10 Ways To Have A Vacation That Recharges You!

Being in youth ministry can be challenging. But it can be incredibly rewarding and a great blessing!

With that said, it’s imperative that we keep ministry as a blessing and not allow it to become a curse.  Any ministry, no matter how exciting it is can get old without good breaks and getaways… A GREAT vacation that recharges and rejuvenates, is essential for anyone who wants to ensure that ministry does not get old. More than that, it is crucial that we get a good break that gives us a new perspective when we return.

Here are few things I do on vacation that help me to get recharged and invest in my family.

1) Leave Your Laptop / iPad at Home: No email, no planning, no temptation to do work. After all, it’s a vacation!

2) Turn Off Your Phone and Leave Away Messages: Leave good away messages that communicate that you will not be checking voicemail or checking email. However, be diligent to ensure that students, parents, and church leaders have a point person to go to in your absence. It is pertinent that you do not check your voicemail or email while you are gone. If your ministry cannot depend on you, there must be something broken… It will fix itself if you learn to let go and communicate healthy boundaries to others.

3) Take a Few Good Books: Have a focused time to read and relax. No ministry books allowed, just books that will fill you up and help you relax. God’s Word is obviously on the top of the list. Plan ahead with passages or books you would like to read to fill you up…

4) Schedule What Your Family Needs: If you are in ministry and are married, your family has often taken back seat to ministry, emergencies, and those all-nighters. It’s essential that your family gets to enjoy you and make memories together. Yes, make sure you have some alone time, but also make sure your spouse (and kids if you have kids), feel special and valued.

5) Take At Least A Week, Preferably Ten Days: It often takes a few days to unwind from the ministry schedule, so ensure that you get to enjoy your vacation by having at least a week relaxing and unwinding.

6) Get Away: A “Stay-cation” is not a vacation… In ministry, you need to get away. There are too many triggers and temptations when we stay at home.

7) Treat Yourself: Do something a little a out of the ordinary. Whether it is having an extravagant meal, scuba diving, or whale watching, do something that is a memory maker for you and your family. It’s important to create memories and stories to look back on. I’ve never been scuba diving, but I have some great memories with my wife and kids…

8.) Rest! Yes, I know it should be a given, but I know too many of my good friends who have a hard time relaxing on vacation. They are still checking their voicemail and worrying about whether the ministry is going to plan without them. We are able to rest when we realize that God does not need us to do anything. He chooses to use us and will accomplish His purposes while we are on vacation. God does not need to depend on us… Just sayin…

9) Sleep-In! I have two kids who will wake me up early, even on vacation. However, my wife and myself have agreed to let each other sleep-in at least one day. You should try it!

10) Don’t Talk About Ministry: This is really hard for a lot of us since our world revolves around ministry. However, I think it’s important to give ourselves and our families a break from the ministry conversation. It’s not that ministry is a bad thing, but it’s important to realize that our family needs breaks from being in the trenches full-time.

If you are looking for more ideas to make the most of your vacation, you might want to check out Blog:

What would you add to this list that has worked for you?

Phil <><

It’s The Things We Do That Matter…


This is a tweet that made me think this week… It’s a great question to be asking since it requires us to have an honest reality check. It is these type of honest reality checks that we need to lead with integrity.

Students will often follow our lifestyle and authenticity more than our words…

Here are few more gut checks we can all consider:

  • I teach students to read God’s Word and pray regularly, but how regular are my times with God?
  • I teach students that God wants a relationship, not a list of prayer requests, but how much time am I spending really listening to Him?
  • I teach students to live for an audience of One, but am I addicted to the approval of many?
  • I teach students to get to know other people outside their circle of friends at youth group, but how diverse are my own conversations at church?
  • I teach students to create margin in their schedule to avoid stress, but how much stress do I have due to over-scheduling?
  • I teach students to honor their family and have healthy family times, but how does my own family feel about my investment in them?
  • I teach students to find healthy accountability, but am I surrounded by people who can easily ask me the tough questions?
  • I teach students to be secure in God’s unique design for themselves, but am I secure in who I am?

What are some of the other reality checks we need to have to keep us focused on being leaders of integrity?

Phil <><

Sexual Sin, Porn, and the Church

Sexual sin and pornography is probably one of the most challenging issues we face as youth workers today. Here are some thoughts.


  • It is a sin that students have learned to hide more than any other sin…
  • It is a sin that pastors and youth workers have learned to hide more than any other sin…
  • It is sin that has massive implications for students as they grow into young adults…
  • It is a sin that the church has NOT talked openly enough about and has, (in my opinion), condemned this type of sin too much…  Students have often gone deeper “underground” with their struggles rather than seeing the church as their refuge and help…
  • It is a sin that is impacting in the trenches youth workers and their families…
  • It is a sin that I have personally seen three pastors lose their jobs and families to… One pastor friend took his own life after he lost his family and ministry… I still hurt from this huge loss…
  • Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) is not something we can brush under the carpet. We must lovingly and carefully understand the issues and discover good theology. It is not enough to have a stance on the issue, we must see people as God’s children and meet them where they are… I am also learning that brothers and sisters in Christ have different theological stances on this issue and I must be understand my stance, but be sensitive to others…
  • It is something that we must address with our students on a regular basis in our teaching, conversations, retreats, and our own model to them… How are we doing in this? 
  • It is something that parents are dying for help with. We must educate, empower, and equip parents who are at home with these students so much more than us… What tools and resources are we giving our parents? 
  • We must create environments that encourage conversation and not condemnation… Ask your students openly if they feel they could share some of these deep issues? Ask them what you could do to create more openness?
  • We must help students learn accountability now, not later… How are we helping students to connect authentically? 
  • We must personally surround ourselves with mentors, friends, and accountability partners to stay strong. Who can ask you tough questions? Who knows your struggles? Are you on an island of  sexual sin and need to be rescued? 
  • We should seek help NOW if we are struggling and not wait until we crash… Who can you call today? Feel free to contact me on my contact page if you need some help beginning these steps? 
  • We have a responsibility to speak truth in love to our students and ensure they are getting a healthy perspective from God’s Word. Are we scared to speak truth to those students who desperately need it? 
These are just a few thoughts and I have so many more. However, here are some FANTASTIC ways to continue thinking on this subject: 
(See info on the graphic above). 
  • Live Stream info: 
  • RSVP at: 
1. What would you add to this conversation?
2. On Thursday after the Group Magazine Live Podcast I plan to post some more thoughts on this. I am eager to learn from a panel of in the trenches youth workers who I respect…
After watching the podcast, here are just a quick few thoughts about it:
  • The format of having a panel of experts was great! Being able to have people like interact and bounce questions off of was fantastic! The level of questions were both authentic and challenging.
  • There was a great deal of interaction online from viewers watching who were able to field questions that Scott Firestone was able to field to the panel! Again, some great questions and interactions.
  • Sexual sin is rampant in the church and people in ministry are not immune… In fact, in many ways the panel talked about how it is sometimes harder to talk about issues when you are in ministry. Craig Gross from shared that it is potentially not a good idea to go your direct mentor, but to find accountability and support through mentors and accountability partners.
  • There was a great deal of discussion about creating an authentic communinty where sexual purity and other challenging isses can be faced.
  • The GLBT discussion was handled well and Rick and Jeff shared a story about a group of youth workers at the last Simply Youth Ministry Conference who has grappled and struggled with this issue. It is clear that it is a “hot button” for many and there are many differing views on the GLBT subject. I think a takeaway for me was that we should deal with the issues head on, but with great sensitivity and care. I think it will be interesting to watch this debate continue in the church in years to come. Many of us in ministry still have a fuzzy understanding of the scriptural response to this issue.
  • Finally, a takeaway for me personally is the challenge to stay sexually pure and accountable in my ministry position. It is imperative that I have good boundaries, accountability, and support as I minister to students. It only takes a youth worker falling in this area to destroy the hopes and dreams of students. We never want students to say, “If they can’t get this right, how am I supposed to get it right…”

LIVE Curriculum Giveaway: Part 3 – Leadership



Here’s a video snapshot of the Brand New LIVE Leadership curriculum that could be yours if you comment on this post and tweet about it… Doug Franklin explains how LIVE leadership can impact our students and leaders…

One lucky individual will be selected on AUGUST 1st!

It’s value is $249, (And that is whopping 60 leadership lessons… That’s like a years worth of British Tea…)

Here Are Two Ways You Can Win: 

1) Comment On This Post! This week there will be a number of posts you can comment on. (Although your name gets entered once, you can comment as much as you like).

  • Please comment on how this curriculum would enhance your ministry?
  • Let me know if you currently use LIVE, what do you like about it? How has LIVE impacted your ministry?
  • If you don’t currently use LIVE, what are you looking for in a good curriculum?

2) Get Your Name Entered TWICE! Tweet This: I just entered to win LIVE Leadership Curriculum from @PhilBell from http://youthworktalk.com  - You can too!  http://wp.me/ppcai-qq

Phil <><

The Lesson I Learned When My Laptop Crashed During Sermon Prep

Today my Macbook Pro crashed!

It was a BIG crash! The good people at the Apple store told me my hard drive is not recoverable. Ever have that happen? Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever had a computer crash in this way… But here’s the bigger problem:


So, apart from backing up my sermon as I wrote, or writing it on a web-based application like , here is my BIG lesson I have learned:

“Owning” The Message And Preparing Well Is Helping Me Now:  It’s a pain to have to write it again, but ownership of the message will make it easier to write again.  In Communicating for a Change,  Andy Stanley talks about the importance of “owning” a message and internalizing the core of the message. He even goes so far as to say, why should people listen to us if we don’t own it ourselves? Since reading the book I have tried to ensure that I prepare in such a way, I could preach without notes if needed.

So, even though I have to write my sermon again. And even though I am crammed for time to do it before Sunday, I am thankful that I feel fairly confident that I own the message and have the big idea (and most of the points) in my head… Owning the message is imperative for our audience, but I found out today how helpful it is to write the same sermon again!

For now, here are 5 simple things I do in my writing process to help me “own” the message:

1) Pray: Obvious, yes. Crucial, for sure! Good prayer time saves time!  It’s easier to discern what God is wanting me to say. So often it’s easy to jump into research or even writing without considering what direction The Holy Spirit might want me to look in.  

2) Prepare: Lots of reading of commentaries around the passage or topic. (This really helps to solidify what I own and know). I use for Mac.

3) Plan a Map: This is where I outline a starting and ending point for my message. In many ways, we take people on a journey with us. It’s important that we consider how to get them on the journey, how to keep them on the journey, and how they land at their destination.

4) Put it Together: I don’t write every word, I write an outline that is a detailed version of my map. (This is the part that is lost on my hard drive at the Apple Store).

5) Practice: This is perhaps my best way to own the message and internalize God’s Truth for myself as I preach. It also helps me to iron out transitions and make tweaks as I go. When I practice, I actually talk out the whole message from start to finish. I particularly focus on the take off and landing…

So, there you go. Not rocket science, but perhaps you have struggled in putting sermons together in the past. These 5 points really help me a great deal. Hope they can help you too in case you don’t backup your sermon as you write it!

Phil <><


  • My Macbook Pro will be in repair for a few days getting a new hard drive
  • I backed up my Macbook 3 weeks ago…
  • I started using a our student ministry Macbook Pro to finish my sermon… It crashed. Not kidding. Can’t get the thing to work!
  • I wrote this post on my lovely wife’s laptop. Unfortunately the laptop is not very lovely. I need to buy her a new one!

LIVE Curriculum Giveaway: Part 2 – Why LIVE?

So, my previous post began the LIVE Leadership Curriculum giveaway, and today we continue to give you and your friends more opportunities, to comment, tweet and WIN!

However, some of you have asked some great questions about LIVE and what the curriculum can do for you. Recently, I caught up with Matty McCage from Simply Youth Ministry. Matty is the LIVE guru and would love to talk to you more if you have any questions.  Here’s what he had to say:

“The Live Curriculum is a cohesive plan for your youth ministry, using a 36-week ministry calendar year. The lessons are designed to flow from one topic to the next, and each year builds on the previous years. But since we know every ministry is different, we give you the option of taking it apart, shifting around the pieces, and using the lessons in whatever order you’d like. You can prayerfully schedule the lessons as you sense God’s direction in your ministry.

Not only does the LIVE Curriculum have awesome content, the Golden Ticket is found in the online delivery engine! The website allows you to communicate with your team, customize the lessons, upload your own material, schedule your calendar, streamline your administrative channels as well as giving you access to the mobile apps for ease of teaching.  Other than baking your favorite pizza, there isn’t much LIVE can’t do…”

Here’s How You Can Win LIVE Leadership: 

1) Comment On This Post! This week there will be a number of posts you can comment on. (Although your name gets entered once, you can comment as much as you like).

  • Please comment on how this curriculum would enhance your ministry?
  • Let me know if you currently use LIVE, what do you like about it? How has LIVE impacted your ministry?
  • If you don’t currently use LIVE, what are you looking for in a good curriculum?

2) Get Your Name Entered TWICE! Tweet This: I just entered to win LIVE Leadership Curriculum from @PhilBell from http://youthworktalk.com  - You can too!  http://wp.me/ppcai-qq

Phil <><


LIVE Curriculum Giveaway: Part 1


I am huge fan of the LIVE curriculum! We have been using this curriculum in our Junior High and High School ministries for a year now… and we LOVE it!

I am so confident in LIVE that I have turned my blog into the LIVE poster child!!! More so, I am giving away the !!!

One lucky individual will be selected on AUGUST 1st!

It’s value is $249, (And that is whopping 60 leadership lessons… That’s like getting a years worth of British Tea…)

Here Are Two Ways You Can Win: 

1) Comment On This Post! This week there will be a number of posts you can comment on. (Although your name gets entered once, you can comment as much as you like).

  • Please comment on how this curriculum would enhance your ministry?
  • Let me know if you currently use LIVE, what do you like about it? How has LIVE impacted your ministry?
  • If you don’t currently use LIVE, what are you looking for in a good curriculum?

2) Get Your Name Entered TWICE! Tweet This: I just entered to win LIVE Leadership Curriculum from @PhilBell from http://youthworktalk.com  - You can too!  http://wp.me/ppcai-qq


Angry Birds Youth Ministry Game?

Could this be done? Probably not… But cool video by T-Mobile!

What is Youth Ministry?

A couple of days ago my good Canadian friend asked the question on Facebook: “What is Youth Ministry? What isn’t Youth Ministry?” Great question Andy! A number of us gave our responses and you can see some of them over at Andy’s blog: . In addition, you might want to check out Andy Blanks post over at and a post by Paul Martin over at . Great reads!

For now, I think I could be thinking and writing about this question for a couple of weeks. I don’t think I can channel all my ADD thoughts into one post. Therefore, here’s a snapshot of some of the big chunks I have written about before that I consider youth ministry to be about. Let me know what you think?

1) Jesus Centered - Without Jesus being our center for all we do, we might as well be a club. I am sure that we all say that we are Jesus centered, but let’s be honest… It only takes a short while to get back to “what we know” and depend on our methods and skills. Soon, Jesus is taking a back seat. Numbers can increase, accolades can be given, but Jesus is the only one who will bring lasting change to our students lives.

2) Student Focused - Being student focused means taking a lot of time to get into their world and listen. Again, so often, it is easy to resort back to what we know and what has worked in the past. However, I find that God moves best when I listen to the heart of my students and what God is saying through them. In many ways, it’s similar to what Rick Warren says and how we should be catching the wave of what God is doing, rather than trying to create the wave. Some of our best events, service projects, and Bible studies have been a part of, have come from students.

3) A Greenhouse for Self-Feeders – I have a series coming up in a couple of weeks to talk about this more, but for now let me say this: Unless we are helping students to learn to become self-feeders who spend time with God when they are not with us, we are missing the point. Are we helping students to develop life-long habits to help them feed on God’s love, truth, and wisdom, or are they dependent on a weekly youth group meeting? If students are consumed with our weekly meeting but are spiritually starving during the week, we have missed the point… Just my opinion of course. More to come in a couple of weeks on this…

4) Parent Partnered – Parents spend so much more time with their kids than I do. So many parents under estimate their impact on their kids too. I firmly believe that I should do all I can to make parents the hero to their kids, not me. The more that I can encourage, support, and equip parents at home, should result in greater growth and impact for our students. If I am honest, this is one component I see to lacking in so many ministries. Personally, I am not happy with how much we currently do… It is a goal of mine this year to partner with parents in greater ways…

What is Youth Ministry to you? What did I miss? There’s a whole lot, I know! For now, these are my big chunks… What are yours? Post your comments!

Phil <><

7 Steps in Dealing with Cliques

Cliques are a reality for our students in their schools and community. Unfortunately, it is often a reality they face at church too. Cliques are the enemy of healthy community and ultimately the enemy of students hearing God’s best for them. When students don’t feel relationally comfortable, they are less likely to relate to God’s truth. Here are 7 priorities I am constantly working on to avoid cliques in my ministry.

1. Cast vision—It’s important to constantly compare and contrast a vision for healthy community compared to painful reality of cliques. This can be done through intentional messages but also weekly in announcements. It’s imperative to constantly paint a picture of a community where students can feel safe and belong.

2. Know the difference between Comfort and Clique—Some student groups could be described as a clique, when in fact they are simply too comfortable to be aware of others. A clique is defined as, “a small, exclusive group of people” (dictionary.com). It’s important to discern whether students are intentionally exclusive or just missing the point. The way to respond to comfortable students is quite different from clique-y ones.

3. Understand cliques—It’s easy to get frustrated by students who are intentionally clique-y. However, it’s important to remind ourselves that many of them find security in keeping others out. Most cliques, in my experience, are comprised of insecure kids trying to control their environment.

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