For all of you Apple fanboys and girls out there, you know about the free release of iOS 6. Have you downloaded it yet? The newest update has some great features on it, including a new Maps that has turn-by-turn instructions, the Passbook app that integrates your life and phone use better, and Do Not Disturb feature for your phone.

For the pastors with an iPhone that are not sure if it is worth the 15 minutes that it would take to download and install onto your phone, let me tell you that doing so could save your soul. Seems like a bold statement but hear me out.

We need our rest, we need time with family, and we must have those moments with the Lord. It seems so hard to be able to put margin in our lives, to have the solid boundaries so that we are honoring God, family, and ourselves, and it almost seems selfish when so much hurt is going on. Yet, we always regret when we do not do it.

We Have Good Intentions…
We may have all been there, you have the good intentions of taking 24 hours for a Sabbath, not talking on the phone at supper with your spouse and/or family, and going to bed on time. Unfortunately, “important” phone calls and texts come up that really do not seem so important after the fact, we feel guilty for hitting the ignore button, and we use the excuse that we are not doing anything important. Time with God, family, and for self is VITAL! Thus the Do Not Disturb feature becomes amazing!

Do Not Disturb
Check it out now. Serious, download it, install it, and open it now from Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb. I’ll wait.

Okay, you will see the screen below that allows you to turn it on (do it!), schedule when it should block phone calls, and who you will allow phone calls from. I have personally elected to not allow phone calls to come in while I am asleep. My favorites section has family and my supervising pastor only as well as I have turned on the Repeated Calls for those who may have an emergency and call twice in three minutes. No one else has the ability to grab my attention after 10PM and before 7AM.

Why Is This Important?
Too many pastors get distracted because a text message comes up, an email buzzes our phone, or a call comes in from the volunteer of women’s ministry, we take it, and then we undervalue those we are with. To not give your spouse your time could long-term jeopardize your marriage, ignoring your family makes you that father who is there… but not really there, only giving God part of your life is dishonoring.

iOS 6 is the practical way of ensuring you have the boundaries and promoting the priorities you have in life. What other tech tips do you have to ensure you honor the priorities in your life?

Jeremy Smith is a youth worker at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.


Hopefully yesterday you took some time to think about the tightrope of ministry and how challenging each step of the journey can be. So what are some practical ways you can do youth ministry life well? Glad you asked! Here are 4 ways we try to put into practice ourselves:

1) Talk through the calendar before you go public with it.
One of the biggest learnings we’ve had related to this topic is making sure you clear your ministry calendar with your family calendar first. This will save you a ton of headaches as you navigate little league, board meetings, and that pesky thing called your anniversary. The 24 hours it takes to complete this step are critical to success in youth ministry life. Trust us, we’ve surprised our spouses (and still do occasionally…mostly because Kurt springs stuff on Josh) enough to put this one right up front.

2) Establish some (mostly) non-negotiable family boundaries.
What night is your date night? How many nights of the week out are okay doing church stuff? When is the best time for the family to be all together? There has to be grace and flexibility on a regular basis, but stack hands on what are the non-negotiables and create some boundaries for yourself in ministry. If you skip this step, you’re going to say “yes” to everything and “no” to your family. Done that, too. Argh.

3) Build a team and empower them to help carry the load.
Youth ministry is bigger than one person—if it’s all about you, prepare for burnout and ego deflation. You can hang on for a while, but while you hang on, you’ll also bottle-neck growth in your ministry and other leaders. So why not build margin in your youth ministry life by surrounding yourself with capable people and empowering them to carry significant parts of the load?

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.

Thought this post by Doug Fields was worth reading (and rereading when you have time to process it fully) – he talks a little bit about caring for your soul, perfect for us youth workers. Here’s a clip, follow the link for the rest:

Imagine that one side of the scale has all the stuff you already have or are trying to gain. Tipping the scale would be all the possessions and activities you typically view as benefits—houses, cars, boats, vacations, swimming pools, stock portfolios, job titles, reputation, college degrees, iguanas, all the toys you’ve ever bought, and karate lessons.

Then, on the other side of the balance is simply…your soul.

It would seem obvious that the side with all the stuff should weigh down the balance, right? Wrong! In God’s divine measuring system, stuff always loses to soul. Yet, when was the last time you stopped long enough to even consider your soul?

If you need some soul care, here’s a great resource to check out, too!


Another new book! What? Hahahah … was excited to find out last week that Simply Youth Ministry was taking Kurt Johnston and I’s Today newsletters and making them into a new book! You can now get Youth Ministry Life on Simply Youth Ministry’s website you can download it as an eBook or get a physical copy shipped to your door. Yeah!

The most solid youth workers are the ones eager to learn, hungry for wisdom, excited to discover new truths and rediscover old ones. With that in mind, we’ve handpicked some of the best, deepest, richest content from our Simply Youth Ministry Today emails and created Youth Ministry Life. This book will help you navigate four major areas of ministry for every youth worker:

  • The PHILOSOPHY of youth ministry–why we do what we do and what difference it is making for God’s kingdom
  • The PEOPLE in youth ministry–those we are serving and those who are serving alongside us
  • The PRACTICE of youth ministry–programming for the most effective reach
  • The PERSONAL aspect of youth ministry–how and why we need to grow and strive for personal and spiritual health as the point people of our ministries


Chronic illnesses are constant or intermittent illnesses that impact (to varying degrees) a student’s health and can limit participation in many “normal” teenage activities. Some of these chronic conditions include seizure disorders, asthma, diabetes, lupus, hypertension, or a long-term illness such as cancer. Most of the ideas we share below apply best to more serious health conditions.

Caring for the student: The teenager may have some limitations and things you can’t do with him, but engage on an appropriate level. Ever wondered why pediatric units have video games available? Distraction is a great way to alleviate patients’ pain. This is probably the only area where you have a bona fide excuse that playing games is pure ministry! Find out from parents and medical staff what the student can and can’t do and what level of interaction is appropriate. Also remember the need for positive touch.

Caring for parents: Parents of a child with a chronic illness may feel a sense of powerlessness. They are stretched emotionally, spiritually, financially, and psychologically as they wrestle with this illness, helping their child have a good life. Steer clear of platitudes and clich

I am Youth Worker. I am the 99.

I am underpaid and overworked — working a full time job to pay the bills and doing my best to honor God and my students with the spare time that I have to put together the service each week for youth group.

I stayed up late last night talking to a student who’s relationship break-up resulted in their crisis and many tears. I’m up early this morning on my way to work.

I want to be involved in the youth ministry network in town but it’s just not feasible. I need the encouragement, resources, networking, and tools that they offer, but I can’t make it with my work schedule.

I often times compare what I have to the youth worker down the street with interns, a monthly budget, and a youth building and recreation center. It’s not like I’m trying to compete (How could I?), but I sometimes finding myself wishing I had more of what you do.

I’m just as passionate and work just as hard as the full time, paid guy, but I do it after my day job — not as my day job. As a result, I’m burnt out, tired, and sometime — no, many times — feel like giving in.

I apologize for the sensationalist tone and for comparing the average youth worker to the Occupy protest’s 99%. But I’m hoping to catch someone’s attention. As a district guy in our denomination, I’ve come across stories of so many youth workers that have so little to work with. 99% might be too high of a percentage to compare it to youth workers that are not at full time capacity, but in reality, it’s probably not that far off.

I was having a conversation with a youth pastor yesterday that was telling me about their first visit to a local gathering of youth workers. I asked her if it was encouraging and her response was, “Yes, it was helpful hearing about all the different resources and ideas from other youth workers, but I also came away a little bit discouraged at how little I have to work with compared to some of the others. They were sharing ideas that were really cool, but just weren’t feasible without interns and a big budget. It made me feel somewhat insignificant.”

When you stop and consider how many youth workers are part-time or volunteer, it really is the wide majority of us. Many churches want to hire on a full time youth pastor and give them a budget to work with but just don’t have the financial resources to do so. Which leaves a lot of us youth workers feeling a bit stretched thin.

So here’s the thing: if you are the “one percent” — meaning, you are a full time youth worker and you have the luxury of having a ministry budget and other things that the majority of your peers maybe don’t — consider taking care of some of our own.

Next week Group’s bi-annual youth worker salary survey comes out – thought it might be fun to get the pulse on money and youth ministry. Are you paid fairly at your church? Vote in this week’s poll!


Sometimes in ministry, things can either go the way we plan them, or they can take an unexpected turn, for better or for worse. Although we can never plan for every minute to go exactly the way we want, God can. He will always know exactly what your youth group needs. There are a lot of things that can contribute to something not going according to your plan, but we just have to remember that God is in control.

We’re both control freaks, and most of our lives are planned to the second, but we have discovered that when it comes to small group, there is such a thing as “over planning.” We know because we’ve done it, and during the middle of group something just feels wrong. That’s when it’s time to change course and follow where God is leading that night. It doesn’t take an extravagant lesson plan to have God show up. We need to remember that even though we’re the messengers, God is the giving us the message that our students need to hear. Even the nights that it seems like nothing is going right, you probably planted a seed. Even though you won’t see it right then, that seed will develop into something huge down the road. It’s important to remember that God knows who will be there that night, and what they need to hear. In fact, He knew it long before your group was formed because He formed your group! Sometimes the phrase “let go and let God” really applies here.

Many times it’s best to just let God take control. (Matt: Recently my high school small group had a night where we veered away from the planned message for the whole night and ended up talking about being accountable and the importance of accountability partners. My co-leader and I just sat back and let God work that night through the guys and it ended up being one of the most amazing nights we have had at small group.)

There have been weeks in small group where the group veered off on another subject and we didn’t want it to go that way. When that happens, if it’s productive and the majority of the group is involved in the different discussion, we just let it go there. In the past we would bring the discussion back to what WE wanted to talk about. Later it dawned on us, the guys in our groups had a different need that night, and we should have just let them take over but we didn’t and we quickly lost their attention on our original subject that we wanted to talk about. What a huge mistake!

With that being said, it’s also okay to change plans when you don’t feel like they’re being effective. It’s alright to call an audible in the middle of the play. If your students can’t pay attention, turn it into a fellowship night. Sure, your original plan didn’t go through, but at least your students will be getting something useful out of their time. As a youth group leader, you need to be fast, fluid, and flexible. Teens live in a world that changes faster every single day. Information is hurled at them in a record pace. We need to be able to change and adjust on the fly in order to be successful.

You need to get to your students’ levels, don’t try and bring them to your level. It doesn’t work that way, and you will fail miserably. It’s not about getting your point across, it’s about delivering God’s message to your students; a message they can pass on from generation to generation.

Matt Reynolds and Steven Orel are volunteer youth workers at Saddleback Church. They approach youth ministry from two different generations and perspectives. Look for lots more from them in the future — for now you can follow them on Twitter ( and check out their previous blog posts (