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Help Me Understand…

As I am getting settled in my new house, new city and getting to know my new staff I still have been meeting with people. I technically do not start my new position for another 10 days, but as of last week I still have been hanging out with my direct supervisor and every single person on the team in which I will be overseeing, as well as some great key volunteers. One, because there is only so much I can organize the house and sit at home and two, because I think it is important to get to know, see how people feel and ask them certain questions so I do not go into this new position blind. I want to be able to have somewhat of a pulse on the team and the ministry in which I am joining.

I think one of the most important things any leader will ever do is ask questions. Not only ask questions, but know how to ask good questions. Whether you are hanging out with a student, with a leader or joining a new team, asking questions allows for you to know them and them to know you. It gives them a sense that you care about what they have to say and that you are listening to them. Who doesn’t want to feel like they are being heard?

So here are the questions I have been asking everyone I meet with in some way, shape or form:

  • How are you doing right now? (Are they tired, excited, nervous, anxious, overwhelmed?)
  • What are you most nervous about the future?
  • What are you most excited about?
  • If there was only one thing you could change right away what would it be?
  • If there was one thing you think should not change because it’s really effective what would it be?
  • Can you please help me understand _________ (In conversation if there is something that does not make sense or catches you off-guard you can clarify. I always want to give the benefit of the doubt).

I’m sure there are more, but these seem to be the go-to ones for me at this point in time. Now don’t just ask the questions and that’s it. Take value, take notes and engage in conversation so when time does come for change, you know, value and understand where people are coming from.

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Free Yourself from Vacation Guilt


I’m currently on vacation, and loving it. I’ve got my 4 kids and wife in the car the past 10 days and we’re road tripping a huge chunk of the US and hitting up big reunions on both sides of our family. This is my one major vacation his whole year – I’m going to be away from my church and youth group for like 17 days or so.

I’m available to our students and church about 340 days of the year, 24/7. I don’t feel guilty when I’m gone. When I started to even feel this way I felt guilty even saying it, much less actually doing it! I wish I learned this long ago.

Don’t punish yourself about ministry when you’re on vacation. Don’t feel guilty when you’re gone. Work impossibly hard when you’re there so you can be gone when you’re gone. Be all in so you can be all out!


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POLL: What type of youth ministry do you have?

What type of ministry are you currently involved in – do you primarily minister in a rural area with lots of small towns, farms and countryside around? Are you in the thick of the urban setting in a downtown ministry? Are you in between, in a suburban setting where lots of people commute to work in the city? I realize that there are many ways to describe areas we live and our youth groups are always a mix of different students, but think the information would be helpful/interesting for sure!


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After Summer Service


I have been traveling for the last week and have had the opportunity to interact with students and leaders from the other side of the country.  In this process I also had to fly on  8 different airplanes.  If you have ever been on a plane you know the “disembark” dance.  The moment the wheels touch down,  everyone sits forward in their seat in anticipation.  Seatbelt light goes “off” and the masses stand,  poised to run off the  tin can that has just flown them to their destination. You wait, as the rows file in front of you.  UNLESS.   Of course you are too slow.  Then you are left in the dust.  There is approximately a two minute lag to get all of your stuff together and jump into the aisle without having to wait until everyone else gets off first.

It struck me this is a great example of what can happen with our students after our “summer service” experiences.  We have attended work camps or missions groups.  There was a planned “service” activity on the calendar.  High School students now have a paper in hand to “sign off” on “volunteer hours.”  However,  my question is what are we doing to teach them serving in the day to day?

Here are other things I experienced on my trip:

  • A 79 year old woman who housed me and made me eggs and sausage every day,  so that I could “speak to parents and youth workers.”
  • People who invited me to stay in their home,  in the midst of crazy lives,  taking time to talk with me and make sure I was well taken care of.
  • A group of people who went OUT of their way to accommodate some special dietary needs that I have.

Now I had also been invited in as an “expert” so perhaps they felt like they “had” to.   Yet- here are some things I noticed these same leaders didn’t “have” to do:

  • Take the time out to help a friend move, when few others showed up.
  • Hang out with a hurting student and give her a little extra attention because she needs it right now.
  • Hand write me a map so I could have the “best, most scenic route” for my morning run.

It’s easy to teach our students service in events, program and dates on a calendar.  What are we doing to go out of our way on a daily basis to show them how to serve and be selfless in the process?  Putting yourself aside is easy when you know you only have to make it happen for a week or so.  It’s much more complicated when it is a lifestyle.  Yet,  we have to ask do want to raise a generation that believes in the “cause” of the broken, oppressed, hurting, sick, poor and widows OR do we want to see them just love on their neighbors the way they love themselves?

How do we make this happen?

Model it.  When you don’t feel like it.  Be the last out the door and ask a student to help you stack the chairs.  Take an afternoon and sit with an elderly woman who just needs some company,  and bring them with you.  Hold the door for those in front of you,  call the cashier by name, stop to help someone pick up something they drop (even when you are in a hurry), go to the back of the line when it’s your turn to be in the front.  Think of others first when you don’t want to be second.

We can talk about service until the day is done.  Yet,   do we want to keep taking trips every summer or see some take ownership of becoming a servant?

What are you doing to bring the “servant” attitude back to school this Fall?


How to Prepare for the Fall

I snapped at my boss yesterday.

I realized it a few hours later and sent him an apology in which I also said, “I’m operating out of a place of depletion and stress right now.”

That’s not an excuse. It’s more a confession of my current reality.

At the end of the summer, on the heels of a two-week international mission trip, with the start of fall programming looming before me, what I’ve realized is that I’m exhausted.

To make matters worse, one of my colleagues died yesterday, very unexpectedly.

My congregation and I are reeling. I’m not only physically exhausted, I’m emotionally spent. At the end of the day, I told my husband, “I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.”

Having recognized this, the question is, what am I going to do about it?

After all, fall programming starts two weeks from tonight.

I have a student leadership team retreat this weekend.

What I need to do is plan.

Solidify leaders.

Prepare student leaders.

Write curriculum.

Do publicity.

Shop for supplies.

But then again, maybe not.

Throughout Scripture, I’m amazed at how often we’re told to remember the Sabbath and to rest, something that I think those of us in ministry typically aren’t very good at.

I know I’m not.

Resting is counter-cultural.

Resting is, in and of itself, an act of faith.

But resting is perhaps what we most need during the times we’re operating on empty.

For me, that means that in the two weeks leading up to the start of the fall programming, I’m going to take time to rest – even though it doesn’t make sense to do so.

I’m not going to skimp on sleep.

Since nature replenishes me like few other things do, I’m going to get outside and hike.

Regardless of how much remains undone, I’m not going to work into the evening hours.

Each day, I’m going to read – another act that restores my soul.

Despite having a retreat this weekend, I’m taking Friday off.

Next week, I’m going to leave my laptop at home and escape with my husband for a few days of R&R.

Doing these things won’t only be good for me, they’ll benefit my family and my ministry.

As one of my students recently told me when I asked her what she’d learned from her summer working at a Christian camp, “It’s not actually selfish to take care of yourself.”

No, dear, it’s not.

And so this week, I’m shifting my priority from the stuff on my to-do list to my own soul care.

I urge you to do the same.

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Fear Of Failing

So I have completely transitioned about of Saddleback HSM (just in case you missed this news, click HERE to read what has been going on in my life and ministry). It has been bitter-sweet. Sad to leave people I love but excited to work with some amazing people in the near future. This means the last 10 days I have had plenty of time on my hands. We have moved, we are setting up the new place but for the past few days have had no computer or internet at our house. There has been a lot of great quality time with my wife but there also has been a lot of time to just sit, reflect, think and pray.

A lot.

Maybe not a lot, but more than I am used to on a regular basis.

I don’t know about you, but when things get quiet, things that we tend to repress and avoid because we are busy tend to pop up and be a louder voice than usual. I think for any leader the voice and fear of failing on whatever next venture is (whether is a new position, next event, next service, etc.), is something we will always have to deal with. This is where the enemy loves to sit, fester, and try to pry in our lives cause doubt in our lives where God clearly has called us.

No one wants to fail but it is a constant fear, admitted or not, it is there. So how do you move past it? I have been asking myself this over and over the past few days as I am about to embark on a new adventure in which I know will bring challenges I am not used to.

Here are 3 things I have been constantly reminding myself of when these feelings of fear of failure seem to creep into my life:

  1. Remember what God thinks about me. I think we say this to our students all of the time but we as leaders forget to believe it sometimes ourselves. I need to be reminded daily that I am His child, His friend and that He is for me… even if I fail.
  2. Remember I sit in God’s grace…always. Even if the people around me show no grace, I am always in God’s grace. And this should be enough to pick my head up and keep moving forward. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times he rises again.” This is the beauty of God’s grace.
  3. Overcome temptation. When it comes to leading there are many temptations. The temptation of if I fail, to get down on myself. The temptation of if I succeed, to become prideful and lean on myself only. The temptation to rely on me only and steamroll the team in which I work with. The temptation to try to do it all by myself because I know how I want it. As leaders, we need to over come these things and is something I have been in prayer about constantly.

Leadership is a great thing. Failure is not. But sometimes it takes some failing to make some great leaders.

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Download Youth Ministry WebShow #250

Another week, another episode of the Download Youth Ministry Show! This week we’re all back together talking shop! We talk about youth ministry for 45 minutes every week or two, your questions answered every time! Join Doug Fields, Katie Edwards, Josh Griffin and Matt McGill every week around the table – and this week, special guest Jessica Torres fills in for Katie who is away at junior high camp.

Just enough youth ministry so you don’t feel guilty for listening.

As always, thanks to our amazing sponsors who support the show and help with incredible giveaways:

Send in your questions to webshow@downloadyouthministry.com to be answered on a future show, too!

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MOVIE REVIEW: When the Game Stands Tall


Inspired by a true story, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL tells the remarkable journey of legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), who took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport. When the streak is broken, and tragedy strikes the team, Coach Lad must teach his players – and the entire town – that it’s not about how you fall, but how you get back up.

MOVIE REVIEW: When the Game Stands Tall
MPAA RATING: PG for thematic material, a scene of violence and brief smoking
OPENS: August 21st (select) August 22nd (wide)
DYM’S REVIEW: 5/5 stars

I really, really love this movie!

I played football in college – OK, let me clarify that for the record a little. I got destroyed my freshman year, learned the game my sophomore year, got some solid playing time my junior year then blew my knee my senior year. But I understand the game, played the game and love the game. This movie is a great football movie, and athletes and teammates will appreciate it the most without a doubt. But football, even the historic undefeated run and consecutive national championships, are just the vehicle for a film that strives to teach all of us more about the game of life than the game of football.

The movie stars Jim Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig (aka that one guy from The Hunger Games) and a really great Michael Chicklis who steals several scenes as assistant coach Terry Eldson. By the end of the movie you’ll know Beaser, Mickey and Buster Matthews all too well. The movie jumps right into the action, and the action looks great since all of the football was choreographed by the team behind Friday Night Lights. Really good stuff!

The movie isn’t overtly “Christian” but has a clear, faith-based message. The coaches are Christian but not perfect and also not afraid to stand their ground. They are human but have deep-seated values held firmly in place. Christians will enjoy seeing what a dedicated life looks like, and non-Christians will be challenged on how a genuine life of faith could change things. Christians are displayed as real people and even the coach has weaknesses and temptations he struggles with through the journey of the movie. Thankfully the movie never gets “preachy” in any way, yet is straightforward with the message: these players, coaches and parents are different because of their faith in Jesus and their Christ-like love for each other. In fact, I would hesitate to call it a “Christian film” and just say it is an inspiration true story of faith and football and let it stand on it’s own.

This is a great movie to go see as a youth group. The PG rating is earned but there is nothing offensive or even distracting from the clear messages in the film. This is a student-friendly movie, I know of a bunch of friends that are taking our youth group to see the film opening weekend and encouraging their local coaches and teachers to do the same. You could even take your whole youth group to see When the Game Stands Tall – I promise it will help bring up great conversations about life and faith. I brought my younger kids and they all walked away with learnings about faith and life.

These are the kind of movies we need to get behind. If you want more good stuff to come out of Hollywood, put your box office behind it. Beyond just the economy of the movie industry – this is a film you should have your own children see. This is a film young athletes should see. This is a film for dads to bring their kids to help cement values in their home. When the Game Stands Tall is an inspirational movie that needs to be on your must-see list for the fall. And if you see the movie on opening weekend, it sends a statement that more and more of these films need to be released.

We got to see the film a few months ago in a rough cut and wrote a special downloadable companion guide to the film to help create great discussions around the film’s message. We’re proud of this tool and excited to see it downloaded thousands of times already. You can get the DYM Conversation Starters here and other great tools for the movie here.

In short, I loved this film. Everyone in the DYM office loved this film. We’re thrilled to see a movie of this quality with an incredible story and A-list actors wrapped up in a compelling package. We’re big fans of When the Game Stands Tall – go see this movie! In theaters THIS weekend!


PS: Be sure to Stay for the credits … seeing the actual footage of the coaches and players from De La Salle in the first few minutes after the film ends is fantastic. Totally pulls the whole movie together, even made me tear up a bit.

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Special DYM Webshow: The Remaining

Here’s a fun special episode of the DYM Webshow featuring Chris Dowling, the writer of the upcoming movie The Remaining. Good stuff!


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Divergent Christians

My daughter is an avid reader and for almost a year she has been in a “dystopian” phase. Despite it’s popularity, she didn’t tackle the “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth until this summer. I decided to make it part of my beach reading both as a conversation starter with my girl and out of curiosity. It holds all of the “angst” of any great young adult series set against of course a world where we tried to destroy mankind and then rebuild in the ashes. If you haven’t seen the movie/read the book it has a great heroine who is “divergent” from everyone else and this makes her dangerously, amazingly “different” from anyone she knows.

I overthink pretty much everything, so I have been mulling over this idea of standing out from society quite a bit lately. It has been really been playing in my mind as “famous” pastors making headlines they would rather not, reading some books on following Jesus with my intern, a Bible study I am in the middle of and seeing this video by Lecrae:

Here is what I am coming to realize as all of these ideas collide.

Integrity, humility and putting Christ first ALL THE TIME is what causes those who know the Lord to be “divergent” in a world full of darkness. A pastor I heard  recently put it this way, “Without Jesus  the world are holding flashlights, but have no idea how to turn them on. Turn on your light and let them see it brightly.”

Honestly, can those who don’t know Christ see the difference in those of us who know Him?  Unfortunately,  I have seen many “not so famous”  Christian leaders who I wouldn’t know are Jesus followers if they didn’t tell me.  Our choices matter.  The big ones and the little ones.  What we allow into our minds and hearts matters. It affects us.  No one just wakes up one day and has multiple affairs, becomes addicted to porn or any other slew of “issues” that seem “really horrific.”  It begins with a peak at something that makes us feel “naughty, ” or pushing a little to the “edge” to feel a little less “divergent,” or any number of reasons why we do what we do.  We get away with it.  No one saw, or was worse for wear.  We go a little farther next time,  we like the way it feels to do what we want.  All this work of carrying a cross is exhausting.  Before we know it we are standing under a landslide trying to push back the muck with our bare hands.

Here’s the thing though.  We love the heroes and heroines in movies and books who stand out because they fight the “norm.”   They see the injustice and are willing to lay it all down for the sake of making the world a different place.

We cheer for them.  We love them.  We want to be them.   No one wants to be the “evil head” that has been “seeking to make the world a better place, but really destroying it.”

So what are we going to do?  There have been lots of books, blog posts and articles in the last couple of years charging us to follow Jesus, “no matter the cost.”  Yet, I wonder if we realize “giving it all” starts in the choices we make a moment from now.  Will we show integrity when we would rather not? I am wondering if we can truly be different and see what happens?

What if we start with one decision that will have a ripple effect on bringing us closer to Christ?

How would that change the way the world is drawn to us?

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4 Things You Should Be Doing With Your Phone


Much like a teenage girl, I’m attached to my phone. Unlike a teenage girl, I’m familiar with the boundaries I should have with it. But still I use it for EVERYTHING. I’m always on it, not just for personal tasks, but for ministry tasks as well. Now my phone helps me out in countless ways in ministry but here are four apps and features that have really been helping me out recently:

Group Me- This is a group texting app that is really unique. It allows you to text people that have all kinds of phones… even flip phones! I’ve had struggles with other texting apps: iPhone required by all participants, smart phone in general required by all participants, only allows for one way texting, etc… so texting my small group or volunteer team never seemed to work like I wanted it to. What I really like is that the text thread that the app creates displays the name of the sender of each person in the group. So no more group texts saying, “Who’s number starts with 704?”

Over- If you have an advertisement to make and don’t have a graphic design bone in your entire body, than this is for you. In a nutshell, the app allows you to put words on any picture saved on your phone. Students have made this app (or others like it) famous by putting cliché quotes over sunsets and kittens, but you can redeem the app by using it for ministry! I used all the time to make advertisements for our ministry’s Instagram account. While it isn’t a total substitution for a graphics guy, it will help you make ads that look clean and professional.

Find My Friends- This iPhone exclusive app is a GPS tracking app, meaning it allows you to see exactly where someone else is. Now not just anyone can see your location, the app allows for you to pick and choose who has the permission to see where you are. This is the perfect app to use when traveling to camp or any other event that requires caravanning. Since we used a few buses to get to camp this year, Find My Friends made it easy to track where some of them were, allowing us to easily track where everyone was without the endless text updates.

Encouragement Photo Album- This one isn’t an app, just a cool idea. When I first started in ministry, my mentor told me to keep all of the encouraging notes in a box so that, when I get discouraged, I can go through them and remember why I do this. I loved the idea, but had no clue what to do with texts and emails. The solution: screenshot all of the texts and emails and save them into an album solely dedicated to encouragement. Simple. Easy. Free.

What are some apps that make ministry easier for you?


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Youth Ministry Veteran Tip: Turn Questions into Content


Earlier this summer we held our summer camp parent meeting  - it was a super fun night of videos, content and questions. But being there and working through an extended question and answer time made me remember a principle I needed to put into practice:

  1. Make sure someone records every question asked during training
  2. Make sure someone records the learnings from camp during the week
  3. Make sure someone records the leader debrief after camp

Swirl all of this together, and turn it into content for next year. You can improve the parent meeting, camp itself and parent/student experience by more than 100% each year. Take the questions and turn them into content. Take the failures from camp and turn them into improvement. Take the debrief time not just to celebrate but to anticipate the needs of next year.

If you launch life groups this fall and don’t turn your questions into training, you missed a big opportunity. If you teach a workshop at your denominational gathering and don’t have someone recording the questions so you can fill in the missing spots of your lesson, you’ll continue to train people incompletely. The reason some youth workers are great leaders is that they learn from their questions. They address questions before parents or counselors even known they had them. A decent conference speaker and a standout-memorable-ministry-changing talk is probably because she’s taken the time to incorporate the questions into her talk.

When someone raises their hand, it is an opportunity for you to improve next time!


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4 Things To Do Before Starting A New Position

So this is my first week not in my former position, but it does not mean I am not working. I don’t begin my new position for a few weeks and I am definitely going to take advantage of it by taking my wife on vacation, but until then, I have been and am going to be hanging out with my supervisor and future team of people to get a run down on the current state and feel of ministry. There will be a time to turn off, which I’m planning on doing, but I also want to be prepared (somewhat) for this new position that I will be taking over. As I have been thinking through the meetings I have had already and the ones I know I’m going to continue to have, I have been processing the following:

Ask Questions – I have been meeting with some great people from my circle who have been leading for a long time and have been picking their brains about certain things regarding the new position. The last thing I ever want to do is assume I know what I’m doing at all times. We can all be learning something from someone and I have been asking leadership questions from some great leaders whom I know and love.

Ask More Questions – I have been meeting and hanging out with the executive pastor who I will be reporting to. He is a great leader with a great heart who cares for the ministry. We went to lunch and I got to ask him a ton of questions about the ministry, the good things and the things that need improvement. I asked about expectations, office hours, performance expectations, where do they want to see the ministry in 5 years? Question after question after question. I figure, the more I know coming in, the more I can prepare myself to make decisions and be effective right away.

Learn How To Ask Good Questions – Don’t just ask to ask. Be intentional with who you are asking and what are you asking. I want to see where volunteers are at so I ask them certain questions in certain ways. You want to see where students are at so you ask them certain questions. There is nothing better to help prepare for a new spot than asking the right questions. Learn how to do this and you will be walking in more confident.

Listen – Instead of thinking about the next question or meeting, actually listen. Staff, volunteers and students want to feel like they are being heard. When we ask questions we allow them to voice what they are feeling. Wrong or right, how they are feeling is real. So lean into that, listen, and adjust when necessary. One of the best things a leader can do coming into a new spot is be a great listener and slow to respond. Gather information, pray about it, discern and you will be able to take action when you need to when you come in being caught up on the ministry instead of coming in cold.

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POLL: Facebook Still Going Strong for Youth Ministry?

Texting and Instagram are the best forms of communication in our student ministry, with Twitter on the rise (finally) and Facebook (finally) on the decline. I wouldn’t presume that is the same across the country – but it made me wonder, is Facebook still the “go to” platform to talk to students? Vote today if it is getting better, about the same or starting to fade!


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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 252


Weekend Teaching Series: The Need Movement (1-off, guest speaker)
Sermon in a Sentence: Share your faith with your friends
Service Length: 60 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we brought in a guest speaker Riley Mailman to challenge students to share their faith. That they needed to have a burden for their fellow students and that burden should motivate them to follow and share Christ. It was a great challenge woven into his own personal story and his learnings while writing his book, The Need Movement.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a ton of fun this week – we played Sit Down If into World Cup Name Game and both were a huge hit. Sometimes we fail to have students volunteer for a game up front (or we have the same 2 every week) so we used Sit Down If to get us down to a couple and then let them go head to head in the up front trivia game. Worked perfectly, everyone had a blast!

Music Playlist: We Are the Free, Christ is Enough, Take It All, Oceans, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I’ve been wanting to have Riley speak since I saw him at the Student Leadership Conference. So good! Great message.

Up next: 1-off