New Years Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. It’s the time of year when we look back on the previous 365 days and wonder where time has gone. It’s the time of year that we make resolutions. The time of year when we promise to make changes. We’ll “stop doing this” or we’ll “start doing that.” About 36% of people give up on their resolution within a month. They can’t even last 30 days!

Most people fail in their resolutions because they bit off more than they can chew. More often than not, those that “want to lose weight,” don’t know how to set realistic goals or even where to begin. In some cases, they’ve never worked out consistently in the past. They don’t know how to cook a well-balanced diet.

Last year, my resolution was to “read more.” For me, “reading more” means just picking up a book. I am terrible at reading on a consistent basis. I had to research books that I thought I would like. I had to set aside time each week to purposefully read. I had to have a plan. In the end, I read a total of three books. For most people, they can do that over the course of a week, but for me, I consider my resolution kept! I haven’t read that much since college. But I kept with it. I had good weeks and bad weeks.

This year, I have two resolutions: 1) Read the Bible in a year and 2) lose 30 lbs. I’ll start with #2. Why do I want to lose weight? Because I “half worked at it” last year and managed to lose 25 pounds. I had more bad weeks than good weeks, but I can feel the difference. I made small changes and reasonable goals like ordering salads instead of greasy burgers. I ordered water instead of a soda. I worked out occasionally. Like everything else, I had good weeks and bad weeks, but I had a plan. My plan is to not get yelled at again at my next doctors visit.

My number one goal this year is to read the Bible in a year. It’s a lofty goal but I found a plan that requires me to read five times a week. That’s pretty reasonable. I know that there will be good days and bad days. Good weeks and bad weeks. I know that if I fall too far behind on a daily schedule, I’ll give up after a while. My hope is that I will read through the books that I tend to gloss over or purposefully skip. My hope is that I set the example for the students in my youth ministry and my family at home.

What is your resolution? What’s your plan? What’s your motivation? Most of us have the first question down, but not the second or third. It’s important to have all three. If you don’t have a roadmap for success, you’ll easily stray from your goal. If you lack true and virtuous motivation, you’ll easily give up when the going gets tough. I encourage you to find the answer to all three questions. If you do, you’ll have more success.


Sticky Faith


If you haven’t read “Sticky Faith” or any other “Sticky Faith themed” books by Dr. Kara E. Powell, you should.  They are quick and easy reads with lots of great ideas on how to live out your faith daily.  The practical ideas in the books are fun and simple ways to not only show God’s love to your family, but also those around you.

Each week, my youth ministry receives one “Sticky Faith Challenge” for the week.  I went through the books and took some of the quicker, easier ideas that can be done once a week or very quickly each day.

Below is the list that I came up with from now until the end of the year.  Feel free to take these ideas and implement them into your life, your family life, or your ministry.

Take a walk around the block and admire Gods creation

Send a note, email or text message to someone who needs encouragement

Pick one person and pray for them every day this week

Give every member of your family a hug every day this week

Play a board game with your family

Post a Bible verse to your social media accounts

Pray with another member of your family

Ask everyone in your house how there day was each day this week

Have at least one meal with the while family with no distractions (TV, music, phones, etc)

Have a 5 minute quiet time every day this week

Write down one thing that you’re thankful for and that God every day this week

Ask a friend how you can pray for them

Do a chore without being asked

Pray for the leaders in our local and national government every day

Go through your closet and donate a garbage bag full of clothes

Say “Merry Christmas” 100 times this week

Tell someone that they are loved


13 Reasons Why

Last night, I finished the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” I, like most people, was curious as to why it was trending on social media sites. After I did some digging, I figured that it was a must for someone in my profession to watch due to the subject matter and cultural relevance to teenagers. Let me start off by saying that my opinion is that no one under high school age should be watching this show. The show is rated “MA” for a reason. That means “Mature,” not “Mild-Adolescence” or “Maybe Anyone.” It stands for “Mature,” which means there are scenes and subject matters that are seen and addressed that some kids can’t handle or might not be able to process in a healthy manner. Going by cinema standards, that equivalent to an “R” rated movie. Quick question: would you let your kid watch any of the following movies or shows?  Goodfellas, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Deadpool or 50 Shades of Grey?  If you answered “no” to any of these, then “13 Reasons Why” shouldn’t be seen by your child either.  I realize that each household is different and you are free to make your own choices, but just because it’s streaming on Netflix, doesn’t make it “suitable for all ages.”  I know of kids as young as 10 years old that are watching the show.

I will be 35 this year and found many scenes disturbing and difficult to watch. There were graphic scenes of car crashes involving teens, suicide, and multiple depictions of rape. That being said, if you are a parent of a high schooler and your teenager is watching/has watched the show, you should probably watch as well.

Something else that a friend of mine pointed out to me, and I agree, is that this show isn’t your “run-of-the-mill” show that will be binged-watched and then forgotten.  I don’t see this as a “fad.” It’s the “cool” show to watch and will be for quite some time.  I am writing this at the end of April 2017 and the show was released at the end of March 2017.  It has been almost a month and we’re still talking about it.  In fact, it is only gaining popularity. What other shows can say that…streaming or network?

If your kids aren’t watching it themselves, chances are, their friends at school are watching. Some, I have heard, have watched multiple times. I had a few takeaways from the show. Some that range from agreement to infuriating. But I want to bring to light and focus on three points that I took away from the thirteen hour-long episodes.


Recently, my students have been going through 2 Corinthians in either youth group or on our podcast. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” Life is hard sometimes. People leave us. Disasters happen. Tragedies strike. But when we have Jesus, we have hope. The students in “13 Reasons” lacked that hope…that “peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).”

A friend of mine from high school committed suicide a few years back. We were all left wondering “Why” and if there was anything different we could have or should have done. I remember her mom being so strong at the time and I couldn’t believe how she got through the experience of losing her daughter. Years later, I asked her where she found the strength. Her answer was simple, “I found my hope in Jesus.” Today her strength and faith allow her to help others going through the same tragedy. It’s something no one should have to go through alone.


Another aspect of the series I’d like to focus on is the parent involvement, or often lack there of, in the show. One of the things that drives me nuts in culture today is how parents/parenting is portrayed. Watch Nickelodeon or Disney channel for an hour after school. Parents are usually portrayed as bumbling idiots that can barely change a light bulb or make a sandwich. Sure, the parent might have a word of wisdom at the end of the show but often the prior 26 minutes are spent displaying how adults know nothing and struggle through basic knowledge and understanding of life.

If you watch shows geared for teens, parents are often non-existent.  If you remember, even older shows like One Tree Hill or 90210 had kids with parents who didn’t even live with the kids and the kids had untold amounts of income. They lived in mansions with no responsibilities and no repercussions for their actions. The same ideas are reflected in “13 Reasons Why.” Parents and adults are almost non-existent. Those that are present come across completely detached from the lives of their kids.

Parents, you play a key role in your child’s life. The research bares this out time and again. They look to you for guidance and help as they grow and mature. They may not always tell you or make it known, but your child watches your every move. I have two kids of my own, 5 and 2.  Even at their young age, they mimic the traits that I display, both the good as well as the bad. My 2 year old can pick out songs on our radio that we play and sing at church.  When she hears, “This Is Amazing Grace,” she says, “Daddy… church.”  She can associate a song that she hears on the radio, played in a different key, at a different tempo, by a different vocalist and only sung every six weeks…is sung by her dad at church.  Remember…she’s two.  I’m also reminded of the country song by Rodney Atkins “Been Watchin’ You.”

Driving through town, just my boy and me
With a happy meal in his booster seat
Knowing that he couldn’t have the toy
Till his nuggets were gone
A green traffic light turned straight to red
I hit my brakes and mumbled under my breath
As fries went a flying and his orange drink covered his lap
Well, then my four year old said a four letter word
That started with “s, ” and I was concerned
So I said, “Son, now where did you learn to talk like that?”

He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are
We got cowboy boots and camo pants
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad?
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you.”

We got back home, and I went to the barn
I bowed my head, and I prayed real hard
Said, “Lord, please help me help my stupid self.”
Then this side of bedtime later that night
Turning on my son’s Scooby Doo night light
He crawled out of bed, and he got down on his knees
He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands
And spoke to God like he was talking to a friend
And I said, “Son, now where’d you learn to pray like that?”

Sure the song’s a little cheesy, but it’s true.  Your kids watch what you do.  They look up to you.  At 35 years old, I still look up to my parents.  Over the years, I watched how my dad made his marriage a priority.  I watched how he managed his career.  I watched how he dealt with crisis.  I watched how he parented.  I watched how he was a leader in the church.  I watched how he gave to those in need.  My father set the model for me as a father, just like you set the model for your children…whether you’re aware of it or not.

Talk to your kids.  Get involved in their lives.  Be their parent, don’t just be their friend. Ask questions.  Be there for them.  Lift them up in prayer daily.  Encourage them. Support them.


Lastly, love one another.  If we commit to building each other up as opposed to tearing each other down, the world would be a much better place.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

“Do EVERYTHING in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

There are so many others verses about love.  Just Google “Bible verses about love.”  Why does the Bible talk about “love” so much?  Because it’s hard.  Our society has turned love into an emotion as opposed to an action.  We “fall in love” and “fall out of love.”  We treat it like something that is with us one minute and gone the next.  But the reality is that love is a choice.  How can I “do everything in love (1 Cor 16:14)” if I can’t control my feelings?  That’s because love isn’t a feeling.  It’s a choice.  We choose to love, just like we choose NOT to love.  If the students in the series would have chosen love as opposed to popularity, hate, anger, malice, etc, the outcome might have been different.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.” John 13:34a

It’s in red so you know it’s A) important and B) Jesus’ words.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  It wasn’t a request.  It was a command.  LOVE.  EACH.  OTHER.


Parents, if your kids are watching the show, I suggest you do the same. Talk to your kids about what they are watching. Help them process what they are watching. If nothing else, it may open your eyes to what the average high schooler goes through in 2017. The environment and culture is much different than when you were in high school. Your kid might not be the one experiencing some of the situations depicted in the series, but your child’s friend might be.

And lastly, if you think your student needs help or someone professional to guide them, don’t be afraid to get them the help they need.


Go To Church?

One of my favorite “empty phrases” that I hear Christians say is, “You need to go to church!” Well, what is “church?” So often, we associate “church” with the one hour worship service that we attend on Sunday morning or we quite often are referring to the building itself. But what is “church?” What was is its original intention? Why do we go? Why DON’T we go? These questions are some that I recently posed to my high school students.

I started by asking them what words or phrases came to mind when they heard the word “church.” Here are some of their responses:

House of God, people, place of worship, communion, redemption, baptism, faith, music, weddings, funerals, Christmas, holidays, family, pastors, Bible, Bible studies, youth group, home, love

These are all pretty good answers. My next question was pretty pointed. I asked them, “Do you think we have a growing and vibrant church?” A loaded question for sure, but my kids are well trained to know I don’t necessarily pull any punches, nor do I expect a traditional “Sunday School” answer to my questions. After a few seconds of awkwardness, a few students responded “no” or “not really.”  You could feel the tension in the room. Had they just admitted something negative about our church?!?! If we’re all honest with ourselves, our churches/ministries probably are not growing at the rate that they could be and there’s always more that we could be doing.  I told them, “What if someone had the blueprint for a vibrant growing ministry? Would you want to use it?” As most people would, they responded that they would love to. I told them to open their Bibles to Acts 2:42-47.

It reads:

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”

I’ll ask you the same question I posed to the students: Do these verses describe our/your church?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll probably say “no.” So does that mean we have to return our churches to the time before electricity and live our lives like people did in 33 AD? No, but there is a lot that we can take away from these verses that we can apply to our ministries.

When you break it down, these verses bring out six different points: Teaching, Fellowship, Prayer, Forgiveness, Meals, and Worship.

If you attend a church, you probably get the teaching and worship portion, but for those that don’t attend a church on a regular basis and think that “by golfing on a Sunday morning, I am spending time in God’s creation,” you are missing out on the important aspect of fellowship.

In your personal life, are you offering forgiveness to those around you and do you spend time in prayer every day? These are not only things you should do privately, but also with the community of believers. When you pray together and forgive each other, you grow in your faith as a group. You are lifting each other up as opposed to bringing each other down. You are invested in the lives of those around you, and your faith grows exponentially. You are able to share your successes and your shortfalls with each other and create an environment that puts God first.

When it comes to meals, are you eating together on a regular basis? Some of the best moments in our youth ministry happen when we take the kids out for wings and burgers after youth group. Conversations get stirred up. News, both positive and negative, gets shared. Community is built. If you look back at Jesus’ ministry, some of the most impactful ministry events happened over meals. It’s no different in 2017. Eating a meal together can leave a lasting impression with someone.

Teaching, Fellowship, Prayer, Forgiveness, Meals, and Worship.  Do our ministries and churches reflect and encourage these elements?  Is “church” a place where believers come together to grow in the knowledge of Christ, or is it just a building?

As a youth ministry, each week we are finding more ways to look like the Acts 2 church. We have been finding that the more we mirror these verses, the more new students are being drawn to the group. Who would have thought?


I’m Not Ashamed Movie Review

I think it goes without saying that most “Christian” movies aren’t very good.  The budgets are low.  The scripts are poorly written.  They aren’t given a wide release.  They feature actors or actresses that are long passed their box office draw.  Above all, the main characters are COMPLETELY unrealistic.  They tend to portray Christians as “perfect” human beings with all the right answers.  Movies that come to mind with “perfect” characters are “God’s Not Dead” (either one), “Fireproof” (other than Kirk Cameron) and “Facing the Giants.”  The reality is that we don’t live perfect lives.  We have our ups and downs.  Our lives are like a roller coaster and our walk with Christ is usually no different.

This movie bucks that trend.  “I’m Not Ashamed” is the story of Rachel Scott and the year leading up to the shooting at Columbine High School.  Rachel was raised in a Christian house, but wasn’t really living out her faith when she got to high school.  The summer before her junior year, Rachel went to visit her aunt and cousins who talked to Rachel in a non-judgmental way (see Colossians 4:2-6 especially the part about “letting your speech always be gracious”).  While she was there, she rediscovered what it meant to be a Christian.

During the next year, she still continued to struggle with her faith.  This was refreshing because, unlike most Christian movies, coming to Christ didn’t fix all of the main characters problems.  Her relationship with her friends was still rocky.  She struggled to find her identity in Christ.  She didn’t always do the right thing.  As a church worker, I thought this was the best part of the movie.  It made Rachel more relatable and realistic.  My students could easily identify with her and her struggles.

In the end, I really liked this movie and I think it would be great to show to high schoolers.  I would not show the film to a middle school group due to the violence at the end of the film.  It wasn’t gratuitous “Tarantino-esque” violence, but it was a little jarring watching a high school student get shot especially when you know that it was based on actual events.  Most students are aware of the story of Columbine, but to watch it unfold on film was tough to see.

We used the film as part of our #REELTalk (Get it? It’s a play on “real talk,” but it’s a movie reel?!?!)  series.  We provided dinner, snacks and the movie and then had a 45 minute discussion about the film.  There is material that you can order online that coincides with the film, but we let the discussion begin and continue organically.  I took some notes about scenes or lines in the film that I thought were relevant and used that as a springboard for our discussion.  It was an extremely successful night, and we plan on doing it again soon.  If you’re looking for a cheap, easy event to have for your students, having your own #REELTalk event might be a good idea.


The Bride of Christ

I have been a leader in ministry for the better part of 20 years.  During that time, I have seen a lot of highs and lows.  I have seen the Church be a beacon of hope for the world and also a place that could use some improvement, to say the least.  I think there’s a reason that the relationship between God and the Church is often compared to a marriage.  My wife and I have been married for eight years and we’ve had our highs and lows; our ups and downs.  But in the end, we love each other and have each other’s best interest at heart.

No matter what good or bad things I’ve seen at the local Church, I know that, in the end, the Church is the vessel that God uses to transform and change lives.  We should all want to see the Church be successful.  We should all want the Church to follow Christ.

As I was scouring iTunes the other day, I came across a podcast that was created by disgruntled former church workers, for disgruntled church workers.  As I listened, I was shocked at what I was hearing.  Each episode was an hour long “airing of grievances” of the Church’s failures.  Their opinions weren’t helpful.  They offered no solutions.  It bothered me greatly and still bothers me now.

If you Google “lifespan of a youth leader,” you usually wind up with 18 months to 2 years.  That’s the average length of stay at a given church for a youth leader.  Worship leaders aren’t much longer.  Gone are the days where a pastor stays at a church for 30-40 years.  Church staff members leave their churches for a variety of reasons, but the complete departure from ministry rate is astounding.  It saddens me when church leaders get so frustrated that they leave the Church altogether.  I know that frustrations and trials will come, but the Church is still the Bride of Christ.

Instead of bashing the Church, offer solutions.  Have I thought about leaving full-time ministry? Of course!  But it’s come with the condition that if I did, I would be a “rock star,” reliable volunteer at my church that the leadership can count on regularly.  Forsaking the Church, as a whole, isn’t the answer.  It’s actually one of the reasons we started Concepts in Ministry.  It began in order to give leaders and volunteers the resources and support they needed to succeed in their own ministries.  We know that everyone doesn’t have a strong support system around them.  Instead of telling you to “give up,” we want to tell you to “keep going and here’s some Gatorade to help!”

I know that your ministry career will be like a roller coaster; filled with ups and downs.  Focus on the highs.  Learn from the lows.  Encourage others around you and build one another up.  Offer solutions to help the Church reach more people and don’t discourage others from following God’s call.  By working together, we can live out the Great Commission: “…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”  Matthew 28:18-20

-Jeff Kuester


I love working with youth, especially high school students.  There is so much going on in their lives during their four years of high school.  It’s a time when their faith becomes tested on a daily basis.  They have decisions to make on friends, dating, and college plans.  They are bogged down with tons of homework.  Their lives are cluttered with sports and extra-curricular activities.  I know I wouldn’t want to go back to high school.  But as their youth leader, I love talking with my high schoolers one-on-one.

A few weeks ago, we held a lock-in (I know, I’m nuts, but I’ll tell you our format at another time).  While most of the kids were playing sardines, one student wanted to talk with me about college choices and majors.  I really should have been with all the students, but I felt the need for a “timeout” with this one student in particular.  It wasn’t the most ideal moment, but we talked for a good hour about the major decisions that were coming up.  Weeks have passed, and I still look back at that hour as my favorite hour of the lock-in.

I often think about the times that Jesus was pulled aside from the large group or even His twelve disciples to talk to a particular individual.  It’s at those moments that I think Jesus’ teaching was at its best.  His message was pointed and personal.  He showed that he cared deeply for the individual, not just the group as a whole.  Those moments came when that particular individual needed correcting.  I think of the time He met with Peter at the fire after he denied Jesus.  I think of the woman Jesus met at the well or the Roman soldier with the sick child.  Think about the time when the kids came to Jesus.  They just wanted one-on-one time with Him.  The disciples even tried to get rid of the them.  From that encounter you get “Let the little children come to Me.”  How often do we use that phrase in our churches or ministry?

Ministry is often all-consuming and the easy thing to do is cover a wider ground with service-level ministry.  Be sure to look for opportunities and take a “timeout” for those one-on-one discussions.  Don’t miss out on a life changing conversation with one student just because twenty others are busy playing sardines or knock out.  Would I have had an impact on the game?  Maybe, but I know that conversation had an impact on that student.

-Jeff Kuester

Antique Roadshow

Do you remember the show “Antique Roadshow?”  If you’re not familiar, the show revolved around people bringing their old junk to an antique dealer that traveled the country.  Most of the time, the items that were showcased held more sentimental value than they did monetary value.  In the end, the individual was just glad to get the item appraised to see it’s actual worth.  I have a lot of things I’ve kept over the years due to sentimental reasons: a few old stuffed animals from my youth, baseball cards, and old console video games.

Recently, two important people in my life hit me with some real truth.  That an idea I had would have a major impact and that I didn’t really understand the value of what I had.  As many of you know, a week ago I launched a daily devotional for my high school students on iTunes.  I just wanted my students to have God’s word to them on a regular basis and to have an opportunity to pray for them daily.  It was meant for them.

After 8 days, we’ve had over 120 downloads including downloads from California, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Missouri, New Jersey and West Virginia.  I’ve heard stories of families listening on the way to school…adults listening as they drink their morning coffee.  It’s remarkable what God is doing with this idea after a little over a week.

It’s not that I think this podcast is “junk” by any means, but didn’t think much of it.  I didn’t see its potential and I didn’t see its true value.  I’ve poured more time, money, blood, sweat and tears into other projects that have fallen flat and never amounted to anything.

Remember the feeding of the 5,000?  We often focus on Jesus or the miracle that happened.  We often forget about the boy who provided the five loaves and the two fish.  He happily offered up his lunch, knowing that it would only be “a drop in the ocean” of need.  He did it anyway knowing that if he could help one person, it could make a difference.  In the end, he helped far more.

What are your five loaves and two fish?  Maybe you have an idea that you’ve been sitting on for a while.  Maybe you’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on it.  Maybe you don’t think it’s worth anything.  Let God decide that.  Put it in His hands and let Him go to work.  I know that I sat on my hands with this devotional for a year!  I deeply regret that now.  But I’ve since given it to God and now I sit back and watch Him do His thing.


And We’re Off!

Like most of you, we kicked off our ministry year this past Sunday.  It was bittersweet for me.  I’ve loved having Sunday nights to spend with my family.  It will be hard to not see them on Sunday nights from now until Christmas.  The “sweet” part is that I get to spend time with the youth of our congregation.  I miss spending time with these kids.  I miss watching the light bulb go on in their heads when they make a spiritual connection.  I love watching them grow in their faith.

Many people have asked what curriculum I use for our Sunday night Bible study.  I’ve used boxed curriculum in the past and was never fully satisfied with what my money got me.  These days, I write my own.

I know what you’re thinking!  That sounds so scary and time consuming, but it really doesn’t have to be!  Yes, there are times when I plan “themed” months and toil over a message.  But when the group is smaller, I’ve learned to rely on the original Bible study curriculum…the Bible.

Our theme this year is “Echo Christ.”  For those that attended the LCMS Youth Gathering this past summer, that theme may sound familiar.  So what’s the best way to learn how to “Echo Christ?”  Probably reading through his life.  So that’s what we’re doing.  Each week, we’re taking a section of Luke and discussing Jesus’ ministry.  We’re looking at how He treated people and how He handled certain situations.  Essentially, we’re going verse by verse through Luke and discussing it.  No budget needed.  No fancy graphics.  No “frills.”  Just Jesus.

As we go verse by verse, the students relate the material to their daily lives.  It’s not some theme from a box that you have to stretch and take massive leaps to make connections to your specific students.  It’s their experiences and thoughts being applied in their spiritual lives.  The students own the lesson.  They are able to actively participate in their spiritual growth.  Also, it’s extremely cost effective.

If you’re looking for ways to cut cost and up the spiritual content of your ministry, give it a try.  You don’t have to pay publishing companies and famous speakers half of your yearly budget.  God’s already given you the curriculum.


Happy New Year!

Don’t worry, it’s not January 1st yet, but for many of us in ministry, it might as well be.  Churches across the world will be relaunching this Sunday with new mottos, slogans and visions.  There might be new programs starting and new leadership taking the reins.  With this new ministry year, comes both excitement and uncertainty.

In my youth ministry, we are retooling our student leadership program, we are kicking off a daily devotion that will stream on iTunes, and we’ll reconfigure our Sunday night programming.  This may sound like a lot and it is, but I can do more…I can do better.

By all accounts, last year was considered a successful year for my ministry.  After taking over the ministry in the fall of 2015, attendance rose to four times the amount of students by May of 2016.  The ministry that I inherited was gutted and turned upside down prior to my taking over.  Some of those wounds still run deep in our ministry and as a result, there are some students that may never step foot in our ministry again.  It’s sad and my heart breaks for them, and yet, there’s a part of me that doesn’t blame them for not coming back.

So if last year was such a success, why would I change anything?

The easy thing for me to do would be to keep the same formula going.  But students’ interests are always changing.  I can’t do the same things year in and year out.

Think about the coaching landscape in professional sports.  The average coach only last a few years.  They have a certain way of doing things and that’s what makes them successful.  But after a while, the players begin to “tune out” their coach.  They have heard the same pep talks week in and week out.  The novelty has worn off and the players stop playing for their coach and ultimately, the coach is fired.

Have you ever wondered how Greg Popovich has kept winning in San Antonio all these years?  Sure, he’s had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu.  Pop has been able to adapt his coaching to the changing landscape of the game.  A decade ago, his team knew how to control the tempo of a game.  They made their opponents play a grueling style of half-court basketball.   Last year, future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan rode the bench in favor of younger players who could run up and down the court with opposing teams.  They were successful in spite of their aging roster.  The style of play has changed and Pop has adapted to it.  Every year, his team finds a way to get better.  He gets his team to play unselfishly.  He teaches them that it’s not about one person, but rather, it’s about the team.  That philosophy has made him one of the best coaches in the history of the game.

How are you adapting to the changing landscape of student ministry?  Don’t be afraid to try something new.  If you fall flat on your face…GREAT!  At least you tried.  I’ll always remember the line Alfred said in Batman Begins: “Why do we fall?  So we can get back up.”

My challenge for you is this: as you are planning your 2016-17 year, what’s one new thing that you can offer your students?  It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking.  It could be something small.  Whatever it is, try it.  If it’s a success..great!  Keep it or make it better for next year.  If it fails…that’s OK too.  Retool it or scrap it all together.

You can do this!