Archives For Uncategorized


There are so many micro cultures in which to do ministry:

A couple of weeks ago, I met an transfer student to our local seminary, Golden Gate Theological Seminary. Like most of their students, they come from the heart of the Bible Belt and study in the heart of one of the last churched contexts in America.

As we talked, I found myself fascinated with his home context and the joys and struggles he experienced doing student ministry in his home state of Kentucky. As he told me about his church and his ministry, I found myself mesmerized about this foreign world where 80% of the student body has some connection to some local church.

Now, he made it clear to me that of course that is just 80% attendance, not necessarily 80% Christian or disciples. But still 80%!!! Is that crazy? Maybe for you that is the norm, and your biggest angst is working your tail off trying to break past the dualism that is so present in the life of your students. Maybe you are forever disheartened because the larger church in town is so much more appealing and sexy than yours is? Or something else? If that is your context, I would love to understand it and know your joys and failures.

My context could not be more opposite.

My good friend, and one of the best youth workers I know, Ryan Reed, is the faith community representative to our local blue ribbon commission on teen drinking. (Or something like that) And he was sharing some of the figures from his last meeting:

In our little county there are 11,000 middle and high school students.

This is not abnormal. But this prompted the next question, how many of those 11,000 students are connected to a local church. And we racked our brains, identified the major and minor players in student ministry in our area, and we came up with a whopping 300 students. Not in my ministry, 350 in our entire county. YIKES! This means that only 3.1% or so of students are connected in the most basic level to a church. This isn’t committed Christians, or even committed attenders, this is attending once within a month.


Over the next couple of posts, I am going to be wrestling with how we are choosing to work this out. Our values, the gospel story, and our programmatic plan that will hopefully make a small dent, and rescue even a few from the alienation, anxiety, and depression that has marked our students.

I would also love if this was a two way street. This is just my simply musings bases on my limited perspective and world view. I need to be sharpened by you and your context so that we are both strengthened and encouraged to continue to fight the good fight!

Following in the footsteps of the first missionary, the Apostle Paul, we must remember that every context requires wisdom and discernment to find those thin places where the cultural needs meet the good news of Jesus.

May we embrace our context, and lean into the Holy Spirit for guidance as we long for our students to know and love our savior, Jesus.

Let’s get after it this year!

Planning a fall calendar, let alone an annual programmatic and curriculum calendar can often be quite overwhelming.  We have a couple of things going against us.  1)  Most youth workers are relationally focused and to spend the  hours planning ahead is a tiresome task.  2)  We all think we are the smartest people we know and don’t really want to share our best ideas or admit that we are out of them.

But if we are all going to continue to grow and thrive in ministry and if we are going to continue to provide the best possible ministry experience for our students then planning must be a part.  I highly recommend putting an annual calendar together by early August complete with program, events, and curriculum.  Then roll that out in a way that works for you and your context.  For us, we roll out calendars 4 times a year.

Here is our fall calendar.  And thanks to the good people at, I was able to impress my families with a clearly communicate programmatic plan that looks really impressive.  (This is last year’s model.  I am old and still can’t keep up, so we are enjoying this template for one more year.)

Anyway, here is what we have on the books for the fall.  I would love to know what you have coming up that you are fired up about!

Have a great fall launch and may God continue to use you to love kids into the Kingdom!



Have you come across this song?  It is a great song and has become our unofficial theme song of summer for my little weekly surf crew.  Hitting the beach, shredding the gnar, soaking up the sun, has been right inline with the catchy hook of this song.

But as the weeks have gone on and I have listened to this song a number of times, I finally started listening to the words.  And, with no surprise, it turns out that this isn’t just the theme music for my summer, but the actual song is the theme song for my students.

“No points to making plans
The wild life is human nature
We’ve got to take our chance
Try our best to keep it working
No points to making plans
The wild life is human nature
We’ve got to take our chance
Try our best to keep it working”

No wonder no one RSVP’s for events anymore :)

Where do we go from here?  Thoughts?


There is definitely a wide verity of opinion regarding Vacation Bible School and its importance, effectiveness, and mission.

I have some friends who put on the most excellent program of all time.  It is a well oiled machine with incredible sets, dramas, teachers and group leaders.  It is done in the exact way the developers of the curriculum dreamed up.  I have some friends who are convicted by the Holy Spirit that VBS is the biggest waste of time and resources.  So, for my friends on both ends of the spectrum, feel free to stop reading, and / or check out my good friend, Ryan Reed’s blog :)

For me, VBS is the best thing on my student ministry calendar because:

1) I get daily contact with a large group of my student ministry.  Besides summer and winter camp it is really hard to get this many hours with a large group of students.  It is easy to forget that the number one way to build community and friendship is by logging in hours and having shared experience.  VBS does both. Plus it costs zero dollars so every student from every demographic gets to participate without it costing my budget a dime.

2)  It is not about them.  It seems like everything in their world is about them.  And unfortunately everything I do in my student ministry program is designed around them and their needs.  But for one week, they just get to serve. Not for community service hours, not for glory, not for anything other then to put someone else’s needs and program above themselves.  They have to give up sleep and spend 3 hours getting to know and caring for kids younger than them.

3)  It is actually for them.  As culture continues its massive slide into post-Christendom, VBS is a great primer on some of the most simple truth and well known Bible stories found in scripture.  It is easy to think that our students know all these things, but if you actually talk to them, or even tested them, you would realize that they don’t know any of these things.  And if they do, they have never internalized them.  VBS is a chance for them to rediscover some of these truths and think about them in a fresh way.

4) VBS models the life long chain of discipleship.  For whatever reason, there seems to be this vibe in student ministry that spiritual life begins and end with middle and high school students.  But the truth is that when our students have older college students to look up to and who will pour into them, they are so much more likely to model them and their faith, then us old guys who are paid to model it.  The same is true for the kids in children’s ministry.  Instead of only mom’s talking about Jesus, our kids get to see middle and high school students talk about their faith, and in doing so makes faith a real option for them.  We should always be talking about the people we are pouring our lives into and those who are pouring their lives into us.  This never ends, and VBS helps model it.

Thank you to my Children’s Ministry team for a job well done, and for being willing to sacrifice a little bit of excellence for some much needed opportunity and ministry to my middle and high school students!


Leaders Eat Last

May 14, 2014 — 1 Comment

I am currently reading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.  It is an awesome book and rocking my world a bit.  As I am in the middle of it and still digesting the concepts and ideas  My friend Jeremy Zach shared a video of him speaking on this topic and I think it could fundamentally change how you approach leading.  Whether you are a book learner or a visual learner, this guy has will rock your world and your worldview as you lead.  And there is a huge challenge / rebuke for leaders who enjoy the rights and privileges but not the responsibility when danger approaches.  (I hope that isn’t you) Enjoy!

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last from 99U on Vimeo.

The myth of senioritis

April 14, 2014 — 2 Comments

This is it, the final few months of high school for the class of 2014.  They have been suffering from senioritis for a long time, and for many of them, long before they were even seniors. According to wikipedia, “the main symptoms of senioritis include procrastination, lack of motivation, a drop in academic performance, and ‘coasting,’ which is the act of going through classes with very little concentration or application of intent along with truancy.”

I wonder if this dreaded disease might not really be a disease at all, but a way to justify the massive drop off of engagement and participation from our seniors. Our seniors live into this description, and many of my fellow youth workers do as well.  But when I step back and actually look at my seniors, what I see is a group of students who have figured out what is important and what things aren’t.  Because seniors are practically adults, they feel empowered to make their own decisions regarding their time and effort.

They know what things bring them life and what things are purposeful.  They willingly pour hours into friendships because they realize that this is the last time they are going to be together with this group of people.  Seniors do well and study hard for their AP classes because they know that their AP tests which will give them college credits.  They practice and train hard for teams that are competitive. and at the same time they understand that more and more of their life is being filled with busy work, barely worthy of their time and attention.   The teachers and coaches who are just filling time get students who begin to show signs of senioritis.  The same might be true with our student ministries.

Continue Reading…

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 10.46.03 PM

My good friend and brilliant youth worker, Carlos Devitis, from Peninsula Covenant Church established one of the best ministry ideas I have heard in a long time.  In fact, it is so great, I am actually stealing an idea from him for once and implementing it in my own ministry.

Once a month, or at least 4-6 times a year, we are going to invite our parents to join us on our Wednesday night youth group extravaganza.  Now, I am not totally sure what Carlos does, but the way we are working it out in our context is like this:

  • Youth Group happens just like normal for our middle and high school students
  • While the students are getting after it, parents will meet downstairs.
  • The parents will have dessert and coffee, a small mixer and then a discussion led by me.
  • This month our topic is “loving your unique kid”  It’s not sexy, but should get the job done.

The whole point of the evening is for parents to not feel so isolate and alone.  To bring refreshment and encouragement to our weary parents.  And hopefully, some of them may connect with each other and build friendship and community.  As parents connect and are encouraged their entire family system does better.

To be honest, parent ministry is not what I am most passionate about.  I love students and student ministry with al my heart.  But good student ministry can only happen when we as youth workers engage the entire family.  Big Wednesday’s are how Carlos does it, it is now how I do it.  How will you do it?

I would love to know the creative and effective ways in which you are engaging parents and partnering with them for the sake of the students we work with.


There are three things that I have found to be true in my life. And surprisingly, I have found that these three things turned out to be in conflict. They are:

1) I love Jesus
2) I love learning
3) I love middle schoolers

On the surface, these three things are every youth worker’s bread and butter. It is these three foundational values that have launched us into this unique vocation. But what I have been wrestling with is that the combination of these three values have almost closed the door on good, long term vocational ministry.

Continue Reading…

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 6.38.47 PM

As I look back over my Amazon purchase, Kindle Books, And Web History over this year, it turns out I have had a really diverse reading list.  I have spent this year wrestling with theology, practical ministry, politics, and an overall appreciation for culture.  Of all the hours I have logged in gaining more input, here are the top 10 highlights that have actually made its way from data points to actually shaping the way I think.  Even though I don’t agree with all of these people and in some cases agree with very little, what they have had to say and how they have said it have caused me to think deeply in response to it.  So here is my list, in no particular order.

Andy Stanley: Deep and Wide

Tom Wright: After You Believe

Cornel West: Race Matters

David Mcullough: 1776

Rachael Held Evans:

Mark Driscoll: A Call To Resurgence.

Real Clear Politics: A blog that captures the entire spectrum of political discourse.

Malcolm Gladwell: David and Goliath 

Torn: Justin Lee

Brock Morgan: Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

What did you read?  What shaped your worldview? What shaped your heart?  What shaped your ministry?  I would love to know so I can populate my 2014 reading list.

Happy New Year Homies!

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 6.20.30 PM

I trust that you had a great 2013 and enjoying the long and gentle onramp towards Christmas.  As I reflect on our last year and all the highlights that communicate how our family is the best and brightest, a recent event in our family’s life pretty much sums up our year.

Remember that horrific cold snap a week or so ago?  In our neck of the woods the temps dropped down to the high 40’s.  CRAZY!!  Well, being that our entire family is only outfitted with hoodies, we were all cranky and cold.  And to make matters worse, it was beginning to rain.

Continue Reading…

This last weekend I had the pleasure of being part of the organizing team for the Open Bay Area.  The Open model is the brain child of The Youth Cartel and a really innovative way to gather, network, and train youth workers.  The Youth Cartel‘s vision is to allow local practitioners to have a platform to share their unique passions for their unique contexts in a local setting.  And this is exactly what we did.

We attempted to use the TED model of short, thought provoking talks to generate further conversation.  Please check them out, and as you do, I am sure you will be as blessed and encouraged as I was!  Also, if you have any feedback and would like to create a virtual Open with some pushback and or questions, feel free to do that in the comment section.

Thanks team and thank you Youth Cartel for a great event!

Continue Reading…


I am ruled by numbers!

It is amazing to me how much ministry numbers totally rule my life.  In my mind, I have a threshold number.   If that number is reached or exceeded I am on top of the world, loving my job, and thankful for the privilege of being considered a youth worker.  If less than that number of kids, then it is down the death spiral.  I question my effectiveness, my calling, and a stop off at McDonalds to get my binge eating on is all but given.

Continue Reading…

Some questions that this video sparked in me:

1) What is the cause?

2) Who is the first follower?  How do I treat them?

3) Is my treatment of the first follower actually hindering my leadership?

4) Do I care more about the cause or about being recognized as leader?

The real guts is not to be the lone nut, but to identify who the right lone nut is to follow,and then put your own street cred on the line to help create a movement.


Dear faithful readers of this blog (i.e. mom),

In just under a week I am taking a team of students and leaders on a mission trip to Guatemala.  For the past few months we have been managing mountains of paperwork and endless logistics combined with team trainings and meetings.  And now, in just under a week we are hitting the road and going to do some incredible ministry alongside an amazing church in the little town of Santa Apolonia.

In an attempt to embrace this new world we live in where access to information and technology is no longer an option, but a way of life, I am coming up with an entirely new social media strategy for this trip.  I am going to intentionally use Facebook and Twitter to share pictures and updates throughout the day.  On top of those updates, I am planning on  using this blog to post a daily summary so that our church (and parents) can be encouraged by all that God is doing in and through our group.  My hope is that our church community would be able to pray specifically for what is going on within our group and in our village, and for me to reflect daily on the places where God is showing up.

Continue Reading…

Do you have piles of pictures from old youth group activities or trips?  Do you at least have them on your phone?  Well, here is the easiest way to use those old pictures for good!

photo 1

One of the most fundamental needs we have as humans is to be seen and to be known.  In an age of social media we can give a lot of love by simply “liking” a students status or pic, and we can get even more when we tag them on Facebook or Instagram.  But we all know deep in our hearts that doesn’t really cost you anything.  Did you know that if you simply print off that picture and mail it through the post office, that you have actually satisfied, albeit briefly, that longing to be seen and known.

Here is all you do to make your students feel seen and known:

Continue Reading…

For parents of a troubled teen, the main question that is asked time and time again is this: “What is missing?” Parents feel like they have failed in some way because there is something that is missing from their teen’s life. They see this as the cause of all of the trouble. However, you should know that it is not your fault. If you have raised your teen in a warm and loving home, and he or she has still not turned to God, He could be the real element that is missing. You need to know how to reach out to your teen for God so that He can begin working to change the child’s life.

Teen Angst

Do Not Be Overbearing

The number one mistake that parents make in this situation is to be overbearing. They try to push religion on the teen so much that the teen naturally starts to push back. Your son could reject the message just because he is so sick of hearing it. Remember that teens often are striving to be individuals. They may reject things that you say just because you said them, and for no other reason. Do not push too hard, or you could close that door for communication.

Do Not Be Judgmental

Another thing to avoid is judging your teen. Do not pick up all of your daughter’s faults and call her out on them. She already knows what they are. If you are angry and judgmental in your approach, she is just going to return your anger. She will not listen to what you have to say about God.

Ask Questions

Many teens want to talk. They want someone to listen to them. If they are walking away from God, do not yell at them or lecture them. Instead, ask questions about their decisions. Sit down and really get to understand why the teen is making the choices that he or she is making. This information can help you to communicate with your child. It also shows your child that you care. When the teen knows that you care and that you want to hear his or her side of things, your child will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Connect God with Things that the Teen Enjoys

There are many ways in which God can communicate with people. If your teen loves music, there are Christian artists who can bring a good message to any style of music. If he or she loves to read, there are also Christian authors who are writing great books every year. Rather than just dragging an unwilling child to church, you should try to use the child’s interests to bring them to God for better results.

About the Guest Author
K. Sontoya writes in behalf of .  She helps them in spreading awareness about troubled and depressed teenagers (and how to deal with them).  Help Your Teen Now aims to increase awareness on the current psychological and societal stresses of today’s teens and how these factors affect the future of our society.

Back From Sabbatical!

February 11, 2013 — 1 Comment

After 3 long months, I am finally back in the saddle.  It has been an amazing time off and I actually feel rested.  At first I was a little bummed that I didn’t have money or space for some grand adventure like hiking across Europe.  I failed in my pursuit to become an Abercrombie model, and didn’t memorize an entire book of the Bible. (Even 3 John) But because I wanted to stay married and have a relationship with my kids, I put some of those dreams on hold for some practical and needed maintenance.

Sure enough, settling in, relaxing, becoming comfortable in my own skin and playing endless board games with the family has paid off in a healthy person, dad, husband and pastor.  I am so thankful for my church family and their care for me!  It is so extravagant for a youth pastor to be cared for like this, for their staff and volunteers to do such an amazing job, and to even welcome me back with such excitement.

I love our church and I love student ministry.  I look forward to this next season of ministry.  And for better or worse, I look forward to doing in the unique manner in which God has created me to do it.  I don’t want to keep striving to be someone else, nor do I want to continually judge myself by some false ruler that I continually come up short on.  I know my gifts, I know my failings, and I am planning on bringing all of that to the ministry God has called me to.


ps: Here is a little video one of my students, Spencer Wilson, made.  He is an awesome young man and friend, and blessed the snot out of me and made me laugh with this video.  Enjoy!

pps: Here are some home made Ben Kerns Fan Club shirts made by my homie!  YES PLEASE!


ppps:  Everyone needs to work hard in one context, take a break, and come back ready to take ministry to the next level with kids who you have walked through some significant road together.  (If that isn’t part of your call or contract, let me at your elders!)

Our culture is changing, shouldn’t our ministries adapt as well?

One of the areas of passion for me is contextualization. As our context becomes more and more post-Christian, I am realizing that the way forward is going to be complex and challenging. Because of this a couple of the youth pastors in my network whom I love and respect decided that we should host an event to wrestle through some of these issues.

We genuinely believe that the the community of youth workers in our context will have a much better shot finding a way forward than a book by an author from a totally different context or by the oner person with the biggest personality and loudest voice pushing their agenda.

In just one week we are going to take a big swing and gather our peeps from the Bay Area for this conversation. If you call the Bay Area home, would you consider coming? If you consider me a friend, would you come as a personal favor :) If you are no where near us, please pray for us and feel free to chime in!

Below is how we are wrestling through these issues.  I would love your thoughts on how you wrestle through these issues in your context. Continue Reading…

teenagers2[averageym Note: Andy Blanks is becoming a good friend, and in fact a good enough friend that we found ourselves disagreeing on some ministry philosophy.  I love when we be come good enough friends and that there is already a foundation of humility and grace that we can actually wrestle through issues, sharpen each other, and learn from one another.  Thanks for inviting further conversation.  The post below was featured yesterday on the blog.]

[ym360 Note: This thoughtful and thought provoking post is born out of a discussion Ben and I had based on a post I wrote entitled, "Stop Telling Students To Invite Their Friends To Church." (You can see Ben's comment at the bottom of the page.) I was reminded once again of the great truth that there's room for different opinions and approaches as we all seek to lead students closer to Christ. I'm deeply thankful for Ben and his devotion to Christ, his family, and his ministry. Even if I don't always agree with him. :) --Andy]

This last spring we signed up my 5-year-old for his first season of T-ball. It’s quite entertaining to watch 5-year-olds learning the game of baseball. By the end of the season, the goal is that these kids will (almost) know their positions, the direction to run around the bases, how to hit a ball off a T, and, well, that’s about it. But the foundation has been laid.

While I’d love for my son to live out my his dream of playing in the big leagues one day, my ultimate dream is for him to be a godly man who loves Jesus, and who lives a life that reflects that love. My dream is that he would live “within the culture as a missionary who is as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place.” In essence, my dream is that my son would live a life that is missional.

I’ll come back to this baseball analogy. But first, I want to talk about this concept of missional living as it relates to the students in our ministries.

Continue Reading…