Do you have a scope and cycle to your curriculum?

Do you have a scope and cycle to your curriculum?

Writing curriculum is one of the most challenging endeavors a youth worker undertakes.  (I have found that it is hard even writing the word curriculum, mostly because I am a horrible speller.)  As hard as writing curriculum can be, what really makes a curriculum great or awful is its scope and cycle.  And this is where Orange's XP3 Student ministry curriculum hits it out of the park!

It is often confusing cruising through a website and trying to figure out what is going on, why they do what they do, and how it all fits together. I get that 90% of that confusion is because I don't pay attention and skim read. So, I really enjoyed sitting down and having the creators of this material, Jeremy Zach and Jared Herd, explain it to me.

These two guys and their team put together some really great material. But what is even more compelling is the values they begin with as they write their curriculum.

Here are a few values that form the foundation of how this curriculum is put together.

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5 key ingredients for a thriving student ministry

5 key ingredients for a thriving student ministry

Youth ministry is actually the best and easiest job on the planet!

I know many of you singed up for this gig because you love students and you desperately want them to love Jesus.  And while this initial passion will get you started down the road of student ministry, there are some other essential ingredients that are vital for a long term, sustained ministry.  Here are the 5 basic pillars for a sound infrastructure for your student ministry.  And when you put these in place, you can get back to the thing you were called to do! LOVE KIDS AND HELP THEM LOVE JESUS!

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Need a partner in building a sustainable youth ministry?

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 6.41.32 AM Most youth workers I know have gotten into student ministry because they love Jesus and they love kids.  Their heart and passion is often overflowing.  And this initial fire brings excitement, growth, and even some fruit.  If there is one thing youth workers are known for it is starting strong.  And on the flip side, the other thing youth workers are known for is flaming out!

Building a sustainable youth ministry takes a team.

Your initial love and passion can honestly only get you so far.  After about 6 months you have used up all your greatest talks, greatest games, greatest gimmicks, and you can see the fruit of your greatest work is starting to have diminishing returns.  Building a student ministry that lasts takes more than passion.  It takes an intentional plan to build a student ministry that will survive the waves and winds of this crazy job.

Like all buildings, the strongest and most stable are the ones who have the strongest infrastructure.  These buildings are not simple shelters, but they are highly engineered structures that require a team of experts to work together to draw plans and actually build.  And like a complex building, a sustainable student ministry needs much more than your passion and our expertise.

We get for a building project there must be engineers, architects, construction workers, contractors, interior designers, electricians, plumbers, and on and on.  But do you really get that your student ministry needs a team as well.

Orange as a vital partner in sustainable student ministry.

For me, Orange has been an incredible partner in developing a complex and sustainable student ministry.  If you think of all that needs to be done to build an infrastructure, build a program, communicate to students and parents, and intentionally walk with students through life and faith, Orange provides expert counsel and support for all of it.

  1. Orange provides a strategy!  It is rather simple, but profound.  Orange wants to combine the critical influences of the light of the church (yellow) and the love of the family (red).  The Orange strategy shows a generation who God is more effectively than either could alone.   Be the church, partner with the family, sounds good to me!
  2. Orange is a curriculum.  What I love about the Orange curriculum is that it is so much more than a talk sheet.  It is an intentional scope and cycle that engages students spiritually, engages with their families, and actually has an action item that is designed to restore the world.  It is big and bold, comprehensive, theologically deep, and culturally relevant.  The curriculum is called XP3 and they will even give you free sample if you want to try it out.
  3. Orange is an interior decorator.  I have no style.  If it were up to me, I would still splatter paint my youth room, sit on bean bag chairs, and listen to DC Talk.  Orange adds to their amazing communication and curriculum style that is slick and relevant.  They provided power point slides, videos, and music that work with students and helps old guys like me keep it fresh.
  4. Orange gives you the templates.  Writing talks, emailing parents, coming up with creative tweets, finding games and activities that work with bringing everything together all takes time.  And many youth workers spend half their time doing these things.  Orange provides templates for all of it!  How cool if you could copy and paste, add a few specific details of your own, then send a well crafted email to all your parents.  With minimal effort you have now partnered with parents in ways that builds their confidence in you, and opens up all sorts of communication lines with them.
  5. Orange is a consultant.  Lets be honest,  this all sounds good on paper, but implementing it can be difficult.  What is so great about Orange is they provide support.  Jeremy Zach and his team will walk with you through the implementation of this strategy and curriculum.  But what is even more amazing is Jeremy and his peeps genuinely care about your soul and the souls of your kids.  You will find a friend, partner, and pastor in their support staff.

With Orange as your strategy, curriculum decorator, template provider and consultant, you are now free to do what you are called to do!


You got into this gig because you love Jesus and love students.  When you do it all on your own, most youth workers have little time to actually do the thing that brings them the most joy.  Consider handing over half your hours to a partner that will provide the infrastructure and design to a theologically deep and culturally relevant student ministry.  Then invest those hours in actually connecting with and caring for students.

Programs are not the end all, be all.  But they do provide the structure, the context for ministry to happen.  With a strong program you are now free to be relational and pastoral.  Consider partnering with Orange.  Consider joining me and some of my favorite people in ATL this spring.  And let us all work together to combine the influences of the light of the church with the love of the family so that students may come to know Jesus and sustain that love into adulthood.  

See you in the dirty south April 30-May 2



Ministry for the long haul

Student ministry is a demanding job, and it seems the longer I do it, the bigger the demands become. Starting out, I couldn’t believe I could actually get paid to spend time with students, take them out to lunch, play video games and help them experience the love and grace of God. As I settled into the job of being a youth worker this simple beginning expanded exponentially. When you take the simple task of loving students and helping them explore their faith, and combine it with the all the extra expectations, emotional mood swings, scared or ticked-off parents, crises, graduation, incoming 6th graders, managing your supervisor, changing programs, and personal growth and transition, it's a miracle that youth workers stick around for even 15 months.

As I reflect on my 17 years of vocational student ministry, I have come to realize that in all I do and have done, two very basic rhythms have allowed me to continue for the long haul.

1) Continue to work out my own faith with fear and trembling. It is easy to slip into a maintenance mode in our faith. Because we spend most of our time with students who are significantly younger than us, it can take a while before we realize that we too have the faith of a sophomore in high school. The truth is, our faith must be our own faith, and the ministry we do must be an overflowing of the work Jesus is doing in our own hearts. (I know this is a no-brainer, but this head knowledge must become heart knowledge if we are going to be all that God longs for us to be.)

We must not settle in our understanding of scripture or in our personal process of sanctification. We are unfinished masterpieces, and to accomplish the good work Jesus has for us to do, we must consistently submit to the hammer and chisel of the Father. What better gift can we give our students than an example of adult faith that is just as much in refinement as their is? And 2 . . .

2) Get connected with other youth workers. For me, I have found that youth ministry is the most emotionally and spiritually taxing endeavor I could experience. We give our entire lives, sacrifice a ton of who we are, to walk alongside fickle students who seem to not even care. We have a ministry of preparation and often never get to experience fruit of our labor. As we are required to spin more and more plates and expected not to drop any of them, where can we go to get encouraged, rebuked, set straight?

We often can’t go to our pastor, it often isn’t right to go to people in the church, and sometimes we can’t even go to our spouse. I have found that fellow youth workers are people who “get it.” They are people who will allow me to share my struggles and my joys. Once you get past the lame dance where you jockey for position, you can actually enjoy some great friendships with people who understand this crazy and amazing job.

Longevity in ministry is a total gift. Sure, it's a gift to parents and students to have a youth worker who has been around the block a few times. But I have found the gift to be all mine as I stick around long enough to see little kids grow into young adults, former students get married, have kids of their own and do great things for the kingdom of God. I would have missed out on this gift several times over if I had not been continually working out my faith in the community of fellow youth workers.

May you too enjoy ministry for the long haul.

This post was featured on the xp3 students blog and is a blog that has some great resources and encouragement!

If you are a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church and are looking to be connected, contact a Youth Ministry Facilitator in your conference and get some love and encouragement so you, too can do ministry for the long haul!

Try XP3 for FREE!

Screen-shot-2010-09-27-at-8.56.39-AM Being that it is Orange week and we are getting the ball rolling for the annual Orange conference in HOTlanta this spring, the nice people at XP3 are giving away one of their series for FREE!!  So follow the steps below and try out this amazing curriculum.

300x250_curric1"XP3 is designed as a comprehensive student curriculum that helps students experience their faith in three areas. Wonder. Discovery. Passion.  XP3 Students is part of Orange, a comprehensive strategy for all age groups.

XP3 gives you a plan. You’re in control of how you use it.

Try our XP3 Students “Intersect” series for free and see the difference for yourself.

Before you sign up for the free series, feel free to read more about us on the XP3 Students blog, or find out more about Orange and XP3 by visiting

When you’re ready to “Try XP3 for Free”, just follow these steps to get started:

• Go to

• Complete the requested information

• When you get to the order information page, scroll down to the Promo Code field, enterXP3FREESERIES4 and click apply code

• Complete the requested information.

Please contact our XP3 team at should you have any questions."

If you are interested in coming to the conference in Atlanta, make sure you check out the conference website today.

don't you wish chap clark was your friend?

chap clark

I do.   In fact, it would be pretty cool to call up Chap, grab a coffee and talk about life and ministry.  I would love to pick his brain about all things related to student ministry.  Since this is not my world, I have at least found the next best thing. Orange has put out a new DVD curriculum for youth workers and parents called, Parenting a New Generation: A Tool for Parents and Student Pastors to Understand and Lead Today's Students.  This 3 DVD set is worth its weight in gold.  (And Gold is doing really well right now)

Chap Clark spends 13 sessions unpacking the best of all his research, teaching, books, and trainings and presents it all High Definition.  The teaching is very natural and engaging, and for the most part, the viewer feels like a participant in the cohort style of lecture.  Throughout the 13, half hour sessions, Chap condenses his best teaching on adolescent development, parental responsibility, changing culture, and the role of the community in the faith development of teenagers into a format that is very accessible.

This DVD set is really the highlight reel of all that Chap and his colleagues has worked on during his time at Fuller and the Fuller Youth Institute.   There are 5 main sections that are explored in this curriculum.

Section 1: Widen the Circle

"Chap talks about the importance of inviting other adults into the life of your family - adults committed to your child for no other reason than because they care.

Section 2: Imagine the End

"Chap challenge us to rethink what the goal for our children is as parents and how we can encourage them as they discover their place in God's kingdom."

Section 3: Fight for the Heart

"Chap gives us insight into the developmental changes an adolescent goes through and urges us to parter with our kid as they spend these formative years figuring out their core identity."

Section 4: Create a Rhythm

"Chap gets really practical, unpacking, the importance of natural, organic practices we can engage in with our children that help them relate to God of the universe."

Section 5: Make it Personal

"Chap begins to draw some conclusions from earlier material and prompt us to ask the tough questions for what this new way of parenting will mean for our own families."

Why You Should Drop $129 For This Curriculum:

Over the years, I have taken a seminary class from Chap, heard him speak a dozen times, and read most of his books.  I figure I have spent in the thousands of dollars for the opportunity to have learned what I have learned from Chap.  So for 5-10% of that cost, there is a tool for youth workers and parents to have access to the very best of this information in a format that is really easy to consume.

For youth workers and parents, this information is amazing.  Chap's knowledge and passion are evident and keep the viewer engaged.  The discussion questions make this a tool that can and should be shared with the parents of students in your youth ministry.  And the practical suggestions offer a real way forward to carry out the ideas presented in these DVD's.

One of the reasons I am such a believer in the Orange strategy and curriculum is that everything is designed to be done in partnership between the church and the family.  If we really want our students to have a shot at developing a healthy faith and connection to the church, they must also have a healthy and strong relationship with their parents as they work this all out.

There is plenty of information presented in each session.  Chap reviews the topic and take aways from the session previously, before jumping into the next topic.  While Chap is teaching, there is a power point presentation that highlights the important points and significant quotes.  For being a highly produced curriculum, the total lack of graphics or attempt at making the power point presentation engaging was a little sad.  For the most part, it doesn't matter and the simplicity is actually kind of nice.  But when Chap explains how the task of adolescence and the illustration of a tightrope, the simplicity becomes a liability.

One of the new pieces of information that stood out to me as a parent is about the true desire adolescents have for relationship with their parents.  Chap, rightly, points out, that it is a myth that teenagers want less involvement in their life from their parents.  The truth is they want more interaction, more conversation, more empathy and compassion.  What they want less of is to be treated like babies and given edicts from on high.

As you consider this curriculum, check out some of the preview videos that are available here.

This curriculum gives any adult who loves students a broader understanding of the sociological, theological, and developmental issues that are surrounding adolescents and a map to help us, parents, and specifically students navigate through it.  I highly recommend it and have already passed on my copy to the parents group at our church.

Some day Chap might be my friend.  But until that day, I will take his HD face on my television and soak up all that one of the best practical theologians out there has to say.