A strong testimony using during the LAUNCH series to help encourage student to see the importance of joining and HSM Life Group this fall.


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 3 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Launching into a successful school year includes getting accountability and community by being a part of an HSM Life Group.
Service Length: 73 minutes

Understandable Message: This week was all about Life Groups. Our small group year starts in just a few weeks, and registration for the big launch ends in 14 days. This weekend was taught by Life Group volunteers (Matt and Mel – Team M&M) and they hit on the importance reasons to be in one using an acrostic (L-I-F-E-G-R-O-U-P-S) and testimonies both live and on video. If a student wasn’t in a small group, they would sure want to be at the end of the hour.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Matt did a good job of bringing humor into his talk – he made references to Justin Bieber and Batman and made comparisons to the pop stars and comic books of his day. There was a very positive environment to the weekend – you could tell the community that they were teaching on was genuine in their group and a goal for all of HSM’s Life Groups.

Music Playlist: Rise and Sing, Beautiful Things, How He Loves, Burning Ones, With Everything

Favorite Moment: The power of story is always amazing to me – when a student gets up to speak the students listen intently to what they have to say. And it totally works both live or on video. I’m also so impressed by the strength of the students who got up to share their story this week. Epic stuff.

Up Next: LAUNCH week 4

Awesome opening video made by one of our HSM volunteers (Nathan is one of the tech arts dudes for our adult services) for the Launch series this weekend. The emphasis was on community, this video went after showing that to our entry-level students.


Thought that Adam over at Life in the Middle had some good thoughts this week on how to respond after a youth group that just doesn’t go well. You wake up the day after youth group bombs (or you’re mulling it over in your mind in your bed that night) with that feeling that things just didn’t go well. Other than trying to learn from what didn’t work and trying to shake it off – what is the correct response? Here’s part of his answer, hit his site for the complete thought:

  • Let the night go - We have to realize that the night is behind us and we cannot redo it. We cannot continue to replay the night over and beat ourselves up on where we feel like we failed. The only thing we can do is let go of the night behind us and move forward.
  • Start getting ready for next week — It’s time to start getting ready for next week. It’s time to start praying, planning, and preparing for the next weeks service. Set your eyes on what’s next.


DC is on a roll this week – he just posted some great thoughts about how to have a great Fall kickoff. Hopefully something in there will stir up an idea and trigger something cool as you prepare for the launch. Here’s an excerpt, more thoughts if you head over to his place:

  • Push Momentum generators. This is a great time to push what your focus for the fall/school year will be or whatever builds momentum in your group. Our students love each other so we push Small Groups HARD the first three weeks.

  • Have all your ducks in a row. I think this is more important in high school than in middle school (we all know middle schoolers love things more when the ducks are NOT in a row, haha). In my experience some high schoolers are looking for a reason to discount the church as “not relevant to their life” or “just a knock-off of pop culture” and if there is a lack of excellence this opens that door for them…NOT TO MENTION GOD DESERVES OUR BEST! (Also note: You have to define excellence for your context, don’t judge it off of another church, it must be contextualized.)
  • Meet the minimum expectations THEN EXCEED THEM. This one sounds odd at first but most students come to our ministries with a bare minimum expectation of what could/should happen. Some minimum expectations are things like: We will read/open/hear about the Bible, Jesus’ name will probably be used, someone will pray, there might be music, someone will likely talk to us, I’ll have opportunities to spend with my friends. So we try to meet those bare minimums every week (because they’re good ones) AND THEN completely exceed them by trying to constant “redefine church/youth group”. This is especially important considering during the launch phase there are usually lots of new students. (Comment if you want me to write more on this topic).


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 2 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Launching into a successful school year includes preparing your heart and mind for how to respond in times of TEMPTATION.
Service Length: 75 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I asked Taffy to teach on temptation. I had my hands full with all four kids while my wife, Angela, is serving on a medical missions trip in Kenya. Taffy is the Student Ministries Music Director and a wonderful pastor of students. He has an infectious laugh and guides students with care and intentionality. His role is to advise, mentor and train young leaders of music ministry. He is a natural on stage and gave a wonderful message on the in and outs of temptation. This message was tag-team taught with Tom Reagan, a recent HSM graduate and summer intern, and college student at Gordon Conwell in Boston. After discussing the origin of temptation and that, it in itself, is not sin, nor is it bad, advised the students to 1) Persevere for God’s glory 2) recognize Practical temptations of life and 3) rely on the Power of God. The central verse was 1 Cor. 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We opened the service by covering the song Airplanes by B.O.B. featuring Hayley Williams and had a couple of funny videos called “Deep Thoughts”.

Music Playlist: Nothing but the Blood, Savior of the World, Same Power that Conquered the Grave, and Our God.

Favorite Moment(s): Two again this week — 1) a great student volunteer (Bree) helped do the announcements and welcome and killed it! 2) There were 3 videos in the service that were great spoofs on what Christians believe, very engaging and made a good point (Deep Thoughts from a Shallow Christian).

Up Next: LAUNCH week 3

Got a few emails and comments asking about vacation time for youth workers. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I am in the middle of taking 100 hours of vacation this month to be Mr. Mom as my wife enjoys an overseas mission trip to Africa. I’ve already posted about The Vacations We Take Each Year, and here are a few additional thoughts and ideas about vacation time:

  • VACATION TIME: We accumulate vacation time each work week at our church. Depending on how long you’ve served at the church, the faster you accumulate time off. For the typical employee you get two weeks of vacation, so roughly 1.6 hours per week worked (80 hours a year). You can “bank” up to two years of your annual amount of vacation time.
  • COMP TIME: Officially, there is no such thing as “comp time” at Saddleback. You’re expected to work 50 hours a week, and if you work more it doesn’t matter. Obviously, that makes things like camps or retreats a bit unrealistic, but such is life. As a supervisor myself, I may choose to me more lenient on my team and offer lighter schedules and be keenly aware of the temperature of my team. I don’t always get it right, but I try to be the understanding youth ministry boss that I haven’t always been privileged to have throughout my youth ministry career.
  • FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE: Forward-thinking companies like Netflix realize that in some environments work hours are messy and don’t fit into traditional banking hours. That comp time is impossible to track, and that people who don’t turn it off are better when they take longer more ambiguous stretches of time off. Interesting article in the Wall St. Journal – but don’t expect your church to understand this concept. I would make a guess that the person who is in charge of your office/work culture probably is a bit more traditional/straight-laced to take this big of a risk from the norm.
  • SPIRITUAL RETREAT DAY: Occasionally I’ll give my team a spiritual retreat day, an 8-hour day that are focused completely on personal spiritual development of their heart and to reconnect with God. We work hard, and the biggest shame of working hard would be to not work alongside with the Spirit’s leading. So no busy work or email is allowed, and everyone is asked to send a paragraph report on what God said to them. I should do this more often, if for my own heart than anything else.
  • CAMPS ARE NOT VACATION: Camps and retreats NEVER count as vacation. I read an “out of office” reply last week from a youth worker at camp and it said they were “on vacation” – don’t affirm that terrible stereotype that because you are away you are NOT on vacation. If this is present in your church culture, it is a fight worth fighting in my opinion.
  • CONFERENCE ALLOWANCE: Conferences also do not count as vacation time – our church gives me a couple days of free personal development time as well. I’ve worked in and heard of many others that wrap vacation/conferences into one to save money or because it does use vacation time. In this economy a raise is unlikely anyhow, so perhaps make the ask for a couple paid days away to grow in your expertise.
  • WHEN TO FIT IN VACATION: Late summer works best for me to take vacation time – the summer calendar starts to wain and the fall kickoff isn’t quite here yet. I like to think of it as the calm before the storm. Actually, I’m writing this post in the calm of some time away right now. Feels good. I should do this more often.
  • WHAT ABOUT YOUTH GROUP WHEN I’M AWAY: When I’m on vacation, I give the platform away to trusted voices and voices I want to develop. This block that I’m gone right now I’m having a few experienced and inexperienced voices in front of our students, I’m excited because this weekend a volunteer and his small group are teaching.

How does your church do vacation time? When was the last time you were on vacation? Any tips or tricks to share with the MTDB community?


August is here – summer programs are winding down and school is about to begin. Scratch that – for more than half the country, kids are already in classes this week! You’re heading toward the Fall kickoff of your youth ministry, and thinking about what’s next. I posted When to Buy Youth Ministry Resources last August, but thought something tangible with solid suggestions for the fall might be a good idea as well. Here are the questions I’m asking with a couple weeks to go before our official kickoff:

1. Is your youth ministry service ready to go?
Take the time to lay out the fall teaching calendar. Create or purchase a teaching series that is compelling and make it easy for your students to bring their non-believing friends. The start of the school year is one of the most opportune times for Friendship Evangelism. Then think about the atmosphere that first-time student will walk into – are a few crowd games or a cell phone poll the way to go? Is the room setup ideally for what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you have a way to contact students during the week? How can you give your youth group a jolt of fresh energy this Fall? Suggestions: 2nd Greatest Story Every Told, Heart of a Champion, Awaken Your Creativity

2. Are your small group leaders and volunteers trained?
Capitalize on the fall to get some good reading into the hands of your leaders or good material into your hands for training meetings. Suggestions: Youth Worker Training on the Go, Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry, Connect

3. What are you reading for your personal development?
You meant to read a few good books over the summer – and honestly, they’re still in the bottom of your backpack. Take them out and get cracking! If you’re looking for a good book Terrace had a good list for young influencers and Kurt’s new book The 9 Best Practices of Youth Ministry looks challenging. My favorite book this summer was Linchpin. Pick up a book for your own development. Suggestions: Tribes, Switch, Steering Through Chaos, Crazy Love, The Next Generation Leader

4. What is it time to launch?
For us we’re talking about helping hurting students, so we’re concentrating on our pastoral care program for teenagers who are at risk. You’ve got the pulse of your student ministry – what is it time to launch? Or maybe what is it time to re-launch? Maybe it is time to stop something, so this January you can breath new life into it? Suggestions: The Landing, Help! I’m a Student Leader, LeaderTreks