3 Ways to Spice Up The Boring Grad Gift

You Still Have Time 

To make your grad gifts shine! Whether you are a youth pastor prepping for Grad Sunday or a parent just want to make graduation a little extra special, here are three ways to spice up the boring grad gift.

I just finished the video that shows my completed grad gift boxes (or suitcases) and I hope it will give you some last minute inspiration.

Let me offer three ways you can still make your grad gifts excellent and memorable.

1. Change the experience

You may have no control over what you are giving to your grads, but maybe you can change how they receive them. I made suitcase but you could create a different kind of experience.

Lock up each gift with a combination lock and give each grad one or two numbers (depending on how many grads). After service they have to trade numbers to get the right combo to open their gift.

Hide one gift and, after service, give them a clue sheet to go and find it.

2. Change how many senses are involved 

Use all your grads senses, not just sight and touch.

Connect a smell and/or taste to a place you have all been. Put some coconut or fruit with your gift to remind kids of that mission trip the Caribbean everyone went on.

Put together a Spotify playlist of all the worship songs, retreat songs, etc. for their last ride out of High School and that also reflects their time in the group.

Record individual audio or video messages to each student and text it to them after the grad service.

3. Change the packaging 

What did you get your kids for Grad Sunday? How can you change the packaging to make it more special or fun? How about wrapping them in fast food bags to represent all the times you went out to eat? Or put their gifts in a their favorite pizza boxes.

I hope these last few ideas stirs up some inspiration and will make your Grad Sunday or Wednesday the best it can be,

You can also check out my Graduation Playlist on Youtube for some extra ideas.

Have an awesome Graduation Sunday Service!

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I Don’t Want You To Be A Better Youth Pastor

Making life-long followers of Jesus. It’s kind of the point of my blog here. Every idea, video, etc, is meant to encourage you to think long term. To change something about yourself, your program, or even your theology when it some to making disciples.

I want you to become life-long disciple makers, not just more creative youth workers. Playing better games is a means to an end.  Being an awesome communicator is not the end game . It’s not about tactics, it’s about the lifestyle.

“But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple maker.”
― Francis Chan, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

My hope is that every post, every video, every resource, leads us all to becoming lifelong disciple makers and not just better youth pastors.

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What Is My Time Worth? You Decide

I’ve heard it said, “If people won’t pay for your time, your time isn’t worth anything.” That’s has been stuck in my head for a while and I decided to see if this is true.

For the past seven years I have brought you the best content possible as an active, in the trenches youth pastor. I am one of you! I share my heart, my successes, and my failures.

In addition to my office hours, I pass along what I create in the form of blog posts, podcasts, videos, and lessons. All of this takes time. How much is my time worth? Today you get to decide.

I have started a Patreon account. This is a tool by which you can choose a way to support the work I do, especially for those youth workers who have no budget, no support, and no encouragement so they can receive free resources.

There are three ways you can support me,

Team Turner $1 a month

This is just your app of saying, “I am with you Paul and I appreciate what you do for all us.”. It’s less than .05 cents a day and an easy way to show your support.

Turner’s Tips. $3 a month

This is for those of you who really enjoy my content and want a deeper dive into the who, what, where, and why of what I do. If you want to get a behind the scenes look at ministry, this is where you’ll see it.

Turner’s Tribe $5 a month

This is for those of you who have no budget, are under-appreciated, bi-vocational, volunteer and slap any other adjective to describe how hard youth ministry is sometimes. As part of Turner’s Tribe You will receive freebies such as full lessons, special training videos. special Q and A sessions and more.for only $5 a month.

That’s it. Easy as 1,3, 5

What is my time worth? You decide.

You can choose your gratitude path right here.

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Youth Ministry Excuse # 5 I Am Powerless

I have been told, in various churches I’v served, that I could not do something

I could not use secular music

I could not take kids to such and such

I could not redecorate the room

I could not do pool parties

All of which I thought were stupid, but it wasn’t my call.

After I pitched my little fit and blamed everyone for why the youth ministry could not grow or said “If you just let me do …,  I got busy doing what I could do.

Staying within the lines is not my style (and still isn’t) but if I wanted to keep ministering in the local church I had to quit making excuses about being powerless.

How To Kill This Excuse: Collaboration

Many Youth Workers have very little control or say so in the direction of their ministries, but we do have influence. We don’t sign the checks or have a vote, but we do have passion and vision. We can talk, persuade, vision cast, and influence the people around us who do have control over the things we want/need changed.

Real power is not having full control, real power is, according to Dacher Keltner  in his book The Power Paradox, is

“altering the states of others”

This can be done through force or it can be done though joy, surprise, or kindness.

I was a big proponent of the first way. I’d make every argument in the book for why my way was the right way. I changed very little hearts or minds with that method.

Keltner goes on to say that power is given not grabbed and then shares how power is really attained. He uses the word groups, but we can safely include the church in his examples

Groups (Churches) give power to those who advance the greater good. 

For too long I fought for the rights of our youth ministry. I saw my self as the ministry only advocate and I raised my voice when I thought we were being disrespected.

What I did not take into account was that I was a selfish knuckled and did not think of the church as a whole. I wanted what I wanted and let the rest do what they wanted. It was not until I got my thinking unstuck and started to do what was best for the whole and not just for me, did I experience true power.

This leads to principle number two

Groups (Churches) reward those who advance the greater good with status and influence. 

The more I asked,

“What can the youth do to further the churches vision, message, and principles?”

the more I was seen as a team player and less of a rabble rouser.

The more I committed to being a team player and not a dangerous outlier that could upset the apple cart, the more responsibility I was given, the more my opinion mattered, the more I heard yes instead of no. For a youth pastor, this kind of power is like gold. My youthful passion cost me quite a bit of gold.

Lastly, the good use of power leads to principle number three

Groups (Churches) construct reputations that determine the capacity to influence

My negative actions had built me a reputation. Although I had skills, I did not have power. I was the talented monkey playing with matches. I had to rebuild my reputation

It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. –  Benjamin Franklin

I had not only lost my reputation, I had buried it.

Think of the basket ball player who consistently hogs the ball and tries to make crazy shots with zero results. That was me. The team may decide they need you on the court for defense but they do not have to throw you the ball any more.

Also, griping about not getting the ball will only get you traded.

One of my great tenants of youth ministry, now,  is how can the youth ministry bless and serve the rest of the church. I do this by

  • integrating the churches theme (mission, purpose) into the youth ministry DNA
  • serving other ministries in the church from nursery to senior citizens
  • create youth Sundays that will bless our congregation

You will never know greater power than when you are given it rather than trying to take it.

You are not powerless! It’s not that the church won’t let you do anything, maybe just have a bad definition of what real power looks like and your process for getting it is flawed.

Collaboration, not instigation, brings true power.

On to Excuse # 6: It’s Too Much Work 


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End Of Year Review: The 9 Questions You Must Ask Your Students


Kids want to share how they feel about us and the ministry they are a part of, but too often we’re scared to ask. We think, if I just keep my head down and plan lots of stuff I’ll be alright and I won’t have to listen to any criticism. Is that what you really want? Don’t you want to know what they really think?

Hearing them out is a win-win. They get to express themselves, we get to grow, and we get to plan on purpose for the next year.

Check out this mini-workshop on doing an end of the year review and the questions you must ask your students.

What other questions might you include?


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New Three Week Sermon Series: Transformed




I wrote Transformed because I wanted kids to see themselves as works of art in progress. They are unfinished, but no less beautiful or valuable.

In this three week series we cover the transformations of people like Paul, Peter, the woman at the well and more. We look at their lives before and after meeting Jesus and the process in-between. We use stories about art, phone apps, hands on art projects, small groups and more to drive home the point that we can be transformed by the power and grace of God.

I’d love for you to give it a try. This is a money back guarantee, if you don’t like it, I’ll give your your money back. It’s that simple. Check it out HERE.

The series includes

– Opening activity ideas
– Art related activities
– Power Point and Keynote Slides
– Small Group Questions
– Promo Art Work
– Movie and Music Suggestions
– Curriculum Coach Audio

The series is flexible and you can design it anyway you’d like to meet the needs of your specific kids.

And remember, you are in the transformation process as well. God is not done with you yet. Keep going, and one day you will spread your wings and fly as well.

Recovering From The Post Summer Blues


Adobe Spark-3


Youth Ministry doesn’t get any better than a missions trip or camp. In fact, if I could do only two things, missions and camps are all I would do because of the impact they have. But what is camp and missions trips without the downtime and struggle in-between?

I just got back from our missions trip to Florida where I speak at the camp I received Christ at. I’ve been doing this for 13 years. This year I took a team of students to do dramas and and skits. Camp and missions together? It was just too much. I have no idea how to recover, but I have to try.

I’m taking the next few days easy. I’m not prepping for anything. I sat in my office all day yesterday working on menial tasks like organizing my desk and putting pictures in frames.

Today  I’m picking up or building some soccer goals, whichever is cheaper. Physical activity helps clear my mind. Later, I’m going to wash the van we used on the tiro and and get it detailed. It’s hot mess.

Tomorrow, is Wednesday, I am using one of my messages that I used on the missions trip to share because, honestly, I don’t have the brain power. Don’t worry, the message was good and it’s something our group needs to hear. Timely. Tonight I’m going to see new Batman animated movie, The Killing Joke with my teenage son.

This weekend, I think it’s this weekend, we are having a 30 Days After Camp Reunion to see where we are in our relationship with God, His Word, and His Church.

That’s it. That’s my plan. Take it slow. Do something physical. Spend time with family. Enjoy the down time. Re-vist what God did in the hearts of kids. Dream for the future. Listen for what’s next.

What does your post camp/mission/summer look like?

How do you handle the highs and lows of ministry?



How Will You Get Kids There? Train or Dune Buggy?

Trains, Dune Buggy;s

We have two ways to travel, by trains or dune buggy.

Trains are predictable. They have scheduled stops. You may even arrive on time but you have one problem, tracks. If you want to go “over there” you can’t. You have to stay on the tracks. One other thing. you are not the conductor. You have no option but to allow someone else to drive the train.

Dune Buggy’s on the other hand, are awesome. You go where you want to go, explore where you want to go, see things that train people only see from their window. You are the driver and set he course.

It’s a choice between safety and predictability vs adventure and autonomy. What will you say to your kids this summer: Get on the train or jump in my ride?

Before you choose, remember, Jesus lived in the desert.

For more inspiration, be sure to sign up for my Fresh Impact newsletter.

And The Winner Is…You



Have you ever wonder why there is no awards show for youth pastors? I mean we could give out some awards like

Best Worship Pose

Best Hipster Beard

Best Game Player

Best Talk Giver

Best Organized

But, alas, no award show has been created for us, or has there?

You see, our awards or rewards come later. They seem slow in coming, but when they come, they’ll come big. It’ll make the Oscars look like Boy Scouts getting awards for Pinewood Derby and and the Oscar after parties like a five year old birthday party at Chuck E Cheese.

See what I mean in the video below.

Oh, and if you like videos like this, be sure to subscribe at the top right of this page or here

Your Turn

Have you ever moped around wishing someone had given you an award for something you did in ministry?

What award do you think you deserve? Why?



Tips For Family and Ministry Balance


I am on Periscope every Monday and Friday to answer your questions about youth ministry, life, and whatever else is on your mind. Periscope is a live streaming app and different kinds of people jump in an comment.

Here’s Monday’s episode.

The question: How do you manage spending time with family and doing ministry?

Thanks to @CJ_Bourroughs for his comments and insights.

Periscope Principles

Make family a priority.

Does the priority make the calendar?

Delegation creates space for family.

Who dictates your calendar? Pastor? Students?

Face to Face with students and leaders will be the most fruitful time you spend all week. Go deep with people, build equity in the relationships and the need for you to do everything will relax.

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