We used to do our weekend teaching series in our youth ministry back-to-back, but recently we’ve been doing more 1-offs in-between series. Is there a strategy, you ask? Kinda-sorta … here are some current thoughts, chime in with yours in the comments, too!

1-Hit-Wonders between teaching series…

… gives you extra time to gear up for what’s next.
I like the space between series because it gives us a chance to breathe. We get a little bit of extra time to work with volunteers on a new stage design, get the word out for an extra week, and let’s everyone let down just a bit. Not that the 1-off’s are throw away by any means, but they are certainly less effort than a series kickoff or finale for sure.

… lets the primary communicator take a weekend off.
Taking a break between series also gives you a chance to take a break. You know that I totally believe in the power of different voices, so why not use the in-between weeks as a way to bring up other communicators. Plus, you need the break for sure.

… allows you to hit topics that aren’t big enough for a whole series.
Building in some 1-hit-wonders to your teaching calendar is a good idea because there are a ton of topics you want/need to cover from God’s Word that simply don’t warrant an entire series. When you work out the big arcs of where you’ll be teaching in the next season, build in some other opportunities to address issues that can be tackled in a week, too.

… it provides an opportunity for you to address current issues/problem areas.
When a current event hits the scene and fits a topic you want to cover, you’ve got a spot for that. When a crisis hits your youth group, you’ve got room to address it. When you see a weakness or blind spot in your ministry, you can jump right on it. Having some “off” weeks will give you a chance to plan for more Spirit-led surprise weekends.


I Need to Work Less

 —  November 20, 2009 — 12 Comments

I love work! I really do … I’m called to youth ministry, called to this church, and stinkin’ love what I do. But … I’ve had some great (and sometimes difficult) conversations with influential people in my life recently, and am making some adjustments to my weekly schedule to make room for What Matters Most. Here are a few of the adjustments:

  • No laptop at home, very few exceptions
  • No home computer/email until kids are in bed
  • Drop off the kids at school every morning
  • Arrive 1/2 hour early to the office for solo spiritual time
  • Home by 5:15pm during a normal weekday
  • Lunch with the family one weekday a week
  • Take Thursday mornings off until noon
  • Family dinners 4x a week
  • Workout 3x a week
  • Turning phone off Sunday afternoons
  • Monday day off still remains sacred
  • Pick up kids one day a week and leave early from the office
  • Bring kids to the office for an hour then take them to small groups
  • Better communication between home/school calendar
  • Reducing the amount of “clutter” activities on the calendar

Do you need to work less?


Here’s a sneak preview of the new fall calendar from Simply Youth Ministry. Check it out!


Enjoyed this article about making time for yourself and for your family in the down time of summer. With a full summer calendar, that might not be as easy as you hope, and Mike gives you some tips on where to find space in this season. Here’s a clip:

2. Take vacation before/after the busiest time of the summer.
With so few weeks to get everything done during the summer, it’s tempting to neglect taking vacation. Why would any youth worker take an entire week away from the students when this is prime time to minister? Because that youth worker knows the impact of the rest of the summer depends on it. Obviously I’m not suggesting you randomly (foolishly) pick any week during the summer to take vacation. There are certain weeks that will be better than others. You can’t take vacation during the week you’re helping with VBS or camp. And it might not be wise to take vacation the week before a mission trip or week-long conference.
Try taking vacation a few weeks before a big trip, that way you still have time to take care of any final details. Or if the first part of the summer is event heavy, wait to take your vacation after its all done. This will give you a chance to relax without any need to think about an upcoming event. Whether you take your vacation before or after a busy season doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you take vacation.


Talking to some other youth workers recently and a thought struck me about the recent trend in our students toward social issues. Just mention Africa and our students are riveted. We did a series called Love in Action this past Fall where we didn’t talk about love, we did it – and had several weeks of record attendance. Missions trips are getting solid buzz and even local service opportunities are doing well in our setting.

Is there a learning in there for the future? I think that students are still looking for a youth ministry with activities … but also with action.

Events and Activities - Now, it seems that programs (activities) have gotten a bad name lately. But I would say programs definitely have their place as one of many vehicles and venues to attract community students and connect the committed. However, we have to be bigger than babysitting, more than dodgeball. Hmmm … that would make a good blog name.

Discipleship, Action and Service - Beyond the front door there has to be substance. Spiritual depth is important and we should help students develop disciplines and habits that build a foundation for life. But we also need to provide opportunities to serve and be sent out. I’m taking a good look at our tentative Fall calendar this week and making sure that we’re balanced with activities and action.

So that’s what I’m seeing – what do you think?


One of our summer interns is working toward his bachelor’s degree in journalism, so I got excited about a project that has been a part of HSM off and on in its history: a parent newsletter. In my 5-year plan, it is unfortunate this has to come so late in the game. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and we need to refine our discipleship process and follow-up plans before we stretch outselves to thin. But what if someone could own it for the summer, and we see where it goes from there? It sure beats 2011, when I think we’ll actually have the horsepower and volunteer involvement to pull it off right.

Now we’re good about printing calendars and planning events, but communicating beyond that to parents? Not so much. Keeping them in the loop about teaching series? Not really. Arming them with discussion questions and support for discipleship at home? Nope. But that’s about to change!

So it looks like we’re going to do a summer parent newsletter – just 3 issues, actually. PDF via email, and printed copies spread in key places at the church. We’ll use The Parent Link (youth edition) as a basic foundation, then run with it. Here’s part of the writeup from his proposal:

The newsletter would be a simple yet effective medium for keeping in touch with the parents in our ministry. It would give them something tangible to bring them up to speed with HSM’s events and learn about upcoming activities available for their high school students.

Because this is a monthly newsletter, it would allow us to go into more detail than usual about the special activities that occur on a month-by-month basis. In addition to previewing upcoming events, the newsletter would reflect on activities that took place in the past month, with photographs and accounts and stories from students. This would add a personal touch to the newsletter, bringing the experiences of HSM students to life in print.


Today a couple of us snuck away for a series of fall planning meetings in our High School Ministry (HSM). We used a similar process to the one back in the Spring (read 5 Steps to Calendar on Purpose here) with a few other additional thoughts based on where we’re at this year.

The biggest was that a reminder that our primary focus on evangelism isn’t a program at all – it is friendship evangelism – where students invite their friends to an appropriate program. With that centrally in mind, the focus is not on events, but on creating a compelling weekend front door week after week.

So events, while still part of the process to reach our community students, are secondary and considered supplemental to the vision of the weekend services. With that in mind, we are putting extra emphasis on our weekly services and planning a few less threshold events in the Fall. A little less plate spinning sounds welcome to me.

Going to be a great fall in HSM!


Youth ministry myth: A good youth minister is judged on how many plates he or she can keep spinning at once.

We all fall into the trap of plate spinning – some of us are even pushed into it by well-meaning mentors and supervisors. We think that to be a successful ministry, you have to “one up” the church down the street. Your program has to be bigger and better than last week. The summer calendar can’t skip a beat. You can never coast. Bigger, better, more, more, more!

The problem is, you can’t keep all of the plates spinning. It’s impossible, but we’ll keep trying until we burn out. I’ve found myself sitting with 12 broken plates at my feet and I’m still trying to spin what’s left in hanging the air. We run from one plate that is about to crash to another. From an all-nighter to an early morning discipleship class all while trying to keep a handle on our kids and marriage.

I remember a skit at a YS convention a few years back that had an expect plate-spinner on stage. Even he couldn’t do it, and neither can we. Sticks with me to this day.

Youth ministry fact: An effective discipleship process is way more important than spinning plates.