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



I really enjoyed Adam’s post on youth ministry teachers – he thinks there are 4 generalized types of teachers in most youth ministry settings. As I read his ideas, I found myself a hybrid of all of them depending on experience, season of ministry and available time. I’ve posted before on the process of preparing a talk in my context, but thought this might be some value to challenge you as you prepare lessons for youth group. Here’s a clip, head there for the rest of the good stuff:

1. The artist: These people consider their teaching a craft. In their eyes, their lessons are as much art as a photographer, an architect, or a ballet dancer. They spend countless hours lost in crafting their teaching series, messages, etc. These folks look down on those who buy resources. Though, they may buy stuff occasionally for inspiration.

4. Processors: These youth workers believe that their teaching will be better when they work through the content as a team. So they draft concepts and have a team of friends/volunteers look at it. By the time a lesson is taught, it has gone through 4-5 levels of revision. These people love their process.


The new LAUNCH bumper video that one of our talented volunteers pulled off this week. Nice!


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 1 of 5, series premiere)
Sermon in a Sentence: Getting ready to go back to school starts with a check of your heart and forming habits that will get you through the year.
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I asked Ryanne Witt to teach while I was away at a wedding. She’s been on the HSM team longer than me and been at the church literally forever (even came through HSM), and works as the coordinator of our volunteer team. She plays a great role in training, coaching and caring for them and this is one of only a couple times she’s spoken at our entry-level program. She made it look effortless and was completely comfortable, even though I know the time, preparation and prayer that she put into it as well. I have long-realized the importance of multiple voices to our students, and loved having her teach this weekend. The message centered on loving God and preparing our hearts for what God was going to teach us in the year ahead. She had a GREAT application – that as of today we’re 30 days from school starting, and how it takes 28 days to form a habit. She encouraged students to choose a spiritual discipline (and suggested 1 of 6 choices on the back of the outline/program) that would help them be ready for re-entry.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The program was super simple – there was a simple opening element of fun that involved a target, a water balloon slingshot and Fun Size candy bars. Simple and clean summer program getting the students to think about LAUNCH. The collective groan of students when we started talking about going back to school was awesome, too.

Music Playlist: The Time Has Come, How He Loves, You Hold Me Now, Let My Words Be Few, So I Look to You

Favorite Moment: Two this week – 1) Ryanne teaching was awesome, and 2) one of our volunteers made some simple “rockets” to use as stage decoration – when the countdown hit “zero” they launched one of them by pulling a string and it flew into the air. Hilarious.

Up Next: LAUNCH week 2

Was bouncing around on Google Analytics today and saw an interesting trend. There was one search that was far and away the most-search-for phrase on my blog – like hundreds more than the next closest. So what is the most popular search on MorethanDodgeball.com?

Click here to experience it for yourself! It is a search looking for more information about the “hooks” we use in our high school ministry. For the past year, everything we print has had a hole in the top of it, so students could hang in up in a place where they would see it. We give away HSM hooks each weekend, encouraging students to hang it by their bed or a mirror so they could reflect on what they learned that week at church. It was one of the ways we went after

If you’re interested in getting some yourself, we purchased the hooks at Clearmedia Promotional Products.

Just as an aside, here are a couple more of the top searches recently: