My 7 Back To School Rules For Youth Pastors

Close your summer out right

Have a bonfire, testimony night, or a slide show of all your summer activities. Maybe have a special worship night or a night where everyone affirms one another and points out where they shined this summer.

I share a few ideas here

Plan with the end in mind

Get your Christmas Party on the church calendar and beat the rush. Make a list of what kind of student you want to have in three months or at the end of the school year and plan accordingly. We are doing a time video time capsule and letting kids talk about their goals and dreams for the year and we will show it at the end of the school year. This will be great for all our seniors this year.

Kick off your season with a bang, a few weeks after school starts.

End of summer and fall are two separate things. I like clear lines between season. This is probably form living in Florida too long where there were no lines. The only way I knew seasons were changing, was by what was on the shelf at Wal Mart.

I recommend having your kick off several weeks into the school year so kids can meet others, get to know them, and invite them the big deal.

Looking for a good kick off, try this



Have a W2W Strategy

What is W2W? That is a Wednesday to Wednesday strategy. How will you communicate with students between the W’s? How will you communicate with parents? If you do not have a current way of doing this try doing a one minute Instagram devotion every day or post a poll so kids can vote on various things.

Have a printed as well as digital fall calendars

Be sure to hit up your local print shop,  if you cannot make your stuff in house, and you’ll find some great options for putting out your flyers and calendars.

Be sure to take the time now to make digital flyers for download so parents can copy them and put them on the fridge.

You should also make your social media pieces using this and this.

Get ahead of the game!

Meet with parents and find out what they need

We are having an open house after service one Sunday and I plan on using this day for recruitment of parents and other church members for events, camp, etc.

Before this day happens, I will be doing a FB live video to my parents group to share my heart for the new year and to all them to share their ideas and what their kids need specifically.

Parents must have a voice and we should give them every chance to communicate with us. Even the crazy ones.

Meet with school officials

Getting to know your school is important if you hope to make it your office away from your office. Here’s a few ideas.

Check with coaches to see if they need help

Check with the office to see if you can be put on a chaperone list

Offer your services as a photographer, videographer, or editor.

Offer your church for the football team to have pre-game lunch at (this has worked for me) or for the end of the year awards ceremony.

At least make sure the office staff knows you in case you go and eat lunch with some of your students.

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Losing Your Faith In Humanity? Good.

I’ve seen various iterations of this

“I’ve lost my faith in humanity”

“I’m losing my faith in humanity because..”

People post this because some, a lot, or all human beings have disappointed them in the moment or all that day. When someone posts, “I’ve lost my faith in humanity”, I’m not surprised because we were never supposed to put our faith in humanity in the first place.

If humanity was such a great deal, God wouldn’t have had to

  • start over with Noah
  • sent Jesus to the cross
  • make such a big deal about sin and obedience

Faith in humanity is what got us into trouble in the first place. Adam and Eve thought disobeying God was a good idea (at the time) and didn’t seem that bad.

Isaiah says,

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Isaiah 5:21

and the Apostle Paul says

My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. I Corinthians 2:5

So, the next time someone hurts you, does you wrong, or does something stupid, let’s not be shocked by that. Humanity is a burning dumpster fire without God and will continue to muck up the planet without Him.

There’s only one thing. The same humans who are mucking up this life, are the only ones who can make it better. In response to a snippet of this post on Facebook, my friend Steve Case said,

Humanity is also a burning dumpster fire WITH God. God is there saying “hey fool get the hose. it’s right there, pick it up.”

He’s not wrong.  #balance


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The Future of Youth Ministry Depends On This

Are you a time traveler. Do you live in the future and visit the past every time you go to church?

Many people do. I love the church, it’s first century church principles, but I don’t want to go back to sitting on the floor and eating falafel.

There are many time traveling Christians. They live in the 21st Century and flash back to the 1970’s, 80’s and even 90’s every Sunday and it’s killing the faith.

I used to complain about mega churches and now I’m a fan because at least they embrace technology and they believe the message is important enough and that people are important enough to do Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and every new etc.

So many youth pastors, of my age (40 and above) have resisted technology, social media, etc. I’m not saying you have to do it but at east find a kid or a young adult who will document the journey of your ministry. I think we should also live out your faith publicly, online and off,  so other teens and people in your community can see how a faith life works even with it’s ups and down.

How important is the message? How important are your students? Enough to change? Enough to learn something new?

Our ability to change, adapt, and adopt will set the pace for  future generations. In fact, the future of our student’s faith depends on it.



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If This Were Your Last Year In Youth Ministry..

As you’re thinking about the fall season and planning events, activities, and messages, let’s add a wrinkle, this is your last year.

If you knew this was your last year at this church does it make a difference how you will plan? What about if it was your last year as a full time youth pastor? Are there some things you’ve been holding back on? Why?

What would you want to leave your students with? (Try writing that in one sentence) Now, plan accordingly.

What lessons are most important?

Which activities would leave he greatest impact?

Who would you pour into?

Who would you make things right with?

How would you staff your ministry?

How much effort would you put into evangelism. worship. or fellowship?

Why can’t you start planning this way today?

We should always be planning with the end in mind, and not just the end of our youth pastoring days but the end of our days here on earth.

Psalm 90:12 says

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Let’s plan for eternity rather than forever.

If you are looking for some help with your fall planning, check out my book Prepared For Impact.  

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The Recipe Is Not The Meal

Fun fact, I like role playing games. I like story telling, adventure, and laughing around a table with friends for a few hours. I’m always learning new things about my own faith and my faith journey by playing games and listening to others to who talk about games.

In a recent video, game designer and author Matt Colville, shared about those who play rpg’s and why, when they ask a questions about their game, the online ‘experts” shame them or tell them how to play their game. Matt makes the observation that many of those experts are not currently running a game themselves so they are busy telling others how they should run theirs. Sound like real life?

Too many people are not living the adventure of their faith so they feel it necessary to tell others how they should live theirs.

At the beginning of the video, Matt says that scripts are not movies and that more has to happen before the page comes to life and eventually to the screen.

This was such a powerful statement to me. As one who reads, studies, and attempts to life by the scriptures, it is very easy to see the faith life as just a black and white script rather than a movie in the making with technicolor and dolby sound.

The life of faith is more than a script that we follow. We are making a faith movie called life. There is a script, but reading a script is not a movie. When we attempt to serve and love like Jesus, everyday, we’re making a faith movie with our lives for all to see.

At the end of the video, Matt says,

The map is not the territory. The recipe is not the meal. The rules are not the game. – Matt Colville

Game are about people laughing, enjoying, and building community around a table. Reading, debating, and tell others how to play the game is not fun and is not a game. Shouldn’t faith be more than the reading of a recipe? The study of a map? The joy is in playing the game, eating the food, and exploring the map and so is the faith journey.

Don’t let the religious “trolls” tell you how to live; they’re, more than likely, not enjoying their own faith; leaving them nothing but to tell others how to enjoy theirs.



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My Short List of Ways We’re Helping Kids Fail At Following Jesus

It came out of my mouth so fast I barely had time to think about it, “You are helping them to fail.”

My friend has a videography business. He uses the best technology  but has flashes back to 1992. In the conversation we were having, he recommend to someone about making DVD. My jaw just dropped, dumbfounded.

This made me thing about all the ways we fail people and especially students. Here’s my short list of how we’re helping kids fail at following Jesus.

We help kids fail when we do not discipline (correct) them

I know we are not their parents, but next to them and their teachers, we maybe the only other authority figures in their lives spending any significant time with them.

We see their faults and their failings and, if you were young like me once, you traded some of your authority for popularity. This is automatic fail in my opinion. I would trade any popularity I might have gained with those kids for another shot at telling them the truth in love.

Recently, I took our kids to camp. A young lady, who represents the Goth culture, was with us and has been a solid member of our youth ministry for seven years. She was wanting to go a bit over the top for my taste and asked her not to dress that way. I talked with her a week before camp about dress and make up and not to go over the top. She was offended and did not speak to me for the rest of the camp.

I don’t make apologies for being the the grown up in the room, and neither should you. Things have blown over and I get the occasional wave now and again. Things are warming up. They’ll get over it, or they won’t. Either way, I have to lovingly and

We help them fail by not helping students engage with basic spiritual disciplines 

I recently spoke at a camp this week. The same camp I have been speaking at for 14 years. For the most part, I do not put the full scripture on my slides any longer. I put the address of the scriptures and then ask if anyone would like to read the 6-8 scriptures I have as part of my messages. I always have volunteers to read. I go to where they are sitting and let them read the verse and then I share my point.

In addition, I ask campers to close the service by “praying us out of here”. Kids love the ownership of public prayer and usually results in increased confidence and respect from their peers.

Lastly, I ask for public testimony. This is never a forced activity. I ask, “Has God shown you anything or made a difference in your life this week?” Sometimes I get a dozen hands raised, sometimes one, sometimes none. Whether anyone gets up to share or not, the offer to share their story is the point. I believe God is always at work and giving students a chance to share helps them become bolder in sharing their faith in the long run.

We help them fail by not raising the bar

We contribute to a students’ failure by not expecting more from them. This especially applies to those church kids who say they are believers and followers of Jesus but rarely dark the doors of our youth room or sit passively while everything is done for them.

Jesus was constantly asking his disciples to do thinks that were way beyond what they thought was their human capacity.

“you feed them”

“leave everything”

“Go into all the world”

Big commands for simple fisherman and ordinary people, but how many times do we justify why we don’t challenge kids to dream big and do more?

“they’re poor”

“they’re homeschooled”

“they’re not the cool kids”

If we’re excusing our kids because of their current condition we are contributing to their future failure.

It’s our job/calling as youth pastor to challenge students to believe God for big things, it’s the students job to receive.

Let’s be faithful with our call and let God handle our students’ hearts.







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Lessons I Learned From “Tupac” Actor Demetrius Shipp’s Tonight Show Interview

Just recently, I received a letter from Youth Specialties, a national youth ministry organization that supports youth workers. The letter was a contract, spelling out my responsibilities as a speaker at their conference this year.
It’s was one of my dream in life to speak at this conference because it had given so much to me during my early years of youth ministry.
This post was supposed to go up several months ago, but I understand now, why it makes more sense to me now than then.
The movie received a lot of hype and flopped miserably at the box office but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from actor Demetrius Shipp’s success.
Watch the video and then read on.
He never intended to be an actor
How many of you are where you intended to be? Demetrius wanted to be a record producer and still can be, and might be, by the time you read this post.
Many of us were given a map, a course to follow: Go to college, get a job, work hard, rise to the top, retire. That’s a pretty boring map. This map was handed  to me, I tried to follow it, but it just didn’t work for me. I dropped out of college after three months, worked at a miniature gold course for about a year,  and then wound up going to a one year discipleship school on the other side of the country. I started my youth ministry career shortly after.
I’ve been in the same profession for 27, working with teenagers, but that wasn’t because I was the smartest or the best.  Every job, in every church, was an act of grace. I don’t think I “earned” the job as much as  I think God just knew I needed to be wherever I was and He helped me to be there.
I never intended to be a youth pastor for 27 years but I know, one day, the map will change again, and I’ll be in a place I never thought I would be because God needed me there.
He waited six years
Demetrius waited six year until he got the role of Tupac. Looking like him did not hurt him in getting the role but he still had to audition for job he wasn’t looking for.
Demetrius talked about working at Target and Home Depot like it was yesterday, and literally, it was probably yesterday. He speaks gratefully that he had a job and he also sees like he could go right back to it and be happy.
I hear about so many youth workers who are bi-vocational who pine for the day when they are full time youth workers in a church. I get it. I was there. I love when I see social media posts where youth workers are celebrating their first youth ministry job.
How long would you wait for a dream job? Six years sounds like a long time, but it will blow by if we ‘ll work hard, be grateful, and respect the life we do have rather than curse the life we don’t have.
His success surprises him
The way he talks, in my opinion, seems like he could go back to target and have no problem working there, even after being in a big, albeit, poorly reviewed movie.
How many of us could go big time, work in a large church, big youth ministry, and then go back to a small church of 10-15 kids? It’s not like it hasn’t been done, but would you be ok with it or would you resent it? Demetrius seems like he’d embrace going back to work at jobs that supported him for six years.
Success, to some degree, should surprise us and not surprise us. We should be  awestruck by God’s grace towards us and be humbled by the years we’ve put in to get where we are.
Now, me speaking at Youth Specialties this year changes nothing. I’ll come back from the conference and I’ll still be ministering at a small church with a small youth ministry, and I am perfectly fine with that, until God changes the map again of course.

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The Ten Worst Ways To Disrespect Your Life

We only have one life. That’s it. One go around here on the planet and, like so many, including myself, we treat it like a stolen car. We ram into things, we put it at risk, we attain high measures of speed and we abandon it when the heat is on. The only thing worse than that is parking it in the garage.

Stop disrespecting your life. I heard it clear as day. God and/or I was trying to get a message to me. I had been going through a lot. I had been anxious, moody, and over all a miserable person, but, unless you’re my wife, you wouldn’t know it.

I have the spiritual gift of phoniness, in the sense that I can hide what’s wrong while helping you with your problem. I heard Joss Whedon on NPR call this “hiding your damage while trying to create”.

That’s what people do. We hide our damage so we can portray to the world  a well balanced, emotionally healthy, hard working, spiritually mature individual, when we know we are not.

Stop disrespecting your life. I heard  it again and again. Listen, I wasn’t murdering anyone, but I had a gotten into a rut of not caring. and that is the worst kind of disrespect you can show the one life your given, but it’s not the only one.

If I were to create the  10 Commandments of Disrespecting One’s Life it would like like this:

Thou shalt not quit caring 

I put this at the top because I think it’s the worst, the one I loathe in me. I’ve always cared and sometime too much. The wounds and scars of working with hurt people who hurt  people, almost did me in. It’s still no excuse to quit caring.

Thou shalt not waste thy gifts

I’ve met so many gifted people. Musicians who’d rather do drugs. Artists who hide their gift because of fear and doubt. Writers who won’t start a blog or submit their work because they do not think it’s good enough. It’s tragic that so many do not see themselves as artists, even if their art is not traditional like baking or

Thou shalt not waste time 

We can waste a lot of time worrying and having pity parties; neither of which helps anyone, including us. Time waits for no man. The future is happening right now like a moving train and we can either jump on or watch it pass by, but that train is neither stopping or even slowing down. We must jump, with both feet, as hard as we can and grab the handle and then work like mad to hang on until we get to where we are going. No one is coming to save you, you must save yourself.

Thou shalt not be selfish 

Why not be generous. It’s only money, you can make more. Times. a different story. We should guard and invest our time. We can’t make more time, everything else we can afford to give away.  All our gifts and talents were meant to be shared not hoarded. We have these gifts to make people laugh, smile, think, and believe. Why in the world would we hold that back? Pass it on.

Thou shalt not turn from thy calling

I have spent the past 27 yea working with teenagers and it is a badge I proudly wear. When I sensed where my life was heading, I dove in with both feet and did not turn back or turn away like Jonah. So many of you have something important to do, stop running from it.

Thou shalt not give less than 100%

It’s easier to just phone it in. It’s easier to just do enough. You can justify it by saying “they are not worthy of my best” and shrug it off. That hurts no one but you. You are not the better person because you give less.

Thou shalt not give into fear

Maybe because I am turning 50 next year but I am losing a lot of my fears. If the world has not killed me yet, its not going to in the next 20. I have more fight in me now than ever. I’m ready for the next leap, the next hurdle, the next jump. Screw fear.

Thou shalt not hide 

Hiding does not mean evading the spot light, it means we might not even show up. We hide in the shadows and watch others succeed while we suck on bitter envy. We hide because we do not want to be rejected. The risk is too great to jump into a conversation, show up to that party, try something new.

The comedian Rodney Dangerfield joke, “When I was a kid I got no respect. I played hide-and-seek. They wouldn’t even look for me.”

No one is looking for you sunshine, you have to yell, “Here I am!!”

Thou shalt not waste your time on hate

Hating others is losing proposition. Tearing others down does not elevate you. Hate drains our soul and puts us on unnecessary guard duty,  doing our best to protect the world from “others”.

Thou shalt not give up 

This should be number two of the worst ways to disrespect the one life your given., but I needed s good closer. Giving up means you settled. You settled for the wrong guy or girl, the practical, or the average. I disagree that someone has to average in order that others might be great. I think everyone can be great in their own home, in their own school, or their own city.

Great does not mean  a million views on Youtube, a thousand post shares (although your are welcome to try with this one) or being the king or queen of the dance, Great means you’re great. You’re a great hugger, a great friend, a great lover, and a great listener. It’s more important to be a great person than a great personality.

Giving up because you are not someone else’s version of great  is not acceptable.

I have broken all of these commandments at some point in my life and sometimes multiples at the same time, but I’m done disrespecting my own life.

You were given a life. Don’t be disrespectful.

Which of these are you guilty of breaking?

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Youth Ministry Is Not A Democracy

I’ve tried my best to please kids, to a point, but youth ministry is not a democracy. Some things are not up for a vote.

I don’t let kids vote what music is played in the youth hall or the van , I set the standard and give them options.

I don’t let them vote on the name of the youth ministry, I dribble out a few names to a few  students to see what they think, and then we decide.

I don’t let them vote on where they go to camp, even if that means some do not go.

I don’t let them vote about what I preach on.  I listen, ask questions, and let the Holy Spirit reveal it.

Can you imagine Moses taking a vote to go into the promise land?

Can you imagine Joshua taking a vote whether they should attack Jericho?

It’s not up for a vote if we’re going to feed the poor, share Jesus with the lost, have worship, or care of the lonely.

Can you imagine Jesus taking a vote on wether the disciples wanted to get in the boat and go to the other side?

We should always build consensus with young people, but young people do not know what they want, only want what is best of them, and most,  do not understand the consequences of their choices; this is why they need a leader not a friend.

We should always listen, talk, and even debate, but some things, most things,  are not up for a vote. Leaders have to lead and students will decide if they want to follow or not.



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New Game: Dice Spice The Firecracker Edition

If you have youth during the week of 4th of July, like I do, it can be a challenge to find a game that goes along with the holiday. Fear not, I, your youth ministry genie, have granted your wish for a fun 4th of July game.

Dice Spice: The Firecracker Edition is a print and play, dice rolling game where contestants compete to complete a list of items that come up when they roll the die.

This game is faced paced and you could have upward of 5-7 people playing. This makes a great stage game because of all the activity going on.

I hope you’ll check it out and have a fantastic 4th.


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