it long enough you’ll eventually realize it has a vertical and a horizontal component.

Here’s the question: How are you doing at making sure the symbolism of this is represented in your youth ministry?

  • Vertical: Maybe you’re the kind of youth group where the upward component of Christianity is top-notch. Your worship services inspire hot tears of brokenness, and the way you get students into the Bible gets the Bible into students. Jesus Christ is lifted up, and the Holy Spirit is embraced.
  • Horizontal: Perhaps you’re all about relationships, social justice, and changing culture. You’re up on the latest trends and have plenty of on-ramps for teenagers of all spiritual backgrounds to jump in and get loved on. When unchurched people hear of you, even they are inspired by the great work they know you’re doing locally and globally.

One of the reasons I got plugged into The Big Day of Serving a few years ago is that it’s the perfect mash-up of these values. On one hand, it involves serving residents, transforming a community, and coming alongside of city projects that couldn’t get done without a volunteer workforce. On the other hand, it’s more than just a day of good deeds, because it’s anchored in the Christian faith.

And yeah… teenagers lead the charge. Who doesn’t want to help them make a difference?

That brings me to the story:

Our church recently took part in a city event as a food vendor. At one point, I watched as an older woman spoke some intentional words into our students who were taking food orders. They were both noticeably moved by whatever she said.

I eventually learned she was a resident we’d served during a Big Day of Serving event. Even months later, her memory of the students’ faces was so thick that she could pick them out of a crowded event and thank them.

I’d wager that’s something those teenagers won’t soon forget, either.

I could tell you plenty of other stories, too. One year a blind teenager came with his youth group to work on the porch of an old man who couldn’t walk around without his oxygen tank. Can you imagine the humbling vibe at that work-site?

Even my own son experienced his first Big Day of Serving last year. A tradesman taught him and his peers how to assemble wooden park benches. They beamed with healthy pride after making a dozen of them that day.

Now imagine that you and your students are a part of it all.

I told you I’d leave you hanging at the end of this, and I mean it. We’re doing something from the ground up here that is anchored to the vertical and horizontal beauty of the Cross. I won’t sell you on it. It’s compelling on its own.

So let me leave you hanging… Figure out how God wants you making the most of those dual components in your ministry. If it means serving in some other way, I’m a fan. If God wants you at the next Big Day, I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with you at the Akron, Ohio, worksite on the first Saturday in October (If you can’t make it, check out the other great spots all over the country this fall and next spring).

Whatever you do, do it all in the name of Jesus Christ. God loves accomplishing something in teenagers’ souls as they accomplish something with their hands.

Thank you for loving students!

– Tony

Youth Leaders, inspire your students to be part of something amazing…

This spring, your students can serve people in need at the Big Day of Serving….a nationwide tour of “day of service” events created just for students. Christian teens in local communities unite to serve and transform neighborhoods in need. You’re receiving this email because there’s an event in a town near you.

Bring your students and watch them discover the joy of serving in their own community. They’ll paint, tackle minor home repairs, clean city blocks and parks, landscape, and more. Expect a high-energy, Jesus-centered event where your students discover their actions truly can make a difference in the world.

BDOS 4c Logo

Sign up today for an event near you!

Check out all the Big Day of Serving Locations here.

We received this email in our office a couple weeks after one of our one-day service events, The Big Day of Serving, in St. Louis, MO.  This is what you, you crazy youth workers, do all the time.  You share your heart and passion and serve those in need in ways that are above and beyond what anyone could realistically expect or imagine.

Just to let you know.    The lady we did work for had not had a refrigerator for 6 months.   When we got back to our church the next day 150 miles away…….we announced it in church and I had my youth all give a talk about what we did and what they thought.     Someone donated a almost new frig and we will be taking it to her….God is Good….thanks, for the opportunity to serve…

 Deana – Lake Wappapello, MO 

God is so good.  He calls us to serve.  And youth workers and youth ministries and churches do.  Over and over again.

Thanks for all you do serving people with needs near and far.  God bless!

The following interview with JoAnn Pleasants and Geoff Frahm focuses on the feasibility of an individual to bring transformational change on a local community.  Can one person really make a difference?

Geoff Frahm is National Team Leader for The Big Day of Serving.  He works with individuals in communities all across the country to help them organize a single-day service event for 500 – 1,000 people.  Geoff has been organizing mission opportunities for over 10 years dating back to when he traveled the country for several summers during college leading mission trips.

JoAnn Pleasants is a long time children’s and youth pastor with nearly 15 years experience. Her passion to push her church’s ministry outside of the walls of the building called her to action. Over the past two years she has led a community team in Frederick, MD to organize The Big Day of Serving event that brought over 900 youth into the city of Frederick to impact the community. Additionally, she directs a new program called 4YOUth that steps out of the church to engage youth in an after-school environment.

Geoff: What did you find to be the needs in your community?
JoAnn:  In order to make the most profound impact on a specific neighborhood (or neighborhoods), we focused in our downtown area for our Big Day of Serving.  We found two city organizations truly needing our help.  Our Parks & Recreation Department was in need of landscaping help all throughout the downtown Frederick area mainly due to budget cuts. The necessary supplies were available through the city but the staff had been reduced and the work could not be completed.  Another department in need of our help was the Housing Authority, especially with government funded housing communities.  There was a great opportunity to share God’s grace with many families and adults of all ages.  That was truly a need and we all were blessed to be present in their lives on that day.

Geoff:  It has been said that this generation of young people are “wired” to serve. Why do you think that is? Why is there a need for a national movement organizing youth service events?
JoAnn: I’ve been working in youth ministry for the last several years and I believe youth genuinely want to serve. They want to make an impact and help others… and “days of service” give them an opportunity to do so. They see needs, hear about needs, and read about the needs of others and they want to make a difference, but they don’t know how. This current group of teenagers cares an awful lot…and they certainly have the energy to make a difference. Additionally, I think the more youth you have gathered at an event, that energy is amplified and it becomes more fun for them to make a difference…perhaps it’s the power of numbers.

There is definitely a need for a national movement to organize youth service events…especially through the church and youth ministry. In organizing this event I learned that our city and other non-profit organizations are looking to churches to help those in need because they cannot accomplish all that should be or needs to be done. Whatever the reasons that people and our communities are in need, the reality is we can help. A personal reason for me to be involved in a national service day like The Big Day of service is to help empower youth – in my experience they can accomplish anything and everything! They just need to be given the opportunity, encouragement, and guidance when needed. A national movement makes them feel a part of a bigger whole and amplifies their energy towards service, and their productivity towards change!

Geoff: What advice would you give to someone who sees the need in their community and wants to help?  How did you find the partnership with The Big Day of Serving helped you to impact your community?
JoAnn: I would say “Go for it!” Take some time to really think about the needs in your community. Talk to people in your church, your neighborhood or some close friends and colleagues to see if they feel the same as you about needs in your community and wanting to make a difference…and then talk to the youth in your church. If you engage them in the planning and have them all alongside of you, that will make a difference.  Plus, you won’t be alone in the effort. You need a good team working with you – helping to plan the event.  With a great team it’s not the mountain it starts out to be!

I was excited to partner with The Big Day of Serving for several reasons. First, they are well known and have such a wonderful reputation for organizing excellent mission and service opportunities. I also support the goal and vision they have for The Big Day of Serving. I am honored that they trusted and had faith in me to lead an event in our community. Without them we would not have brought together over 900 participants in Frederick! Plus, not only do they know how to put together a successful event, they have a team of individuals always willing to help & support you with your community event. They are truly committed to their mission to unite youth, transform communities in need, and to just share God’s grace!

To find out more about how you can mobilize youth to transform communities across the nation – go to www.thebigdayofserving.com. You may also contact Geoff at gfrahm@thebigdayofserving.com or by calling (800) 385-4545 ext. 4256.

Our friend Doug Fields had a good post this past weekend that connected service and student leadership. Even better, his post drew that connection with The Big Day of Serving. Thanks Doug!

Serve first… lead second. Give kids an opportunity to serve!


We’re very excited about our newest ministry – The Big Day of Serving. The Big Day of Serving is a one-day service event designed to be easy for a youth leader to get their youth group involved in service. The goal of Bid Day is to transform a neighborhood in a single day. It’s only $29 per person and includes lunch, a t-shirt, an opening Kick-Off Rally, all major materials and supplies for projects, devotional content during the day, and Block Party to end the afternoon.

Check out the 2012 Spring Locations:

April 21: St. Louis, MO | Medina, OH

April 28: Denver, CO | West Palm Beach, FL | Lynchburg, VA

May 5: Chicago, IL | Minneapolis, MN | Manassas, VA | Dubuque, IA

May 12: Nashville, TN

May 19: Nashua, NH

This is a quick, easy, simple meeting you can use anytime you want to get your group ready for a service event. Maybe you’re planning a day serving your community this Spring. Or maybe you’re beginning a new service aspect to your entire youth ministry. This is a very direct way to get your students thinking about service. We use this meeting with all The Big Day of Serving churches that chose to serve at a Big Day event

Ready, Set… Go! Meeting