Riding Out The Storm

By | accountability, faith, ministry health, MINISTRY HEALTH, resources, spiritual health, SPIRITUAL HEALTH
Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory/Creative Commons License

As Hurricane Sandy works her way through the Northeast I shudder thinking about pass storms that have affected my house.  This summer there was the Derecho and last year Hurricane Irene that ravaged my little neighborhood.  Fortunately, there wasn’t any serious damage to my house; however, riding out those storms was a nerve wracking experience.

In your ministry there will be moments when you need to ride out a storm. Maybe it’s just busyness that you are facing or maybe it’s a tragedy that hits the community.  No one likes to go through these moments because they are emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting.  To endure the storms in ministry you need to make sure you have:

  • A Support Team – It’s easy to focus on the task at hand and shut everyone out when facing an issue.  When you face a problem on your own you put the burden completely on your shoulders.  You need to have people who will pray for you, advise you and help you out when you are in over your head.
  • Arsenal Of Resources – If you have a hurting teen do you know who to refer them to?  If you are dealing with a busy season, do you have a schedule to keep you focused?  Having an arsenal of resources is having a plan for the situation you are facing.  While you cannot prepare for every situation, you need to make sure you prepare for as many as you can.
  • Faith In The Lord – In the end it’s God who is going to give you what you need to persevere.  Setting aside time to check in with him is important because you’ll feel his presence.  You need to open yourself to his grace, love, strength and wisdom.

No matter what you are facing you can’t go at it alone.  Even if you’ve been through several different storms in your ministry you need to make sure you lean on God and focus on what he’s given you.  While youth ministry is tough, you can persevere and witness the fruit of your labor.

How do you endure storms in student ministry?

Barefoot Online Review

By | barefoot online, barefootministry, curriculum, online resource, resources, review, training, volunteers

As a youth minister I’m constantly looking for ways to utilize technology to help my ministry go to the next level.  This involves looking at different ways of training my volunteers and equipping them for success.  If you can maximize how you use certain software and resources you can definitely take your youth ministry to the next level.  I’m constantly looking for resources that will not only help me; but, my volunteers as well.

The folks over at Barefoot Ministries have recently launched Barefoot Online a resource designed to help youth ministers better organize and streamline their ministers, resources, curriculum and most importantly, their calendar.  As someone always looking to do more ministry and less office work I decided to give it a test run and see how it would work in the context of my ministry.

When you sign into Barefoot Online it’ll lead you to a pretty clear dashboard.  From there you can see what’s coming up, what’s going on and what you need to do.  From there you have four main sections: Tracking, Lessons, Training and Formation.  These four areas are designed to assist you in everything from tracking your people to going deeper in your own spiritual walk as a youth minister.

Here are my thoughts for each section:

TRACKING: With an easy interface, that’s well thought out, it’s definitely an attractive tool for organizing your volunteers, parents and teenagers.  Many times we’re left to type up spreadsheets and create our own formulas; however, this one takes care of it.  When it comes to updating your database, it’s easy to enter the information yourself or upload a previously made one on your computer.  My only struggle is that you can’t send a link out to a participant to fill in their own database.

LESSONS: It’s easy to get boggled down to the point where just getting the lessons out to your leader is tough.  Training them and going over the materials are next to impossible.  The thing I love most about the lessons section is how the curriculum is formated and the video trainings that come with it.  The downside is the inability to upload my own content or make changes to what is offered.  While the content is good I would like to adjust some of it to the context of my youth ministry.

TRAINING:  This by far is my favorite part because I think this is definitely something all youth ministers could use.  Even if this was the only feature to Barefoot Online I would be happy.  There is a good mix of audio and video training.  And with the ability to generate conversations via questions, this tool is priceless.  Definitely the best part.

FORMATION: I would have never thought about creating a section just focused on the holistic formation of a youth minister if I was starting an online training.  I think this is an important feature and while I would like to see some expansion on this section I like how it has something for me the youth minister.  While we don’t all have the time to meet face to face with a spiritual director, this definitely takes care of some of those needs.

Overall, I think this is a great resource, especially if you are starting out in youth ministry.  With it’s extensive library of lessons and curriculum it will save you time of creating things from scratch so that you can be more pastoral.

One of the push backs to any online software is the price; however, I found this reasonable, especially if you are utilizing the entire site.  Even though there are limitations on what you can upload and alter, I’m definitely looking forward to the training section to grow and expand.  Again, I recommend this resource, especially if you are trying to get your feet firm in youth ministry.

Have you used  What are your thoughts?

What do you look for when it comes to online training?

Disclosure of Material Connection:  This is a “sponsored post.”  The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something else of value to write it.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What Type Of Leader Are You?

By | accountability, Leader Treks, leadership, resources
Courtesy of Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/
Creative Commons License

There are going to be those days when you struggle to understand, why God has placed you in a leadership role.  Those are the days when ministry is an uphill battle.  Those are the days when it feels like no one is listening, ministry is like running through mud and you wonder, “How long can I keep this up?”
When we hit those days it’s really hard not to question your leadership.  If you’ve ever felt that way, don’t worry you aren’t alone.
Whether you are full time, part time, or volunteer you are in a position of leadership when it comes to student ministry.  There are going to be days full of highlights and days when we just want to runaway.  Again, it doesn’t matter where you lead or who you lead, God has put you there for a reason.  The question you need to answer is, “What type of leader has God created me to be?”
Over the years I’ve evaluated this question because I’ve realized how I lead not only effects the ministry that I run but, the relationships I have with my coworkers, friends, family and God.  It’s a question we all need to address in our ministries because it will help you overcome the obstacles that fall in our way of growing disciples.  To help you discern your leadership ability make sure you:

  • Take Time Away With God: God designed you to be the type of leader He wanted you to be.  What that means is you need to seek Him if you want to know what that looks like.  To get a good understanding find quiet time in your day, and try to get away every once in a while where you can be alone, listening to God.
  • Study Other Leaders: Whether they are youth ministers or CEO’s just look and observe what makes them tick.  Read about them, go hear them speak, and if you know some, talk with them.  You can plug into many great leaders through sites like Catalyst and TED, follow them on Twitter or walk the leadership aisle at the bookstore.  Just seek them out because great leaders are learners.
  • Get Feedback: We all need accountability to help us in our walk with life; however, many of us need accountability in how we lead others.  When you make a bone-headed decision, who is going to call you out?  When you need courage to face adversity, who is going to cheer you on?  We need people who are going to give us the feedback we need to grow as a leader.

When you do this you’ll discover your leadership style.  For many of us it’s going to be different; however, that’s okay.  You may find that you value tasks more than relationships.  You might discover that you care more about people than getting the job done.  We all naturally value one over the other; it’s not wrong, it’s just how we are wired. However, it’s important to know which way you lean so you can make adjustments to become a more balanced leader.
Recently, I came across a new leadership tool from the guys at LeaderTreks.  It’s called the LeaderTreks Youth Workers Leadership Style Assessment.  I took it and loved it, because it’s not just geared for youth ministers, but for the student leaders in your ministry as well.  There are many ways you can utilize this tool and what I liked is how after you assess your leadership style, they give you resources to help you strengthen it.  So be sure to check it out, it only takes a few minutes.

No matter what tools you use, make sure you always take time to review the type of leader that God has created you to be.

What do you do to assess your leadership style?

The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible

By | 7 Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible, Bible, Book Review, discipleship, resources, ym360

I just got done reading Andy Blanks’ The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible.  As someone who doesn’t have a seminarian background I’ve found it intimidating over the years learning how to incorporate scripture into my messages and small group curriculum.  Even if you have been to seminary or studied theology I’m sure you know learning scripture is a lot different from teaching it.  But, one of the responsibilities that comes with youth ministry is teaching the Bible; however, what about your volunteers?
Have you ever thought about their comfort level with scripture?  Do any of them have experience outside of personal use?  Most of them probably joined your ministry thinking, “I just want to spend time with the teens.” When you tell them to teach scripture I’m sure many of them are thinking, “Wait, what?  I’m no expert.”
That’s why this book is helpful.  For those of us in full time ministry it’s a refresher and a chance to refocus on the basics of one of the essential spiritual habits.  But, for our ministers it’s a chance for them to build confidence and a solid foundation when it comes to growing disciples.
There are many things I love about the book; however, two things stand out:

  • It’s A Quick Read – The book moves quickly because of the variety of story, exercise and application.  While there are moments to pause, reflect and go deeper, it’s really a book that’s easy to navigate through.  I’ve found many books on practical ministry overwritten that drag on, but this one gets right to the point.  Because it’s a quick read, I’m not worried about giving this out to my team to read.  I’m a book junky, not everyone is; but, this one is definitely worth the time.
  • It’s Filled With Concrete Application – At times the book encourages you to stop, reflect and even try some of the practices out.  It’s not the first book that does this; however, it’s done in a way that’s clear and easy.  Whether you are reading the book on your own or with your team, you can definitely use the exercises to build confidence.  

Again, this book is a quick read and it’s broken down just as the title suggest, 7 Best Practices.  They are:

Best Practice #1 – Engaging With God
Best Practice #2 – Prepare Well, Teach Well
Best Practice #3 – Context Is Key
Best Practice #4 – Embrace Unpredictability
Best Practice #5 – Plan For Interaction
Best Practice #6 – Teach For Application
Best Practice #7 – Know Your Role

My big takeaway from reading this book is the fact that I need to spend more time looking at scripture instead of just reciting and retyping it.  As Andy puts it:

To be an effective Bible teacher, you must regularly seek to know God by engaging with Him through His Word.

There have been weeks where I’ve gone preaching God’s word to students; yet, struggled to embrace His word for my life.  This book was a reminder that if we are investing in teens, we need to be invested in God’s plan for us, otherwise you have to wonder, “What am I doing in ministry?”  As a youth minister I greatly appreciate the love and encouragement poured into this book.
As great as this book is for youth ministers, I would strongly recommend it for any volunteer in your ministry that has fellowship or discipleship role with a student.  This will take the edge out of teaching scripture, give them some practical tools and show them how to go deeper.  So if you get a chance, head over to to learn more.

Which of the 7 Best Practices are you best at doing?  Which one do you need to revisit?

When You Can’t Bring Them To A Conference

By | Conferences, discipleship, resources

I’m pumped and excited because in 11 days I’ll be heading to Louisville, KY for the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.  It’s a chance to reconnect with all my peers in ministry, grow as a disciple of Christ and just allow the Holy Spirit to refuel my fire for youth ministry.  I don’t know if you are going, but if you are give a shout out and let’s meet up.  What I love about this conference is how it’s one for youth ministers by youth ministers; therefore, the connection is real.
Another thing that has me really excited is that I have the opportunity to bring some of my team along for the ride.  This is going to be a chance for them to see ministry from a different perspective.  A chance to get out of the trees to see the entire forest.  It’ll give them the opportunity to be fed and challenged by other youth ministers.
Whether you are going to SYMC or not there are many benefits from attending a conference.  To bring your team is an added bonus; however, one that we all can’t receive.  With tight budgets and busy schedules bringing your team to a conference is tough, so instead:
There are a few ways of doing this with low costs; yet, high impact.  To start off look at:

  • Canned Conference – There are a ton of available resources out there from Right Now Conference to Catalyst.  When you use a canned conference you give your ministers the opportunity to hear from amazing speakers, with the convenience of staying at home.  Another benefit is the ability to move at a pace that works for you; therefore, the conference can be viewed in a weekend or over a few weeks.  At least once a year we bring our team together to watch these speakers and then we break down what we’ve heard together.
  • Streaming Conferences – These can be hard to find; however, they’ll connect you with live attendees.  With Twitter, Facebook and other social media interactions you can go deeper on topics with people around the world.  A few great ones to check out are Radicalis, ReBuild My Church and the Chick-fil-a Leadercast.  The beauty here is you can bring your team together and watch it live or watch it separately keep in touch online.
  • Put On Your Own – Sometimes the best learning experiences come from home.  Granted you’ll be digging into your own resources; however, ask people from your congregation who can offer insight on leadership, teamwork and communication.  Ask a few volunteers to come and speak to your ministers about what they’ve learned in their fields and how they can apply the principles in youth ministry.

Conferences are great, they are powerful and if you get the chance to bring at least one member of your team do it.  It’s a sign of investment and it’s a chance to connect them to the bigger community in a new light.  But if you can’t bring them to the site, bring the site to them.
Again, if you are stopping by the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville, KY this year feel free to say hello.  I believe you can still register.

What other conference resources would you recommend?

What To Do When Things Have To Change Last Minute

By | change, conflict, resources, workcamp

No matter how many times I hit refresh on my browser there was no chance of the forecast improving.  Yesterday, my peers and I had to pull an audible with the 80 students in our work camp.  Thunderstorms forced us to cancel both our service component (working on a farm) and our fun component (swimming at the local quarry).
Needless to say students were bummed.  We never thought about developing a back up plan; however, we were able to rely on one another and our resources to create an indoor service component (make casseroles and hundres of PB&J sandwiches) and find a vendor (local bowling alley) to supply the fun.  In the end, everything worked out.
While there were moments of panic, we were able to get the job done, because we knew we could:

  • Stay Calm: Worst thing to do in a moment of change is lose your cool.  Recognize the emotions, the feelings and accept the change that’s about to take place.  Know that God is with you in every moment and if you rely on Him, He will guide you to take the right steps.
  • Rely On Resources: In times of panic we seem to forget what we already know.  Rely on what you know best, seek out the people you know and don’t worry about being original.  In times of quick changes, be simple and do what you know best.
  • Lean Into It: Don’t run, don’t hide and don’t deny.  It might be tempting to sit in denial, but all you are doing is creating confusion and chaos for those around you.  Leaning into a problem or obstacle, means taking a closer look at what you are facing.  Knowing what you are facing will help you overcome.

Whether it’s a sick volunteer, a broken piece of technology or a rainy day, things are going to happen that our in and out of our control.  It can feel like life is just happening, but don’t ignore the fact that God could be calling you to something bigger and greater.

How do you deal with unexpected change?

What To Look For When Buying Resources

By | resources

I have a problem.  I have way too many resources at my disposal.  I know, it’s not that big of a problem, but it’s starting to feel like my office is shrinking.  I’m someone who desires to be more organized and right now this compilation of junk is killing me.  But, then again all this junk is useful, because it’s helped me move the ministry in which I serve forward.
So, why do I have all these resources?  Is it because I can’t write any of my own material?  Is it because I have to have the newest resource?  Is it the pretty packaging?

Yes, I like the packaging, but the reason I have all these resources is because:
Adaptation Is Essential To Building Margin 

Have you ever spent hours pining over the perfect illustration or the perfect theme for a message or small group discussion?  Yeah, so have I and it stinks.  I don’t know when we started buying into the myth that everything we produce needs to be original, because if you think about it not much is.  That’s not saying we can’t create our own, it’s just that we shouldn’t kill ourselves trying to come up with something out of the blue.  So, rest assure youth ministers, next time you are stressing over what to teach your students just think OUTSOURCE.
But, before you start Googling Youth Ministry Resources.  Here are a couple of questions I ask when deciding on the right youth ministry resources:

Do they give you permission to adapt?  Most do, but don’t assume.  Some great and wise people put some hard work into what they do, so if they haven’t given you permission to duplicate, redistribute, edit and mutilate, then don’t.

Do they have moveable components? I look for videos that can stand on their own.  If it’s a multi week series I look to see if I can eliminate or rearrange a week.  If the resource has structure but the flexibility to adapt to your style of program then use it.

Is it timeless or time limited?  Content that will expire: videos and pop culture references.  While materials based on those principles can be effective, some times they aren’t worth the investment.  Look for material that can withstand time.

Can it be personalized?  Sometimes the resources we find are designed for the youth ministries that created them; therefore, adapting them to your teens, your church, your community, your local culture is more difficult than writing your own material.  Make sure you understand your teens before you blindly look for resources.

Other things to consider is how it applies to your denominational values and the cost of materials, but in the end you really want to look at flexibility.  Again I’m not saying you shouldn’t create your own material, I’m just saying that outsourcing can save us time and energy.  But, what should you do when they begin to take over your office and shelves?  Give them away to neighboring youth workers.

What are some of the things you look for in a resource?

And is anyone against outsourcing? If so why?

Teaching the Teachers

By | resources

One challenge I see for all of us that work in a church is figuring out how to get fed on a regular basis.  I know I tend to get the feeling, especially in high capacity seasons of just being drained.  That’s why it’s important for us to make sure we spend time with God and seek spiritual accountability both in our professional and personal setting.  And as important as it is to fill ourselves spiritually we also need to get filled with advice and insight on a professional level.
Now, I don’t know about you but I love going to conferences.  And I’m sure most of us do; however, some don’t have conference costs in our budget.  Same goes for resources that teach us the youth worker, there are some great tools out there but not everyone has the budget to purchase all of them.  So how can leaders with low budgets still find the tools to grow and learn?
Bring the Conference to You – Purchasing a conference DVD is a possibility, there are many available but still some are just too expensive.  That’s why podcasts are such a blessing.  Almost every successful church or church ministry has one and the majority of them are free.  When you go to itunes, click podcasts and select Religious/Christianity from the list and bam! you have at your fingertips a whole library of great speakers that you would find at most conferences.  But some of you may not know who to start with because the list is pretty overwhelming.  Four that I regularly follow are:

  1. Simply Youth Ministry Podcast – This is specificially for youth workers and is a great place to get your questions answered.  Doug Fields, Josh Griffin, Katie Edwards and Matt McGill make you feel like you are sitting at the table.
  2. Simply Junior High Podcast – Kurt Johnston from Saddleback brings you into the wisdom he’s learned as a junior high pastor.  And anyone who’s in junior high ministry knows the more wisdom and guidance we can gather the better.
  3. Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – I’m a systems and structures junky, I have a business mindset and I love applying that to student ministry.  Andy Stanley not only shows us how but why it’s okay to do so.  If you want build a good, healthy ministry team, listen to this one.
  4. Catalyst Podcast – Want to hear Craig Groeschel, Donald Miller, or Rick Warren.  Just go hear and listen to what they have to say.  Never has it been so easy to listen to some great advice from some great leaders.

Teaching Tools For Me – I think many of us can google websites that will provide us with games and materials to teach our students, but what about for us youth workers?  Where can we gain access to resources that will teach us?  Start off with:

  1. Blogs – All I have is my advice; however, go to the youth ministry sites I have listed to the left of this page.  All of them have a free newsletter which is going to give you sound advice on what you can do to   teach yourself and your leaders.
  2. Community – When you go to most blogs you’ll find that they have a built in community.  Participating in these online communities are important because they can connect you to a youth worker in your local community.  Having face to face time is important and if your denomination doesn’t offer a local network, starting with these online ones are key.
I know what I’ve offered isn’t news breaking; however, I meet so many ministers who miss out on the importance of growing themselves in ministry.  But it’s important to share our resources, because maybe there’s something that I’ve found that you haven’t come across, but I also realize there are things you know that I do not.  I would love for people to share what they’ve learned with me and the other readers in their comments below.