Archive - April, 2011

Back to Basics?

Has youth ministry become more complex than it needs to be?

Do we get swept away by the complexity of adolescent lives and feel the need to provide complex answers and solutions?

Have we become too focused on other ministries ideas and try to copy every idea for our own ministries?

Do we personally cram in way too much into our ministry schedule, our personal schedule, and our family schedule?

Have “blessings” become “curses” for us who are in ministry?

Are we in search for the newest or latest thing, but miss out on oldest yet, brightest truth?

Does it feel like we have “knock the ball out the park” every week to be successful?

Back to Basics? Does youth ministry really have to be so complex and stressful? Is it time to step back and take a fresh look at what we do and what matters most? Is it time to see that the best answers in youth ministry can be found in the most simple, yet powerful ideas and practices? For me, whenever ministry gets complex and overwhelming, I have to remind myself to come back to these foundational ministry values: 1) Students need Jesus, 2) they need my time, 3) they need my ears… Coming back to these basic principles is my compass in the storm of complexity…

1) Jesus Centered: Will we make a greater impact when we get back to basics by telling students who Jesus really is without having to make Him great. As Doug Fields said recently at SYMC, “We don’t have to make Jesus awesome, He already is”. Is it OK to strip away all the media and glitz and tell His story as it is? Do we somehow believe that His life and teachings are not enough on it’s own?

2) Take the Time: So many students have busy families and crave quality time. They need leaders and caring adults who can take the time to encourage them and build them up. Recently someone asked me, “what is the best way to minister to students?” My answer was simple: “Give them something the world cannot offer them… give them your time…”

3) Listen to Them: This might seem so simple that you might be tempted to think it’s pointless to read further. However, do we really listen to students? Are our conversations more about talking to them, than asking about them? If we want students to listen to our messages and insights, we must first listen to them and give them our ears first. This is so simple, but when we truly listen to students we get an insight to their heart, their hurts, and their dreams. From there, we can more effectively help them. How well are we truly listening?

There’s always more to do. There’s always someone to keep happy. There’s always a new idea or new program. When I get overwhelmed it’s important for me to come back to basics and concentrate on what matters most. When all is said and done, what one or two things should be your “back to basics compass” in the storms of complexity?

Phil <><


Scheduling What Matters Most

“If you never did ministry again, I am not sure I would care at this point!”

These were the hard, but truthful, words my wife spoke as she shared her frustrations of being married to an overscheduled youth pastor.

It wasn’t like I didn’t see it coming… Over many months I had blurred the lines of ministry and family. I had created an unhealthy ministry schedule in a church that was exploding with growth. My overscheduled ministry had become the enemy of healthy family time. I knew in my heart there were things I needed to change.

I had been to conferences that told me to create boundaries and to take care of my family. Even though I knew simple changes would make all the difference, I was allowing the complexity of ministry to lead the way for my family. It took a difficult reality and painful words to begin a new direction…

Here’s what I discovered: When I schedule what matters most for my family, we stay healthier and I minister from a healthier perspective. Therefore, it is imperative that I live by some simple, (yet powerful) ways of planning family and ministry. We do this by picking a regular day to make a plan. For us, it’s Monday evenings. We have dinner together and look at our upcoming schedules. During this habitual planning time we are intentional about setting aside family time.

Here’s how we schedule what matters most:


What Students Do When You Give Them Too Much Time?

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Is this what students in your ministry do when they have too much time?

Just thought I would share this funny video that has been making the rounds…

Leadership Lessons I Learned From Baja Fresh

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Last night was one of the few Sunday’s I get to watch TV with my wife. I wasn’t too certain what was really about, but I had seen some positive tweets about it. I am so glad I had the opportunity to watch it! The CEO of Baja Fresh, was the undercover boss. Above is a quick excerpt from the show, and here are some leadership takeaways I gleaned:

1) PEOPLE FOLLOW AUTHENTICITY: Right at the beginning of the show I felt a little awkward as I watched a CEO shedding tears for his family and staff. I felt awkward because it was not quite what I expected of a CEO. However, as the show went on I really appreciated the heart and authenticity of David Kim. His authenticity as a leader was magnetic and his people seemed deeply committed to him and to Baja Fresh. Sometimes as leaders, we somehow think that we can’t be transparent with our feelings. However, I believe the Millennials that we lead need this kind of authenticity more than ever…

2) LEADERS SHOULD DO LESS AND CARE MORE: Toward the end of show David Kim expressed how his busyness impacts his care for people. He said something like, “The busier I become, the less I care about people… the more selfish and self focused I become”. It made me stop and consider my schedule and how task focused I can become at times? When I focus on tasks and programs too much, it is easy to depersonalize the people I minister to. It’s imperative that I delegate and find intentional space in my schedule to ensure that people are my focus not tasks. What about you?

3) LEADERS SHOULD UNDERSTAND THEIR PEOPLE: At the beginning of the show David Kim shared the idea of being an Undercover Boss with the board of Baja Fresh. He expressed the hope that he could understand his staff and their work better. It meant getting into their world, understanding their issues, and living life side by side. It challenged me to consider how much I am in the world of my students and leaders? Do I understand their issues? I mean, really understand? It’s not about reading the latest culture update or latest book on youth culture… It’s about getting in the trenches with students and leaders and seeking to understand them. It takes time, questions, and commitment to listening…

4) LEADERS SHOULD BE AVAILABLE: I loved this CEOs office… Well, actually it was a cubicle. He was accessible to his staff and colleagues. It also sent a powerful message of, “I am on the team in the trenches with you”. How available are we? How easy can students and leaders get in touch with us? Are we in their world hanging out in places where they are? Are in their world hanging out being available to the people we minister to? Or, are we stuck in a church offices a world away from the people we need to understand?

5) LEADERS SHOULD HURT FOR THEIR PEOPLE: Quite amazing was the depth of compassion this man had for his staff. I was quite taken back with the way his heart broke for his staff. Even though he has thousands of employees, he cares deeply for each one… Here are two questions I asked of myself: How much does my heart break for the people I minister to? Am I becoming numb to the hurts of the students I work with? What about you?

Did you see the show? What did you think? What were your takeaways?



When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry – Part 3: Real Life

In my first post on this topic, I talked about importance of changing the way we view sports to promote “teamwork” between sports and youth ministry. In my last post I talked about the importance of owning the problem and coming up with practical steps to help students in their harried sports schedules. Today, I want to post the reply to an email I sent to a good youth ministry friend. Here was his predicament:

I really liked your blog posts about us dealing with the sports in the schools.  I think we do a decent job of working around the game schedules, but what is terribly frustrating for me is the dreaded “open gym” in the school… The girls basketball coach just posted the spring open gym times for the basketball team.  All of these practices directly conflict with the high school youth group and start this Sunday and go until school gets out.  But I wouldn’t really begin to call these gym times “open” at all.  The coach demands that everyone be in attendance.  So starting this Sunday through the rest of the school year, I will have lost roughly 50% of my regular attenders because a lot of the girls in my youth group are in basketball.  I want to be supportive of the team and the girls in sports, but his actions make it incredibly hard to do so.

Here’s a reply I gave him. But what about you? Can you help? Continue Reading…

When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry – Part 2

In my previous post I talked about the reality of sports (and other extra curricular activities), and how they often collide with our youth minisrtry events and programs. In this post I want to look at practical steps I take to help sports and youth ministry work for me and the families I minister to. Or another way to put it, here is how I I try to create teamwork between youth ministry and sports:  Continue Reading…

When Sports Compete with Youth Ministry – Part 1

Recently, I have spoken to a number of friends in ministry who are frustrated by sports schedules and the negative impact on their ministries. Here’s the kind of scenario I often hear:

“We had a retreat planned, and the week before students dropped out because of a Basketball game”

“Parents asked me to change the start time of my retreat because of a volleyball tournament”

“How can parents expect their students to grow close to God if they never show up to youth group because of sports”

I am sure you have more of your own stories to share (and I have a few of my own). To be honest, in my early years here in the States, (I am from England), I was shocked by the amount of focus that sports take up for the average student. Like many of you, I have been frustrated in the past when it comes to priorities of sports schedules over church activities. However, for me, I am finding the way I view the sports and ministry determines whether I react in competition or if I partner in teamwork.

Viewing the Situation Differently: Continue Reading…

I Quit Ministry

Did I fool you with the title of this post?

I was nearly fooled by a bunch of my volunteer leaders this morning on April fools day. My first email arrived from Trent, and I must admit, he had me for about 20 seconds. Take a look at some of the messages I received this morning:

Phil – so sorry mate – but I must resign from the high school ministry immediately. Andrew (our awesome Middle School Director), told me that he had a spot for me in the middle school and its too great of an opportunity to pass up. Cheers. Trent.

I was going to wait on this, but when I saw that you were going to talk about the spring and summer schedule, I wanted to be fair with you and let you know I am not going to be part of the High school team anymore.

Sorry to let you all know this way, but I have decided to quit High school ministries after our big party in May…

Andrew,  and I sat down in Chicago and he made a compelling argument about middle school ministry. I have been praying about it since then, and I just feel I should go in that direction immediately. I need to step out of high school. Continue Reading…