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The Most Effective Way To Be Productive This Summer.

Do you want to be more productive in your ministry this summer? For that matter, do you want to be more productive year round and see greater accomplishments in your ministry? If the answer is yes, then I have a simple answer for you:

Here it is… are you ready for it? Take time off this summer. I’m not talking about a couple of days here and there. I’m not including the church camp or mission trip. I’m talking about a good week off from ministry. But, how does this make you and I more productive?

Recently, I read an about world productivity and where the U.S ranks in the field. Apparently, the U.S is # 4 in the world for productivity. (“Not bad”, I thought). Then the article went on to talk about the cost of the productivity.  The average American actually uses only 2-3 weeks of vacation and apparently, the average worker does not take his/her full vacation.

But, look at the results we get in this country“, you could be inclined to say… Correct! Until you hear about the country of Sweden… You see, the Swedes get a minimum of 5 weeks vacation granted to them. Most  Swedes take all 5 weeks and more. And guess what, these guys rank # 2 in the world for productivity. It’s pretty astonishing that a country to takes 2-3 weeks more time off than Americans can actually get more done. Why is that?

Well, I am not genius or an analyst, but here is my simple answer. I believe God designed our bodies, minds, and souls, to work from rest. Not, work, burn out… then rest. So often we keep going and going because we have a long list of things to get done. Even if we are exhausted, we often continue to plug on, regardless of how tired we might me. It’s times like these our productivity drops and mistakes are made. However, if we learn to take good rest and allow ourselves to be refreshed, we will find  surprising results: Our productivity increases, our minds are sharper, and I also believe that we are able to discern God more clearly.

Jesus often had a long list of people to heal, sermons to teach, and places to go. However, we also see that he made it a priority to rest, re-tune, and refocus on His Father. So often we think that we have to keep going until it is all done. However, we need to understand that their will always be more to get done. It’s imperative that we take time out to rest… I mean really rest.

How are you going to rest this summer? What could your productivity look like?

Phil <><

How To Gain Influence In Your Church


A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to  preach on the Sunday we honored our high school grads. In my message for that weekend, I talked about the challenges they will likely face as they move from being a big fish in a small pond to becoming a little fish in the big pond of life. As they take their next steps, a lot of of grads will ask, “how can I be heard? How can I get the shot I deserve? How can I be taken seriously by people even though I am young”?

Isn’t that a question many of us ask in youth ministry? Isn’t that something we are challenged with in our churches as we often struggle to be heard as the youth worker? Do we wish people would take us seriously and not just see us as the “one who hangs out with the kids”? If you are like me, I have made all the above statements and many more. As I preached on 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 a few weeks ago, here are some of the truths I found are very applicable to us in youth ministry:

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 (NIV).

Here’s the bottom line to influence: People listen to authentic leadership and follow healthy example:

Continue Reading…

8 Reasons Why My Second Office is Starbucks

If you follow me on or , you will regularly see me checking-in at my local Starbucks or a similar coffee house. Recently a lot of youth ministry friends have suggested that I have a coffee addiction and need serious help. Often my reply is, “we are in youth ministry… we all need help”.

Before I go on, it’s important to point out that I do spend a good amount of time in my office at church, and I love working with a great team of people. It’s also imperative that I spend a good amount of time in the office to stay connected and communicate what is happening in my ministry while also hearing about others ministry areas. But, for now, let me share 8 good reasons for why I think it’s also important for me to spend time working at Starbucks too… Continue Reading…

Making Volunteer Meetings Worthwhile

A few weeks ago a friend who is starting out in ministry asked me two questions:

First Question: “How often do you meet with your volunteers all together”?

1) Meetings Every Two Months, Not Every Month: My volunteers are busy and I prefer to honor their time and their families by keeping it to every two months. However, it’s important to “supplement” them with other training and communication.

2) Weekly Email Updates: This helps them to keep plugged in with the details of the programs and upcoming events. I also text, call, tweet, and email leaders individually.

3) Training / Update Videos: On the months we do not meet I create quick (6-8) minute videos that include programmatic information and a quick training tip for them. The training tip is usually something I have seen in the previous weeks that I want my volunteers focus on.

Second Question: “What do you do in meetings to make them worthwhile”?

1) Keep them Short! If I can get get meetings done in under 90 minutes that is my goal, (I actually shoot for 60 minutes). Again, it’s important I honor leaders time, but it’s also imperative that I realize that more than 90 minutes of a meeting equals too much information for them. I want my leaders to walk away with one or two pressing applications.

2) Create a Healthy Format: I have found a healthy format that seems to work for my volunteers and I have had good feedback too. Here’s what it looks like:

a) Share your “God moments” in students lives. (This is kind of what Andy Stanley refers to as talking about your “wins” in ministry).

b) Share struggles you need help with. This is where I open up the meeting for anyone to share to struggles or ask for clarifications about the ministry. I also ask other leaders give their feedback and advice to leaders who are struggling – It’s a great way to empower the knowledge base of veteran volunteers to help the rookies too. When they can give the advice, I love to sit back and listen!

c) Training Tip. Usually a “teachable moment” training tip based on what I have been seeing in our events and programs.

d) Message series and teaching schedule coming up in the next two months. (This includes a handout of a schedule that includes the message title, big idea, bible passages, and creative ideas).

e) Calendar, events, etc.

f) Any other business?

3) Meet in a Great Place: Whenever I can, I try to meet at a coffee house or place like that. In our city we have a Panera Bread. We have our meetings on a Saturday morning and the leaders get treated to coffee and breakfast. I find it helps us all to relax and be more conversational. Panera Bread is not incredible, but it still beats church coffee!

4) Ask Them When to Meet: Instead of assuming I know best, it’s better to ask the leaders when the best time would be. For my discipleship leaders, they said that Saturday morning is the best time to meet. For my large group leaders, they want to meet immediately following the program on a Wednesday evening. Given the option of being out on another day, they said they prefer to “get it all done on the same day”.

5) Split Teams: I have all my leaders together for BBQ’s, Christmas parties, and Year end “Firing Parties”, (you can ask me about that if you like). However, for my meetings every two months, I meet them by team / program. If I was to have everyone together, it would only water down the content and make much of it seem irrelevant to certain leaders for parts of the meeting. Even when I have had small volunteer teams, I have still found it important to meet seperately. With that said, as mentioned, it is imperative to have times when “we all come together” to celebrate, connect, and build each other up. It’s also important that I connect the dots for how all the programs and teams work together to fullfil the vision… Make sense?

AND FINALLY, and I think most importantly… Don’t forget that when we are at youth programs with our leaders, some of the best training opportunities come when we can have a quick teachable moments with a leader and encourage them in what they are doing. Don’t think it all has to be covered at a meeting…

This is what I do, I am sure there are better ways… What ideas can you give me for leading your volunteers?

Phil <><


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:


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…

Transitioning in Youth Ministry: In Transit – Tim Ciccone

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A few weeks back, I posted a book review about In Transit – A Youth Workers Guide to Navigating a New Beginning, by Tim Ciccone. This week I came across a video interview of Tim explaining the book a little more. If you are considering making a transition, this book is a must read that will help you finish well and begin strong.

You can follow Tim on or check out his website: 




Simple But Effective Training for Volunteers – Part 3: Consistency

Today I want to wrap up with a quick but crucial training tip I give all my volunteers. In my previous post I talked about the importance of using questions effectively to help students gain truth and application in their lives. In addition, I expressed the importance of keeping training for volunteers simple: “Effective training is better when it is simple, memorable, and practical”.

Today’s tip is probably the easiest to remember yet perhaps the most crucial: Consistency is Key. Consistency is the knot that ties everything together. Continue Reading…

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