Archive - October, 2011

The Simply Youth Ministry Conference: Why I Love This Conference!

Oct 31st is Halloween, but it’s also the early bird deadline for the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Here’s some information and reasons I love this community of youth workers who come together yearly to do more than get training. It’s a family!

*Early Bird Deadline expires 10.31.2011 (A $40 SAVINGS!)

When: March 2-5, 2011

Where: Louisville, KY

Here’s Where to Register:

Here’s What Phil Bell Loves About SYMC: 

  • They have deeper learning tracks that help you dig deeper into certain ministry areas. You can spend 4-8 hours focused on one area of ministry and come away with a wealth of knowledge as well as highly practical steps and ideas.
  • The community there is incredible. Everything they do is geared to helping youth workers connect with each other and build lasting relationships. I have been to SYMC for 4 years now, and I have some incredible friendships with people I call and Skype regularly. I know I am not alone in ministry…
  • The Speakers are accessible and easy to talk to. It does not matter who you are, every speaker is available to talk to. There is no “them and us” at this conference.
  • It’s Super fun! It’s a great place to let your hair down and be yourself. It’s a great place to laugh and forget about ministry struggles.
  • They care about your soul at SYMC: are always available to talk, pray, and encourage us for the whole conference. This year the theme for the conference is “Breathe”.
Full Disclosure: I am a member of the SYMC IT3 team and help brainstorm this conference. But, I became a part of this team because I believe in this conference and all that it stands for. When they say, “It’s a conference for youth workers by youth workers”, they really mean it. I am one of 100 people who were part of the brainstorming the state of youth ministry and brainstorming how to help the conference reflect real needs for real youth workers like me and you…

Don’t just take my word for it. Take Kami’s word for it! Kami Gilmour is the director of SYMC and recently did an interview with Tim Schmoyer from Life in Student Ministry.


FREE Video Training for Youth Workers and Their Teams

Leneita Fix has created some incredible training videos that are short, thought provoking and informative. If you check out her website, you can pick up more free training videos that come with discussion questions for you and your team to interact with.

Check out the first video by

Full Disclosure: Leneita is a good friend in ministry who guest blogs on However, I love her passion and content and love to pass these kind of resources along to others.




Volunteers: Make it Difficult To Sign Up – Make It Easy For Them to Minister…

Just last week I was talking to a friend who is a volunteer youth worker at his new church. He loves students and is a gifted volunteer who I would recruit in a heartbeat if he lived nearby! As we talked, there was a statement he made about his experiences as a volunteer that really made me think about how I recruit and develop my volunteers:

“It was really easy for me to start as a volunteer, but since I have started it’s not been easy to minister to these kids. I don’t feel like I know what is going on, and I don’t have any important information about them to follow up…”

After I had spoken to him, I started to reflect and think about the experience my volunteers have under my leadership? Is it easy for them to get in the door, but hard to know how to do ministry once they are  there? As I reflected further I concluded that it should be the opposite experience: It should be difficult to sign up, but easy to minister…

1) We Should Make It Difficult To Sign Up: You might think this statement sounds crazy, but in my experience, it is better to have a diligent process that will have healthier long-term impact. Having some “hoops” to jump through and making potential volunteers work for it, is not always a bad thing:

  • Give them a few weeks to check out the youth program with “no strings” attached and allow them to see if it is for them
  • Take a few weeks to ask around about them and get to see how the students interact with them
  • Meet them at the end of the process for a coffee and lay out specifics and expectations
  • Have them sign an application AND a commitment sheet that all the other leaders have committed to
Again, this might seem like a lot to ask of a potential volunteer, but in my experience the ones who are committed and will be good for the long-haul will always be prepared to jump through my hoops if they truly love working with students. There have been times when I have been desperate for volunteers and have moved them into the ministry on a “fast-track” with disastrous results.
2) Make It Easy For Them To Minister: This should be a given, but unfortunately it is not always the case. Using the excuse that we are disorganized is simply not good enough. If we say that we care about students, we should be prepared to work hard to support the volunteers who are in the trenches with them. It should mean we consider their ministry needs as a priority. Right?
  • Weekly emails communicating that weeks programatic happenings
  • An easy to access online calendar that has youth events and meetings at least two months ahead
  • Regular youth leader meetings. (We meet every two months)
  • Regular one to one meetings. (When I say regular, this might depend on how many volunteers you have. I try to meet with my volunteers once a quarter)
  • Contact lists with students information and contact details is available in an easy way to access
  • Yearly training events (I take a number of my volunteers to the and have a yearly training day with them)
  • On going training tips, information, and youth ministry tools. (Includes articles, quick “training videos” from me, and the occasional book that gets passed around.
Recruiting, training, and keeping volunteers can be hard work, but the pay-off for students is massive! In my opinion, it is better take my time recruiting someone and take as much time afterward training them. What could your volunteers look like if you were to take more time recruiting and investing in them? What else would you add to this list? What experiences have you had in recruiting volunteers?
Phil <><

GUEST POST: Help for Hurting Teenagers – By Leneita Fix


On the fringes of youth ministry lurks an evil monster.  It seems to rear it’s ugly head often.  No matter how we run, or hide it is chasing our students and their families.  Really, hunting them down.

The name of the hideous creature?


We could also call him:  hurt, suffering, hopelessness or even depression.

In the last couple of weeks I have heard a youth pastor almost daily announce that they are connected to a suicide in their youth programming.   There have been parents, teens, brothers, sisters and even one attempt among them while the youth group was away on a retreat.

Others are talking to adolescents who mask their problems with alcohol.  Some kids are covering with drugs,  perfectionism,  anger,  or acting out in a multitude of ways. We are finding that filling space in these student’s  lives with “something to do,” is simply not enough.  They are searching for more.   Hope.  Truth.  Love.  Acceptance.

Instilling life into the heart of a youth takes,  time, energy and focus.   There are days when the lives of our students just seem so heavy.  I believe that we turn to what we know.   I mean when we lead a great evening or event there are ways to know that as a youth person we have “done a good job.”   In the midst of all the weight we are left feeling helpless.  What do we do?

1.  Build relationships:   I heard it said once that a “touch is worth a 1000 words.” In  a world of facebook and twitter we can easily hide and pretend to be anything we want to be.  HOWEVER,    all of us,  especially teens are hungering for deep,  authentic relationships.  You will only be able to have time really going deep with maybe 3-5 students.  Set up systems that create relationships among students and  the adults on your team.

2.   Include and Involve the Parents:  One of the first things we  as the youth worker want to do is to “save children from their bad home life.”   However,  getting to know a family and their situation just may save a life.  I recently, got to observe a youth pastor friend of mine at dinner with a family and their teen son.   The love and comfort he showed, created an open dialogue in sharing life, problems, help and solutions.  This goes beyond  offering “classes or meetings” for parents.  Genuinely get to know the families.

3.   Train and Equip:  Bring your team together to talk about all of the “sidebar” issues in the lives of your youth.    Let’s face it,  we can find a book on programming or how to run a Bible Study.   All the “hard stuff”  our teens are going through is intimidating.  Find videos to watch,  books to read together and  experts to bring in.   The more involved you are as a unit,   the more the paid “staff”  will not feel alone in handling the  “tough stuff.”

4.  Know when to ask for professional help:  We are called to walk life with students.  However, some problems simply are too big for us.  There may need to be a counselor or agency brought in to aid in the situation.  This does not mean they take over.  We still need to stick around,  yet,   there are spaces where the professionals know how to take the monsters down fully.

The beasts of  burden seem to be growing in our youth programs.  Let’s face it the sword of the truth is the only thing that can bring freedom once and for all.  Sometimes we need to look a youth in the face and simply let them know the truth:  “They are loved with an everlasting love.”   Not just once.  Over and over.   Together I think we can slay this dragon.

For more help knowing how to handle these situations check out the Life Hurts, God Heals deeper learning track  at the upcoming

Leneita Fix is the founder and lead consultant for whose heart is :  ”Passionate about developing and training youth-oriented programs that are looking to take a generation from surviving to thriving in Christ.  In 2012 she will reach the 20 year mark of experience in youth ministry, suburban, urban and rural.  Most of her time has been spent in the urban community,  living as a neighbor to those around her. 




Winner of FREE SYMC Registration Announced!

Congratulations to Greg Simmons of First Baptist of Greenville, MS. Greg wins a registration to in Louisville KY, in March 2012. Greg got to enter twice since he commented and tweeted! His tweet won him the deal though! Well done Greg! We’ll see you in Kentucky!

If you are interested in going to SYMC 2012 you can get in on the early bird registration before Oct 31st. Go to the conference site for details at: 

Youth Ministry Management: Eat that Frog!

My most important lesson in getting tasks accomplished? Simple: Eat that Frog!

Eat that Frog is a fantastic book that will serve you well in your ministry. The premise behind the book is this:

There’s a saying that says, “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long! Your ”FROG” is the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it now…” 

It is also the task that is the biggest task to get done and is easy to put off for easier tasks… But doing the easier tasks will not help you in the long-term… By eating that frog in my ministry, I am finding that I get more done these days.

Check out the website for this book. There’s a cool video that will give you greater insight too: 

Youth Ministry Management: How to Get Stuff Done, When Stuff is Piling Up!

We are a few weeks into the Fall season and for me this has been one of the busiest seasons I have encountered in a while. It’s usually about this time of year when the non-stop busy schedule has created a backlog of tasks and to do lists that seem to keep growing and growing. (At least, that is the case for me).

It’s times like this when it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like we are drowning in a sea of administration and programatic mess. It’s times like these when we have to become ruthless and focused to get back on top of youth ministry management. Here are a few things I am doing to get back on top of things:

1) Take Regular Rests: Not what you were expecting? But, this is the most cruciall step for me. It’s been a busy season and it’s easy to become inefficient and sloppy when I get tired. At times like this I need to ensure that I am resting in order to work more effectively, efficiently, and conscientiously when I am in the office.

2) Be Ruthless: At the beginning of a typical week I take my google task list and move all the most important tasks to the top of the lists. For me, these always include: a) Contact time with students and leaders. b) Message writing c) Meeting planning. Everything else gets bumped until the major things are done. It’s then I get to my admin and emails etc.

3) Check Email Infrequently: If you have email on your phone this is a hard one to do. However, I find it best to check my email in chunks at certain times of the day. Usually I would check it 4-5 times a day when I have more time, but for now I find myself checking email twice a day. It’s also worth noting that we can become easily unfocused by constant new tasks that come our way through email. It’s better to dictate your email than let email dictate your task list…

4) Don’t Reply to Every Email and Phone Call Instantly: There are some emails and phone calls that are important, granted. However, not every phone call is an emergency and not every email needs immediate attention. Wherever I can, I try to add the emails and voicemails to my task list and “chunk them out” at a later time.

5) ‘Chunk Out’ Emails and Phone Calls Together: As I said above, I try to add emails and voicemails to my task list and get them done together. I typically have Tuesdays as my admin and meeting day. It is here where I try to get back to people and ensure they hear from me.

6) Communicate Your Schedule: Ensure that key people know you are in a crunch and will likely take a little longer to get back to them in the next few weeks while you get back on top of things, (Just don’t take a few weeks to get back to them though)!

7) Don’t Waste Your Time: I often here people complain about being too busy to be able to catch up, yet they are still able to write on everyone’s Facebook wall or play XBOX 360. In seasons of busyness, it’s imperative that we ruthless in every way. It also means giving up a few home comforts in order that we can get back on top of things.

8) Delegate! Recruit people to help you with as many things you can hand off. Know that it might not be done the way you want it to be done, but at least it’s getting done. I am always presently surprised how much ownership and fulfillment it brings to people when they know have helped me at busy and messy time. Bless someone by letting them help you!

Well, that’s what I am working on… How about you? What tips do you have? 

Phil <><

Balancing Family and Ministry Part 3: Boundaries

In my previous post I looked at the importance of creating a family friendly schedule that is a win for our families and our churches too. Today I want to talk about the importance of healthy boundaries in ministry.

Check out my first post in this series to see how you can enter to win a FREE registration for

When I started out in ministry I wanted to change the world and see students lives radically changed by God. I was younger, single, and I wanted to do whatever I could to make a difference! Today, I am older, I am married, but my passion has not changed. In fact, I feel a greater urgency and passion these days than ever before… And here’s the struggle: Our passion to make a difference in ministry can often create unhealthy boundaries for our families. It’s imperative we set up healthy boundaries that allow us to be effective in ministry and work hard for our church or organization, but also healthy for our family. 

I have made many mistakes with boundaries, but I have learned a great deal too. Here are the boundaries that truly make a difference for me and my family: 

1) The Hours I Work: My church has called me to minister to students and I take my role very seriously. My church trusts me to work the hours in my job description and expect and be a wise steward of my time. But, I find there is always more to do than my hours allow. If I am not careful I could be working unhealthy hours and miss out valuable times with my family. It’s up to me to set up a healthy schedule.

For me, I usually schedule ten hours below what is expected, knowing that emergencies, extra phone calls, and last minute meetings will add another ten hours. It’s also important to realize that there are certain seasons when we work longer hours, but it’s also important to “buy back” family time sometime later. As a steward of my time, it’s imperative that I work smart to accomplish the most important tasks.

2) My Day Off: I work really hard to not answer my phone, check email, or talk ministry on my day off. My voicemail even states that Friday is my day off and “I will return your message on Saturday”. I have come to realize that being available every day is not healthy for me and my family and in the long run will not benefit my church. A day off is imperative. How are you keeping your day off protected?

3) Cell Phone: There was a time when I took every phone call and often missed out on crucial conversations and times with my family. The outcome was not healthy… Therefore, these days my phone gets switched off at family dinner times and usually doesn’t get switched back on until the kids are in bed. It’s then that I return any messages I have. I also avoid taking phone calls while we are driving somewhere as a family. I do this to be “fully present” with my wife and kids. It’s important that I communicate that they are my priority while I am with them.  It might seem that I am making others wait to get to me… you would be right in thinking so! I work hard to return messages quickly, I always communicate that I was with my family when I return a call since it’s important for others to see the priorities I place on family time.

4) Date Night and Family Night. As I discussed in a previous post, I schedule these crucial dates 1-2 months in advance to ensure my calendar is family friendly first. It’s then that I schedule meetings, sports events, and additional events on my calendar…

Well, those are my top four healthy boundaries for my family. What about you? What helps you do great ministry, yet keep healthy boundaries around your family? What have you been learning in all of this? 

Balancing Family and Ministry Part 2: Scheduling Priorities

Yesterday we began a series focused on balancing family and ministry by taking a look at the life of a young youth worker called David! I was blown away by the responses and comments. Check out the post by clicking here. You can also enter to win a FREE registration to The by following the instructions at the bottom of this post…

Today, I want to share with you some things I do to ensure that I invest in my family and strive for healthy balance while doing ministry. I have a story similar to David who we read about in the previous post. There was a time when I felt like quitting ministry altogether! However, God has kept me in ministry and helped me to learn life-changing lessons and learn how to find balance for my family. For me, like many of us, it is a question of good boundaries and scheduling. In my next post I will look at boundaries, but for today I will focus on my schedule.

The biggest schedule lesson I have learned is this: Schedule the most important family commitments before anything else. Now, obviously days like Sunday and maybe a Wednesday midweek program are always on our schedules, but apart from those kind of regular activities, there is a lot of flexibility in our scheduling. Therefore, before everything else gets added in, I ensure that the following priorities get added into my schedule.

1) Family Meal Times: Believe it or not, it’s easy to miss these simple family times. It’s also very easy to be late to dinner regularly if we are not careful. Constant lateness home for dinner is a big deal since it communicates the wrong message to our spouse and kids. Therefore, I actually write dinner and lunches into my schedule, otherwise they can get overlooked. It also helps my wife know what to plan on a weekly basis if she knows I am going to be home for certain meals.

2) Date Nights: We used to be able to have a weekly date night before we had kids! Now it is twice a month! We usually plan these nights out 1-2 months in advance. When I take time to make these date nights a priority, it communicates that my spouse is more important than anything else. It also ensures that we always have something to look forward to when life is busy and challenging.

3) Family Nights: Now that we have two kids, we have an intentional family night where we do something “out of the normal”. It could be a family bike ride and picnic on a summer evening, or a family game / movie night on a cold winter evening. Again, we do these family nights every two weeks and schedule them in 1-2 months in advance.

4) Traditions: For us family traditions are so important! Throughout the year we have these small events / getaways planned that we all look forward to. These range from overnight getaways to a hotel with water-park, to our yearly trip to the apple orchard. As adults it’s easy to lose the excitement and anticipation of these simple events and trips. But I know how important these memory makers are for my kids! If you were to talk to my kids, they would tell you that the yearly trip to a German style town called Frankenmuth in Michigan is there highlight! Most importantly, it’s one of many yearly traditions we have established that always give us something positive to look forward to and memories to look back on…

Now, let’s be honest for a minute. There is nothing I have said that is a new thought for most of us is there? However, if you are like me, I have found that ministry can take over our schedules very quickly. It’s imperative that we are intentionally scheduling family times before everything else takes over…

And here is the outcome:

- My family stays healthier

- My church gets a healthier youth worker and my ministry has greater effectiveness.

- I hang in for the long haul and my students will benefit from my longevity.

What family priorities do you need to schedule? What family priorities have become defaults in your schedule that are benefiting you, your family, and your church?


1) Comment and Help David: What advice would you give David? What can he do to make the necessary changes? What needs to happen in his family and ministry?

2) Comment and Share Your Story: In what ways do you relate to David’s story? What have you done to make the changes? What changes could you make personally?

3) Tweet To Win! Tweet the following text and your name can be entered a SECOND time to win!

I just entered to win a FREE conference registration for SYMC 2012  from @PhilBell  #stumin






Balancing Family & Ministry Part 1: SYMC Giveaway

Today I begin a series focused on balancing family and ministry. In addition, if you comment on this post AND tweet this out, you could win a FREE registration to in Louisville, KY next March. (See details at the bottom of this post on how you could win).

The team at Simply Youth Ministry have created a conference that does so much more than equip youth workers with the tools to do ministry effectively. Right from the beginning, their vision has been to invest in the whole person of the youth worker. SYMC 2012 is a place for youth workers to not only gain incredible skills for ministry, but also discover a place of authenticity where they can refuel and breathe. With this in mind, today I want to encourage you take time to breathe and refuel as you consider how you balance family and ministry…

David’s Story: 

David took his first ministry position straight from college. He got married the following year, changed churches a year after, and had twins with his wife Kim the year after that. David would agree it’s been a busy and sometimes frustrating time as he has tried to deal with the constant changes that family and ministry brings. His job is mostly stressful and a growing church has often become a burden instead of a blessing it once was… If you were to take time to speak to his wife Kim, the exhaustion is evident on her face. The last two years have been sometimes miserable as Kim has watched David get pulled in many directions in a ministry that looks great from the outside…

On the inside of David’s family however, Kim is feeling over burdened with greater responsibility at home and is often feeling alone as David works an unhealthy hours. David too, is at breaking point… He is running on empty and it is only a matter of time before he falls apart…  The cracks are starting to appear… These days he feels like he barely has time to breathe… 

Does this story sound familiar? Are there cracks appearing for you? If someone could peek on the inside and could look at your alone time with God, your family time, your days off, and the authenticity of your friendships, what would they see? If you are like me, there are some areas that I need to work on…

Help David! Comment, Tweet, and YOU could WIN!

Tomorrow I will post some things I have been doing to balance family and ministry.  But for now, I would love to hear from you! Here’s what you can do to help David, and possibly win a registration to SYMC 2012!

1) Comment and Help David: What advice would you give David? What can he do to make the neccesary changes? What needs to happen in his family and ministry?

2) Comment and Share Your Story: In what ways do you relate to David’s story? What have you done to make the changes? What changes could you make personally?

3) Tweet To Win! Tweet the following text and your name can be entered a SECOND time to win!

I just entered to win a FREE conference registration for SYMC 2012  from @PhilBell #stumin

For more information on the Simply Youth Ministry Conference go to:  or call Matty McCage at 615-349-7111 to register.