These then are the tools of the spiritual craft.  When we have used them without ceasing, day and night…our wages will be what the Lord has promised.”

-The Rule of St. Benedict

As I leave for work every morning I typically stop by the local gas station for my morning fuel; a 32oz. Coke and a sausage and egg croissant. It’s the breakfast of champions.  I live in a small rural community and like to drive through downtown on my way to work to see my small community waking up and coming to life.  There’s something very Rockwellian about it.

imagesCAY3QKKHOn the 30-minute drive, I pass through several smaller and larger towns and I always see three specific groups of people gathering together for prayer. They were there this morning and will likely be there again tomorrow morning.  These three groups are all distinct but have much in common; they are disciplined to start their day prostrate before the Lord.

The first group I see are gathered at the local community center, Common Ground, an ecumenical gathering place for people of various denominations.  There is a small group of the faithful that start their morning gathering together to read through a chapter of the bible and pray.  I see them through the window with the heads bowed down deep in prayer and bibles open. They look sincere and devoted.

The second group I see is in a neighboring town. Morning Mass is letting out about the time I’m passing through.  Mothers and their children are in abundance as they leave with to start their day.  The moms are talking with each other while trying to keep the kids from wandering out into the street and into oncoming traffic.

As I arrive in the city, I pass a larger mega-church and see the third group of people getting into their cars and preparing to leave as well.  I know nothing about this group of people other than the fact that they just finished some kind of corporate experience centered on a Jew from Nazareth.womenpraying

It dawns on me that each group is focused on the same ancient scriptures and are connected together in prayer to the same God, and suddenly, I feel overwhelmed.  I’m overwhelmed with the idea that there are likely many more groups like this around the world, that I am part of something much larger and more potent than my measly prayer life. It is so good for me to be reminded of this. Doubt tries to convince me that I am alone on this and that no one else really takes this seriously. 

It is good for my soul to be reminded that we are all connected through the Christ that my faith does not exist in isolation. It is the hope he offers, the healing, and the promise of restoration that is in Him that we globally order our lives around.

May you be aware of your blessed connectedness to all the Saints everywhere and know that you are not alone…


Coordinator of The Shelter at Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014 (Don’t forget! Tomorrow, Jan. 15, is the last day for advanced registration…sign up now!)


I am increasingly convinced that one of the most powerful things a church can do in their area is live in complete unity with other churches.  

We have all experienced moments where churches were anything but unified. Times when you instantly understand that we have somehow missed the point. I’ve also seen communities where churches do a decent job of being at peace with one another. As in, you do your thing and we’ll do our thing and as long as your thing doesn’t mess with our thing, then its all good. That is nice and all, but I do believe that it is possible to do more than just get along. I do believe it is possible to live in unity; joined together as one.

Here are four things I think will help you fight for unity among churches in your area.

Pray - Jesus prayed, in John 17:20-23, that the disciples would experience complete unity, so that the world would know the truth about God’s love for them. We should pray for the same thing. Pray that God would break down the walls of territorialism amongst churches in your area. God, remind us that we are on the same team.

Celebrate the Wins - Often, it is easy to celebrate the success of a Church, or a Student Ministry, on the other side of the country, but what about the one across the street or down the block?

One thing that we do in our area is host Quarterly “All-Staff” Meetings. It is basically a collective staff meeting. Each time a different church will host as we come together for prayer, free breakfast (provided by the host church, or a local Chick-fil-A), worship, and teaching from the hosting Senior Pastor. It is absolutely beautiful. We celebrate everything that God is doing in our churches, in our region, and we remind ourselves that we are in it together as we attempt to minister to the 1.3 millionlost people in our County.

Youth Ministry “Network” meetings are another invaluable thing you can do in your area. Simply bring local Student Pastors together regularly for prayer. Consider hosting community-wide events together.

Ask the Hard Questions - How many students and/or families do you have that come to visit from other churches? What do you say when they tell you where they are from? Do you know the pastor’s name? Do you know what is going on there? Can you encourage them, “Man, we love your church. Do you know Pastor Dave? He is a great friend of mine. Loved hearing about your Mission Trip last summer, were you a part of that?” As much as it depends on you, encourage students and families to bloom where they are planted.

Ask yourself: Is our ministry constantly welcoming Christians that we’ve traded with the place down the street, or are we consistently welcoming the lost? If you’re doing a lot of trading, what you have to realize is that, at some point, for your ministry to “succeed” the one down the street has to fail. That’s not right, and something has to change.

Guard Your Tongue - The extent to which we are prone to tear down brothers and sisters in Christ never ceases to amazes me. It happens in casual conversation, it happens on blogs, it happens in 140 characters or less… Very simply, there is no room in the Kingdom of God to bash other believers. Lovingly correct them? Yes. But that is done directly and privately before anything else.

I just wonder if it is time for people to know churches less by what divides us and more by what unites us. If the goal is to grow in the image and likeness of Jesus, and point others towards a saving knowledge of Him, then I’m in.

May our churches be marked by a spirit of unity.

Ryan McDermott is the Director of Student Ministries at the Royal Palm Campus of Christ Fellowship Church in South Florida. Follow him @ryanmcdermott and check out the church at 

article.2013.01.16Yesterday we talked about gossip and how destructive it can be within the church culture, and devastating to those outside the church walls. So let’s fight back! The best way to stop gossip is right where it starts – with your team and with the people you influence. Here are a few things we’ve learned about how to create unity and continue the uphill battle against gossip.

People who are informed are less likely to gossip.
Oftentimes ignorance can create a breeding ground for gossip. When you keep people in the dark, sometimes their mind plays tricks on them. They read into a situation or conversation, and the lack of communication creates gaps they gladly fill with their own speculation or opinion. If you want to create a unified team, keep people in the loop! When you communicate well, you crush the early growth of gossip.

People who have great history have unity.
If you have a few key volunteers who have been with you since the beginning, you know how sweet it is to be with them, serve alongside them, and do the hard work of ministry together. You literally and figuratively have each other’s backs, and unity is your middle name. On the other hand, when you have high turnover or a collection of young, immature, or inexperienced youth workers serving with you the total opposite can happen. If you want to know the joys of a gossip-free team, work harder than ever to keep them around for a long time.

People who laugh rarely turn on each other.
We’ve noticed again and again in our years of youth ministry trench warfare that when people laugh together, they love each other more. When you are in relationship with your people – great stories, memories and inside jokes – the stronger you are together. When was the last time you spent some time just playing with your team? When was the last time you had an awards ceremony and gave out awards for everyone? Laugh together and unity quickly follows.

How have you seen unity built in your ministry?

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.

Every few weeks, I hear about youth workers who need new jobs.

  • Sometimes they leave because they want to
  • Sometimes they’re asked to leave. We call this a forced resignation.
  • Other times, they’re outright fired

When I started to learn about how devastating the effects of youth worker turnover are for the local church, I started doing some research. I discovered several themes – the easiest and most common factors that cause good youth workers lose or leave their jobs. Make sure you’re not one of them

If you want to stay in youth ministry for the long haul, don’t do these five things:

1. Mismanage budgeted money. Depending on your theology, it’s either God’s money or other people’s money. Either way, it’s not your money. You’ve been given the responsibility to be a good steward of some of your church’s resources. You might not know what you’re doing yet, but you’ll need to figure it out soon. (This link contains all kinds of good information about managing your church’s money better.)

2. Fight with your Senior Pastor – especially publicly. One problem with working in the Church is that many of your friends will come from the congregation. We all like to vent about our bosses, but if you’re venting to a fellow pew-sitter, you’re in the wrong. If you’re in the business of creating division in the Church, you won’t be a staff member for very long.

3. Show up late for your own events. Parents have their own jobs with their own responsibilities. They know exactly what would happen to them if they slept through their alarm more than once. You can expect the same thing to happen to you.

4. Work way too hard and never, ever take a break. Your own soul care ought to be a top priority. When you’re worn down and hurting, you’ll be less effective as a youth worker. Less effective youth workers frequently become baristas. Besides that, a lack of soul care is the easiest way to make sure you run yourself out of youth ministry. The church doesn’t have to fire you if you get exhausted and quit.

5. Refuse to participate in the larger life of the congregation. You’ll appear much more dispensable if the rest of the congregation never sees you – or your youth group.

Find ways for you and your students to become a crucial part of everything the congregation does. Crucial people are much more difficult to fire.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

As some of you know, this Wednesday was the annual event, See You at the Pole. SYATP (See You at the Pole) is a national day of prayer, where students come to school early to pray and worship together at their flagpole. Our ministry made a huge push for it this year and it turned out to be a huge win! I would promote SYATP to any youth group and here are a few reasons why:

-Unification. This event is geared towards uniting the Body of Christ at a school. One of the responsibilities of the student leader in charge of SYATP is to promote this event to all of the Christian clubs and organizations at the school. I think that when there are more than one Christian club at a school, there can be a rivalry that develops, but events like these, if done right, shatters this and helps them realize that they both have the same goal, to be a light and serve at their school. It is also fun to go and meet and build relationships with students and youth pastors from the area… you can never have too many friends!

-Long Term Results. While SYATP is a totally awesome program, it is only once a year. What we wanted to see happen was a fire sparked in the campus’ heart. We wanted this to inspire the Body at their school to love and serve their school in a way that they haven’t before. What was cool was seeing students posting their ideas on how to keep things like this going. There have already been talks of a campus prayer walk at one of our schools!

-Leadership Experience. SYATP is a completely student lead activity, which I LOVE. The cool thing is that the SYATP website ( sets students up for success. It has a checklist of all of the things you need to do/think about when you are planning the event at your school. One of the cool things about this event is that it is a success/fail opportunity. One key element of growing leaders is giving them the freedom to fail. As their pastor, we are willing to help if they ask, but we can’t waste these unique opportunities to build up leaders. Failure doesn’t always mean the event is a complete disaster; failure can look like weak programming, bad promotion, poor team communication, etc. We just need to be there to help them learn from their mistakes so that the experience wasn’t in vain.

I am a huge believer in See You at the Pole and I hope that it is something that you at least look into for the schools in your area! Do you have a story from a See You at the Pole event?

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.

How to Leave Well

Josh Griffin —  May 11, 2012 — 6 Comments

Leaving a church is a tough decision. You’ve already weighed, deliberated, and debated the decision for months (or perhaps very briefly and acted impulsively) and the transition plan is quickly coming together. You want to leave well…but how do you do that? It’s challenging even under the best circumstances. And even if you’re leaving under tension, there’s no reason to let students, volunteers, and friends get caught in the crossfire of an ugly departure. Here are a few ways we think you can leave well no matter the situation.

Announce it far and wide.
People need to hear it from you—so make sure when you go public you make the reach as far as possible. Not to add to the drama but to make sure that people hear it from an official channel instead of through the prayer chain, errr….grapevine. If you talk about it in church on Sunday, by Monday morning it should be on Facebook and the church Web site just so it stops confusion and slows down rumors.

Keep the transition short but sweet.
Once you know, and your leadership knows, shorter is usually better. Although we love to romanticize the idea of the handoff and peaceful transition of power, an abbreviated timeline is usually the best route. Once you announce things you’ll be perceived as “halfway in” and a lame duck, so a graceful exit is preferred. By the way, has anybody ever actually seen a “lame duck”? Just wonderin’.

Maintain unity.
We aren’t suggesting you hide the truth, but we are begging you to protect the fragile unity of God’s church. Don’t dare to think your exit is a time to grandstand for change and call for resignations. Leave in the spirit of unity and you’ll never regret it. Not everybody deserves or needs to know the “whole story.”

Really leave.
You’ve made the transition plan public, quick, and abundantly clear—now stick to it! Resist the urge to babysit the students. Fight the arrogant belief that no one will care about them when you’re gone—God loves them far more than you do and will watch over his children. Besides, you always said you were working yourself out of a job, so here’s your chance to see how you did. Don’t meddle; it isn’t your place anymore. Resist the urge to ask friends and former students how the “new guy/girl” is doing. Don’t let yourself become critical of changes he or she begins to make in your absence.

Pray for the church.
The church will go on without you. In fact, it may even thrive once you’re gone. Oftentimes staff transition allows the leadership of the church to be more focused in their vision and retool any errant plans to accomplish that vision. And while it may hurt when something you built from the ground up gets unceremoniously axed, pray that God will further his Kingdom while your Empire crumbles. Besides, if you really leave like we suggested above you won’t know they changed things!

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.

A couple weeks back at our State of HSM annual meeting I shared a few things that I believe that make a good team great. Thought I would share them with you as well!

We all share a common, unifying vision in our high school ministry – seeing students on the outside of faith meet Him face to face (evangelism) and their lives be changed forever. And for those that have trusted Christ to be connected (fellowship), grow (discipleship), serve (ministry) and honor (worship) Christ deeper now and into adulthood. The clear vision helps bring a team of like-minded and passionate people together. If someone is out of line, the vision brings them back into the unity of the common vision.

This year our team is going to unify by learning together. We’re going to go to a conference together – the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this March – come hang with us! We’re going to go back to the basics and read Doug Fields’ 1st 2 Years in Youth Ministry together and have some discussions about our experiences and how we can grow together as youth workers. Youth pastors must keep learning and moving forward.

It is so important to laugh together. I want us to play together. Have inside jokes. To dig a deep well of relationship that bond us together and make us quick to forgive and trust when hit with the unexpected.

Dependent on God/Prayer
Your walk with Jesus is critically important. This season we’re all reading the New Testament together. We’re trying to make sure our walk with Jesus is more visible and something we talk about as easily as we would Sherlock Holmes or the new Coldplay album (both of which are excellent by the way). Your walk with Jesus is person, but it is also communal. As a team we need to strive to e


This weekend we wrapped up the You Own the Weekend series in HSM – here is the video calling for unity at the end of the series, preparing us for what God would do with a student ministry TOGETHER committed to Him. Had some fun with the teaching time in this one, I think it was pretty fun.