Thursday, July 26, 2012


One huge thing that is required of student ministry pastors is the ability to be flexible.  I was tested on this yesterday.

I had planned a canoe trip for my students, and I was fairly impressed with that fact that I was able to pull it off within about a week.  I planned it all on Monday and had it scheduled for the following Tuesday.

I was scrambling like mad on Monday to find drivers, and finalize the numbers for how many students would be attending.  Well, as fate has it, and God probably had this planned for a reason, I woke up and it was raining outside.  Rain is not a big deal, and often times it makes canoeing that much more fun!

I got ready, put on my bathing suit, and found a shirt that I wouldn't mind getting dirty.

As I hopped into my borrowed van (I needed something other than my 99 accord to haul students around) I realized it was actually raining pretty hard, and not only that but out in the distance I continued to hear thunder.  But then the clincher, I saw a huge bolt of lightning strike a few miles up ahead of me.  I decided it was time to can the canoe trip.

I was getting calls, texts, and emails about whether or not we were still planning on having the scheduled trip.

I was furiously googling bowling alleys, laser tag places, indoor rec centers, and anything fun around the area that would be open before noon.  The results? Nothing.  Except the mall that was right down the street.

I scurried together and created a 15 item scavenger hunt for items that would be in the mall.

I had students go to the pet store, find an Andrew Luck Jersey, and even discover a spatula from the kitchen store.

Concluding the scavenger hunt we headed back to church where we watch a hilarious comedian on dvd that a parent wisely allowed me to borrow, I ordered pizza with the money that students anticipated using for the canoe rentals, and we hung out. The storm got worse and worse, and at one point there were 80 mph winds tearing through our neck of the woods.

I had this whole trip planned, my first major event at this church, but God chose to teach me flexibility on this one instead.

How have you been forced to be flexible while being in ministry?

Monday, July 23, 2012

What we can learn from Penn State

I'm sitting here listening to the sanctions that came forward from the Penn State scandal.  If you haven't heard yet, check it out here.

If you are unfamiliar with the issues going on with Penn State, I would recommend you do a little research, but for a quick summary, it came to light that one of Penn State's coaches was mistreating younger individuals.  And it went unnoticed since 1998. To put it lightly.

I think this issue brings to light a very real truth in our world and how we need to be extremely careful in student ministry and interactions with minors.

The bottom line in what took place was an egregious crime, and a shame.

The reason this is such a big deal is that as student ministry pastors and leaders we need to be aware of what kind of interactions are going on between adults and students.  Regardless of what your opinion on the issue is, as a student ministry director/pastor you hope, and quite honestly need to be much more than hopeful, that you are never put in the position that Joe Paterno was put in.

As the student ministry leader/pastor you are put in charge.  You must answer for all the actions that are going on in your ministry.  You are the "Joe Pa" of your student ministry.

I know this may still be a sore subject, but "Joe Pa" was the leader of this organization, and we as pastors and leaders are the shepherd of our student ministry and we must answer for all the actions that go on inside our ministry.

What can we learn from this?

I think what we can learn is to be extraordinarily careful in volunteer and student interactions.

Know as much as you can about what is going on in your student ministry.

Do background checks on your leaders.

Don't just take any warm body who is willing to help, be able to say no to people if you have to.

Above all, be the leader, and make sure that you are standing up for what is right, no matter what the cost.

What do you think about the Penn State punishment, do you think it's too harsh? What are some other things we can learn as student ministry pastors in this?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Event Ideas

Summer is one of those times to kind of take it easy. If you can swing it give your volunteers a couple of months off from the week-in-and-week-out grind of youth ministry.  Scale back the weekly programming.  Kick your feet up.  Hang out with students in a "chill" environment.

Since you're not running your weekly programming as frivolously as you may be during the middle of October or March, what are some opportunities you may see to hang out with students?

Some quick summer ideas:

  • Movie Night
Watch a movie at the church, or at a youth leader's house.  It doesn't have to be an officially church sponsored event, but just a chance to get students together to hang out.
  • Beach Hangout
Go find a sandy beach. Pack some lunches. Play sand volleyball.  Hangout and chill in the water.
  • Canoe/Kayak Trip
Spend a lazy day out on the river with a bunch of your students in some rented canoes.  The best part about these trips is that no one stays dry :)
  • Bowling
Hit up the local bowling alley and just have fun being bad at a sport that so few people are skilled in.

The bottom line about summer is get out of your natural environment so that you can break down the relationship barrier between yourself and students.  Start building the rapport between students so that they trust you by the time you kick off in the fall!

What do you do during the summer to connect with students?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Risk pt 2

On Monday I talked about some risks that are important to take while being a part of student ministry.

One thing that I don't think we talk about enough is how to take a step out into the unknown.

One year I went to a camp, and I decided I would go down a zipline.  So I waited in line for my turn, and I was pretty nervous.  Then I finally climbed up the giant wooden structure to the platform where I would take off.  I was harnessed in and ready to go.  Still somewhat regretting this decisions and mildly freaked out.  I finally got attached to the zipline and the instructor said, "Ok, now walk to the edge, stick your toes off the edge, and squat like you're sitting on a chair, on my signal you'll step off the ledge and away you'll go."  It was at that minute that I realized I had one of two options, step or don't step.

When we come up on a risk that we need to take we have one of two options, step, or don't step.  When you get closer and closer to that "step" you begin to feel nervous, butterflies fill your stomach, and your heart is pounding outside of your chest.

But when we step back in our comfort zone I think we miss the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move.  The Holy Spirit will direct us if we step out into the danger zone.  That is where Jesus' promise comes into play that he will be with us to the very end of the age.

In the song "Give me Faith" there is a line that says, "Give me faith, to trust what you say, that you're good, and your love is great." That line says it all where we know we can trust the Holy Spirit.  Another incredibly line in the song goes, "I may be weak, your spirit's strong in me, my flesh may fail, my God you never will." And those lines capture the whole essence of taking risks.  We know that we can't do it on our own, but we have to trust that God's spirit has our best in mind.

Take a listen to this song, one of my all time favorites, and as you listen to the words, think about a risk God may be asking you to take this week!

Happy Fourth!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Yesterday I had the privileged of bringing God's word to the congregation at my new church, University Baptist Church.

I spoke on one of my favorite, yet most convicting topics, Risk.

Today on, Balanced Student Ministry, and for this week we will talk about how we as student ministers can take a risk.

Risk, and the fear of failure, is something that we create on our own.  Jesus gave us a commission to go make disciples, discipleship, which often we define as 'Bible Study', doesn't scare us.  But evangelism freaks us out, myself included.

Francis Chan, distinguished author and speaker, spoke about the posture Christians sometimes take when it comes to taking risks.

I don't want to head where the majority will head, will you?  And the thing is I know the correct answer, or how to avoid that, but for some reason I'm still a little bit afraid.

Why are we afraid? When Jesus says, 'surely I'll be with you always, even to the very end of the age.' He's with us!

Some risks that may be involved in being a minister to students include:

  • Getting into the local school for lunches.
  • Going to football games intermingling with students who may or may not acknowledge you.
  • Making changes within your local church.
  • Finding a way to follow up with students after they visit your ministry for the first time.
Regardless as a student minister there are a number of risks, and I realize I probably only scratched the surface, but what are some risks that you find in youth ministry?

What things have I missed on that may be risks?

Check back in on Wednesday to talk about how we can practically conquer our fear of taking risks.