Kickoff for the fall, there is nothing like it.  Everyone is focused on getting plugged in, connected, signed up and registered.  The summer dreams have come to an end, school is back in session and the thought, “Here we go again.” races through your mind.

For some of us the beginning of the year stresses us out and for others it excites us.  There is so much to do, so much to get done and then BOOM! The year starts and we are off.  It’s like a marathon where the anticipation before the race is killer; however, once you get moving you settle down.

Kickoff is a season that can race by; however, it’s also a season that needs to be embraced.  On top of fun memories of moon bounces and wild games, it’s really a season when you can strengthen your foundation.  It’s a season when you need to:

Recruit New Ministers – The best time to recruit other ministers is when the program is in full swing.  That way potential volunteers can:

  1. See the program in action.
  2. Talk to actively serving ministers
  3. Ask questions they might not have known to ask if inquiring during the summer

When you recruit new ministers right after kickoff you’ll have a positive excitement that will be contagious.

Invite More Teens – It makes sense to invite someone to an event before it happens; however, your ministry isn’t an event.  While you want to build up hype and momentum before the program begins you’ll want to put more afterwards.  By continuously inviting teens to your program your creating an open enrollment feeling.  So many times we give up on a class or a program because we miss the first session.  Ministry should be treated like any relationship, where you can step in at any time.

Build Margin – Once the year begins we feel our margin slip away; however, there is no better time.  You should be letting your leaders loose, let them fail, succeed and problem solve.  As the point person you should be able to take a step back, observe and take in the experience.  As soon as the year gets going, slow down and find that pace because it’s going to be a long year.

Kickoff is not the end of summer and it isn’t just the beginning of your ministry year.  It’s a mile marker that you should utilize to grow stronger.  Look for the opportunities in every situation and continue to move forward.

What other opportunities do you see during kickoff?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

I’ve done youth group on different nights of the week throughout my years in youth ministry – thought it would be interesting to get a quick pulse on when you do “youth group” in your context. Vote in today’s poll!


See You in 7

 —  March 30, 2012 — 4 Comments

I close each youth service with the phrase “See you in 7.” It reminds kids that our ministry is here every week for whatever they need and also lets them know I’m inviting, even expecting, them to make church part of their life and routine. Yet it’s also a sometimes-painful reminder to me that another service is right around the corner, no matter how this one turned out.

Creating a compelling youth service or meeting every week can feel weighty. Just as you collapse to recover from one, you have to prepare to do it all again. My team has been discussing a new strategy to get things accomplished with such short turnaround. Our services are on Saturdays and Sundays, so you may have to adjust the days below to fit your program.

“See you in 7″ falls from my smiling mouth to my ringing ears each week. But with the right preparation and goals, it’s an achievable task.

Delegate —What tasks do you need to dole out to ensure success? For that matter, what are you even doing next week? Make sure all the projects, videos, music, humor, and handouts have an owner; then be confident that people will follow through. Ideally, list program elements on a whiteboard so a few volunteers can start moving on their assignments. For me, as the primary communicator, Tuesday is an important day to get a jump-start on message preparation, too.


Do—This is the day to really accomplish things. Shoot the video. Buy prizes. Test out games. Whatever needs to happen for the weekend, do it on Wednesday. As I write this, a student is preparing a testimony to share, a volunteer is editing video, and my sermon draft is halfway complete.

Done—Today it all comes together. The student outline is finished, slides are made, videos are selected, handouts are copied, and anything that was ordered is ready to go. By the end of Thursday, the sermon is largely done and in the hands of a few trusted friends for review.


Dream—You must make space for greatness and creativity, so force yourself to finish things early instead of succumbing to the uncontrollable chaos of last-minute details. That cushion also allows you to work ahead a bit and be intentional about relational ministry.

Originally appeared in the November/December issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

So many aspects of youth ministry leadership find themselves in direct opposition of each other. The problem is – they both can be necessary and good things. The first step is to identify the tensions of youth ministry, and then figure out how to manage them. Here are a few of them I’ve identified, feel free to add another in the comments if one comes right to mind:

Tasks vs. People
There is work to be done! And administrative work and email is part of the gig. But the tension could push you to fail people or fail at paperwork. You can’t do either one! There is a tension here, but a competent youth pastor has to fight though the tension and balance both well.

Program vs. Relationships
I love a great program – but the programs and services we offer pail in comparison to what the world offers. Yes, we need to spend time crafting and creating incredible programs and creative elements to share the timeless message of Christ. At the same time – we offer so much more than that! We LOVE people! There is another tension at stake, and neither can suffer. Get the program stuff done, even done well, and pour into people.

Crowd vs. Individual
I am a crowd person al the way, but the tension is to find time to focus on the individual. Both are critically important! I live in this tension every week, and must remember that the crowd is made up of individuals. Every moment that you spend with individuals builds your crowd, and in every crowd situation you have to focus on the individual.

One last one for now … this old post from 2008 about Workaholic vs. Passionate Worker might be a good read.

What else do you see as a tension of youth ministry?


I know that students are busy these days with extra curricular sports, music lessons, part time jobs and various other activities that lead to their perpetual business but last week it just got out of hand. A student who has been involved in our ministry for several months told me that, regrettably, she could not attend youth anymore. Her explanation for not being able to attend on Thursday nights: I have to ride my other horse! WHAT??? Other horse? I don’t have A horse let alone two. While I was not surprised that this happened, and it’s been a funny story to tell, it has caused me to think about what we can do to approach this issue.

Recently I heard Doug Fields talking about speaking to students and commented that when it comes to preaching “more isn’t better, better is better” and I think that rings true of all programming as well. If we get to see a student in our building one night a week it becomes important that we make the most of that opportunity. We have recently extended the length of our program to 2.5 hours and students show up as much as 3 hours early just to connect and spend time with leaders. We have moved away from multiple events per week to doing one major event per week and trying to do it really well. If we expect students to prioritize being at Youth, we need to prioritize making sure that when they come, we are ready for them. I would hate to be unprepared and waste an opportunity to speak into their lives if we only see them once a week.

So what can we do to deal with our busy students?

1- Don’t be discouraged! Easier said than done, but if an event is poorly attended it’s easy to be frustrated at all the work that went in to it. Just make sure you don’t take it out on the ones who showed up with your disappointed attitude but take the opportunity to give more of yourself to a smaller group.

2- Plan ahead: if its on the calendar far enough out and you promote it well or even better have a successful history with that event, students will schedule around it. Less is more with events, have fewer and make them can’t miss events and students will be there in force

3- Model it: If we are encouraging students to live lives that aren’t jammed packed with activities, we need to be the first to do it. Showing that balance is attainable gives our words more traction when we confront their fatigue and chronic activity.

4- Point them to Jesus: This is the most important thing we can show them, because we need to show students that in the midst of redeeming the world, Jesus found time to be alone, and not with people, or doing His ministry. It’s our responsibility to point our students to His example.

Not every student has two horses to ride, but I am sure you have all encountered students who have forever bouncing from one thing event to another. How are you dealing with it and encouraging students to have balance in their lives?

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. You can, too! See how right here.

If you were at the youth ministry track today at Radicalis, I promised that most everything I shared was on the blog. Here’s a quick rundown to get it quickly – and if you weren’t there some stuff from the archives that might interest you, too:


Weekend Teaching Series: 2020: The Future is Now (series finale, week 6 of 6)
Sermon in a Sentence: Each decision has a domino effect on your future. Obey God’s instructions and remember what He has done in the past to move toward success in your future.
Service Length: 74 minutes

Understandable Message: This week I focused on a selection of verses from Deuteronomy 6 – Moses challenging the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. I wanted students to realize that their future depends on the decisions to obey God’s laws today – that each decision is a chance to move toward true success or away from it. I took some time to review the 5 weeks of the series, and did my best to bring it all together for the series finale.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week we had great music and a fun opening game with the new Microsoft Kinect and Dance Central. Most students hadn’t seen it before, so it was comical and funny watching people try to dance. It was brilliant! We also played all of the individual mosaic photos during the Switchfoot song which made for a great moment, too.

Music Playlist: Solution, This is Your Life [Switchfoot cover], Our God is Love, With Everything

Favorite Moment: This was SUCH a fun weekend – the team did a great job pulling off some really creative moments in the service and it really felt like the culmination of the campaign. The best moment had to be the Domino Effect video at the end of the message. So awesome! I’ll get it posted soon for you to enjoy, too.

Up Next: Thanksgiving/Family 1-off

Weekend Teaching Series: 2020: The Future is Now (week 5 of 6)
Sermon in a Sentence: Your future legacy depends on living a life filled with God’s Spirit and a life of worship.
Service Length: 79 minutes

Understandable Message: Doug Fields spoke this weekend about students leaving a legacy – and how legacy is created when someone trusts in Christ for their life and is led by God’s Spirit every day. I loved his challenge to bring Jesus into every area of life – not just when it is time for small group or go to church. He used a couple of strong object lessons including a cutout of himself and a cutout of Mr. T to help explain the choices we make and different paths people are on. A clear plan of salvation was given and some reflective questions for students to think about this week as well.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Couple of fun elements this weekend – a great killball video promoting our after church activity happening in the next couple of weeks. Taffy also secretly videotaped a countdown video of me playing racquetball with him and a buddy and trying to hit me with every few shots. Great commentary and sillyness. We also had an over-the-top rap opener of a song our team created and performed called “In the Future What will You Discover” that tied into the theme. Fun!

Music Playlist: The Time Has Come, In the Future What Will You Discover [rap], Hosanna, Til I See You, Came to My Rescue, Burning Ones

Favorite Moment: Couple favorite moments for me this week: 1) the opening rap was so random and fun, the “flute battle” at the end of it takes the cake. Hilarious, and 2) getting to share a few words about legacy to Doug Fields and his wife was a highlight for me. Doug’s legacy is HSM/Refinery/Saddleback/me/you/youth ministry … I was honored and humbled to celebrate him this weekend at the end of the 6:30 service.

Up Next: 2020 — The Future is Now: week 6 (series finale)