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The Famine Blog

If I Were the Senior Pastor…



By Jake Kircher

It’s not uncommon for youth workers to feel some sort of disconnect from their Senior Pastors (See Doug Franklin’s book The Disconnect). Usually there is quite a generational gap as many senior leaders could be their youth workers parent or grandparent. There might be philosophical differences, different education backgrounds, and ministry experiences that at times don’t see eye to eye. And sometimes there’s a tension between the wisdom of what’s worked for years and what’s fresh and new.

I remember when I was younger and just starting out in ministry where I would run into these issues and find myself thinking, “If I were the senior pastor, I could do so much better.” I would vent to my wife or a mentor about how I would do X differently, or not do Y at all, or how we needed to start Z. Frankly, these statements reeked of arrogance, pride, and mostly naïveté.

See, it’s easy to look at our Senior Pastors from a distance and think that their jobs aren’t that hard and that we can do better. But what we need to remember is that compared to the issues and challenges that we face in ministry, in many scenarios the challenges they face are even greater.

In a recent podcast on politics Rob Bell talked about this hierarchy of leadership. He explained that the higher up you get in an organization (cashier to shift manager to store manager to owner) the problems and challenges get more and more complex. If the lower level staff person can solve the issue, in many cases the higher ups don’t even hear about it. But when they can’t, they pass it up to their boss. And if they can’t solve the problem, they go to their boss until it’s at the top.

This same thing often happens in a church.

I was reminded of this fact over the summer as I had two weeks where I was the only pastor in the office due to vacation schedules. The first week I was flying solo we had a family lose a child. I got the terrifying privilege of counseling them and helping plan their funeral (which I had somehow avoided doing in my previous 15-years in youth ministry!). Thankfully my Senior Pastor was back in time to do the homily.

The second week I was alone we had another death. And so I fully officiated my first funeral. This time for a man who didn’t come to our church and I didn’t know at all. The family described him as someone who “didn’t really care for church and religion at all,” but then asked me to say that he was a “silent servant for Christ.”

This was just two weeks this summer and only two of the many complex challenges I faced in that span; yet it was a huge reminder of the kind of things my senior pastor deals with on a regular basis.

Yes, we as youth workers deal with complaints, but I’d be willing to bet that our senior leaders probably deal with more of them. Yes, we have teens who are dealing with major issues, but our senior pastors are dealing with adults with major issues, and just because of the stakes at hand (jobs, mortgages, declining physical health and other adult responsibilities), they are often more complex and difficult. And yes, we may have different opinions about what our churches should be doing, but you can rest assured that our opinion is only one of the many, and conflicting for that matter, opinions that our senior leaders are hearing.

So the next time you want to complain and say, “If I were the Senior Pastor…”, stop and really think about that for a moment. Seeing things from their perspective, being proactive and asking them about the biggest challenges they face, will help you gain a different respect for them and what they do. It will challenge you to not complain, but instead finish that statement by asking, “…what kind of support and encouragement would I need to do my job?” And as you respond to that question, take your answers and go and do those things for the senior leaders that you serve with.

What I Learned from Leaving Youth Ministry



By Paul Martin

Up until recently I was what some people would have called “a lifer.” As far as youth ministry was concerned I had no other ambitions in life. I wanted to retire at some point from a youth ministry role and never have any other job to claim my time. That didn’t work out the way I imagined.

At age 45, after serving teenagers and families for almost two decades, I realized it was time to tap out. There were a lot of reasons that informed that decision, but those are for another post. After leaving my time working for the church, I found myself on the other side of the curtain. I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, while all the magic was happening, I wasn’t behind the scenes anymore.

It has been a jarring experience dropping my two daughters off for youth group instead of being there to greet them when they arrived. I found myself sending them to someone else to help them grow their faith. I had no idea what the next big event was. I confess, I was a little more than shell-shocked.

But God was good enough to me to let me land in safe waters. The youth ministry my daughters beg to go to – that’s right, they beg – is an amazing place, just like so many great youth ministries. They are welcomed and loved, cared for and challenged.

Here are my takeaways for learning to be a youth ministry parent.

Be That Guy (or Girl)

I remember so many times I met with parents as a youth pastor. The majority of them were great. Most parents just want to ask a question or get some help. I decided I wanted to be that kind of parent.

The first week after my daughters attended youth group, I went to the church website. I was shocked that the middle school page was completely blank. Blank, as in, there was the church header and footer with nothing in between. Not one word.

So I decided to be that guy – the type of parent that just wants some help. I emailed the youth director and gently pointed out that I couldn’t find anything on the site and was just curious about what happens in the ministry. It was great, and I learned a lot.

Don’t Be That Guy (or Girl)

I also remember some other times when parents would contact me. They were mad or frustrated, usually about something completely unrelated, and wanted to vent on someone. I decided I didn’t want to be that guy.

I realized after the fact about something happened at one of the youth meetings my daughters were in. It was a little tiff between one of my daughters and another student. Not a big thing, but pretty upsetting to my daughter.

I’ll admit, my feelings were all over the place. I could have called and vented. Instead, I chose to be patient. I waited until the next day, at a reasonable hour for youth workers, and called the director. I just wanted to make him aware of what my daughter reported and ask to see if he could help. This guy was gold. He said he actually wanted to talk to me and see what could be worked out.

Choose Your Path

What I learned in a few short months outside of youth ministry could probably fill several books. But here’s the best part of my story so far. I decided on a new role for myself as a youth ministry parent. I am a cheerleader.

I’ve seen so many amazing things happening in my family’s life because of my church’s youth ministry. We were in serious need after leaving a ministry with sore feelings, moving to another state and starting over again. My daughters really needed to feel some sense of stability and grounding. They needed to have fun and make new friends. This youth group did so much to help us. All I had to do was tell our story.

So that’s what I did. It started with a short, minute and a half conversation with the Senior Pastor. He asked me how I found the church, and I told him it was from a friend who said they had a welcoming youth group, but I also snuck in a couple of compliments while I was at it. It started something.

I’ve now written or called almost everyone on staff at the church. I’m the chief encourager. It’s a complete role shift for me. Instead of heading off problems in the ministry as the director, I can be a source of life for the leaders. I now realize there were parents like this in every ministry I served. I’m so thankful.

Thoughts About Waiting



By Brien Bell

If you’re anything like me you’re not a fan of waiting. As a culture we’re pretty bad at waiting in general. Whether it’s waiting for the clock to hit noon for lunch to being, or waiting months for the next iPhone to hit stores, or years for the next Star Wars movie, we’re really bad at waiting.

Youth ministry leadership is often a waiting game.

Sometimes it’s waiting in the challenging sense. Waiting for volunteers to sign up for an event, or waiting on parents to pick up their kids after a particularly tiring evening youth event. Waiting to see which kids have decided that it’s just not worth it to spend their time with you each week. Or waiting for that thirtieth hour of the Famine to come, not just for our own hungers but also for those we hunger in solidarity with.

Sometimes it’s waiting in the best sense. You’ve seen the stirrings of the Spirit; and now you’re waiting to find out how your students will respond. You’ve watched as the seeds of friendship have been planted between people who would seem unlikely to bond, and are waiting to watch that relationship grow.

As summer ends, I’ve found waiting to be particularly trying. It’s a time of vacation and service and not seeing my friends and students for nearly three months, aside from a pool party here or a Sunday service there. And waiting, for me, is often an anxious waiting, full of questions and doubts

Psalm 27 ends with this hopeful note, and a command:

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

It’s an encouragement that our waiting is never in vain, whatever it is that we wait for. It’s not yet winter, but one thing we wait for as fall draws near is the season of Advent – a season of anticipation, of waiting, for the Lord to make His presence known. The Psalm reminds us that our waiting isn’t just for one season.

Be strong, take heart, and wait – the Lord’s favor is good, and it’s worth that patience.

Helping College Students Connect With a Church



By Shawn Kiger

I am currently wrapping up the summer and my efforts have turned towards school year activates ramping up in our youth ministry. I have started working out retreat dates, looking at what we are going to focus on this year program-wise, and starting to plan next summer’s mission trips. I am also making connections with the parents and students of new 6th grade students entering into the youth ministry. I love their nervous excitement they have as they come to youth group for the first time. The same can be said for our new 9th graders who get to move up into the high school ministry.

But I had a conversation this week that reminded me that there is one group of students that I shouldn’t forget about, and that’s our college students: those that have just graduated high school and going to college for the first time and those that are returning to college.

This week I talked with two of our college students who are beginning their junior year. They grew up in our church and were very active in the youth ministry. Now they are both involved in a church near their college campus. They have helped start a young adult ministry at this church and are regular attenders at worship on Sunday mornings. The pastor and I were asking them questions, because, in our experience it is unusual, unfortunately, that college students remain active in a church while in college. They talked to us about the experiences they had growing up in our church and the things in youth ministry that had the biggest impact on them.

So I asked them why they decided to remain involved in a church in college. One of them said that when she got to college, and after she figured out where her classes were and dorm life she began to feel like something was missing, especially on Sunday mornings. There were so many new things she were experiencing but something still didn’t feel right. Then she said our pastor suggested they go check out this church that is near campus where he knew the pastor. She and the other girl did and loved it.

Sometimes we get discouraged at the statistics of how many students abandon the church during their college years. But this conversation reminded me that sometimes all it takes is helping them make a connection. Just that little encouragement and showing them that their home church hasn’t forgotten about them and still cares for them. A little push to connect them to a church near campus. In this case it was not only a blessing to them but also to the church they have become involved in.

Welcoming New Parents



By Keely DeBoever

Kick-off season is upon us in the world of Youth Ministry. The chaos of summer is coming to an end, and Youth Ministry leaders barely have time to catch their breaths before the chaos of a new school year begins. One important component of the kick-off season is welcoming students—new and old; and where there are students, a parent or guardian is near by. It’s amazing how often we forget that!

As leaders, many of us live in the world of youth ministry every day. It can be easy for us to forget that the rest of the world is not as well-versed in faith-based/church-specific lingo, why faith-based programs and events are important for a student developing their faith, or adolescent culture as a whole.  If we take a beat to remind ourselves of that, we will be doing a huge favor to our church families (and to ourselves).

Here are a few tips about how to welcome these new families effectively:

1. Explain the lingo! It can feel incredibly isolating to be a part of a parent or student meeting when the leader is using what seems like another language.  The leader may feel like they are being welcoming…after all they are inviting you to be a part of something.  However, if you can’t figure out what you’re being invited to, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good.  Here is what NOT to do: We want to invite all Confirmands to come to UMYF in the COVE!  Unless you’ve been raised in the Methodist church your whole life, you may not know what any of that means…and some of it will be a blur, even if you have.  Shorthand and cool names are great, as long as you are in on their meaning!  Churches are notorious for making this mistake.  Even something like “30 Hour Famine” will need to be followed up with a clear explanation of the event!

2. Answer the WHY of Youth Ministry! Parents of youth are not looking for filler on their kids’ schedules. If anything, most of them have a hard time fitting everything in. If we don’t take time to explain why our time with their students is important, parents will relegate youth group activities to the bottom of the list (and who can blame them?). It is also not enough for us to say the “why” out loud; as Youth Leaders, we must work hard to make the most of the time we have with our students to support the claim. Honor your church families’ time well so that they see the importance of Youth Ministry without feeling over-burdened by one more thing on their calendar.

3. Educate and Support! This is one place where I failed my youth parents for a long time. I felt like I had little authority on youth because I was young and had no children of my own. Eventually, I got over myself and realized that I worked with teenagers every day and was a student of their behavior.  Often times, parents are floating in uncharted territory (especially 1st time parents of teenagers).  They are desperate for something to hold on to and we, as youth leaders, are more equipped than we realize.  Send them a life preserver from time-to-time.  Share what you know about the stages of adolescence. If you run across tools that you think would be helpful, share them. I started offering copies of driving and cell-phone contracts, handouts that shared tips for having “The Talk,” and other helpful documents at parent meetings. I would gather information from more authoritative sources to help offset that “what do I know” feeling. I was amazed at how many parents utilized those resources and were thankful to have them.  Most importantly, we must remember that we are there to minister to parents, as well as youth.

So, as you plan your calendars and get together all of the information that you will be giving out at your kick-off events, don’t forget these three things.  The majority of our students are still pretty dependent on their parents; because of this, it benefits us greatly to keep them in mind when launching into a new ministry year!

How to Keep the 30 Hour Famine Fresh



By Jen Bradbury

The first year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was super excited about it. It was a new event to me – one I’d never participated in when I was in high school. It sounded fun, engaging, and impactful. And it was!

The second year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was still super excited about it. Since last participating in the Famine I’d begun ministry at a new church. So even though the Famine was no longer new to me, it was new to my students, who were super excited (and also a little intimidated) by it.

The third year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was a little less excited about it. It was still hugely impactful for my teens but it felt a little old to me.

The fourth year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was even less excited about it. By then, I knew how to run a Famine. The problem is, it just felt tired to me. I feared that after multiple years of doing it, my students were also growing tired of it. How, I wondered, do you keep the same event – especially one as important as the Famine – from feeling stale?

Over the years, here are 7 strategies I’ve used to keep the 30 Hour Famine fresh each time.

1. Focus on a different region of the world each year. To help teens understand hunger is a global issue, each time you participate in the Famine, focus on a different region of the world. Study that region. Play a trivia game about it. Show a movie featuring that part of the world. If possible, invite someone from that region to come do a Q&A.

2. Find different ways to communicate the scale of global hunger. Part of the beauty of the 30 Hour Famine is how it exposes students to the extent of global hunger. Each year, help teens visualize this issue differently. Some of my favorite ways of doing this have been

  • Extinguishing candles or dropping rocks in a jar (the sound is haunting). Each represent a certain amount of children who die from hunger-related diseases each day.
  • Creating a mural of handprints or a pot of crosses made out of pipe cleaners. Each represents a certain amount of people who are hungry everyday.

The scale of global hunger makes it hard to comprehend. Creatively representing the problem’s scale makes a meaningless statistic real for students and your congregation, since most of these things can later be displayed in worship to draw even more awareness to the issue.

3. Investigate different Scripture passages. The Bible has a LOT to say about justice and serving others. Yet, the only passage we use at the Famine is the separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. Instead of revisiting the same passage every year, mix it up. Here are a few of my favorite passages to explore during the Famine:

  • Isaiah 58: True Fasting
  • John 6: Jesus as the bread of life
  • Matthew 14:13-21: Jesus feeds the 5000
  • Luke 14:15-24: The parable of the great banquet
  • James 1:19-27: True religion
  • James 2:14-26: Faith & deeds

4. Do a different service project each year. Doing the same service project can help you cultivate relationships. But it can also start to feel predictable. So change it up every once in a while. Alternate between two projects. Or every third year, do something different.

5. Invite students to share their experience in different ways. One year, invite students to share their testimony in worship. The next, create a video of your event featuring student testimonies and share it in worship or on social media. Another year, have students post live updates to your congregation’s social media accounts. Another year, print pictures and have students create a display showcasing your event.

6. Break the fast differently. Eat different foods at your break the fast meal (when possible, eat foods from the region you’ve been learning about). Some years, conclude with worship and communion. Other years, finish with a party. Some years, invite participants’ families to join you. Other years, open your celebration up to your entire congregation.    

7. Utilize student coordinators. Nothing can breathe new energy into a tired event faster than a student’s energy and passion. Each year during the Famine, keep your eyes open for a student who’s particularly engaged. Invite that student to work with you to coordinate next year’s Famine.

By tweaking your Famine in minor ways each year, you can keep it fresh and help ensure students will take away something different each year. That way they (and you!) will remain eager to participate in the Famine year after year.

Biking for World Hunger



16-year-old Noah Sorensen felt compelled to do something tangible about hungry children. And he found a way to connect something he’s good at – riding a bicycle – to the need he wanted to impact. In Noah’s own words:

I am passionate about solving world hunger, and I want to use my talents to make an impact. I don’t have the resources or the knowledge to go overseas and teach hygiene and agriculture, but I can bike like crazy!

This summer, Noah is riding his bike 5000 miles across the US in an attempt to raise $15,000. He started in Portland, rode down the west coast to LA, then headed east. We asked Noah if we could share one of his recent blog posts, from days 23 – 26 of his ride. These are his unedited words:


I survived Nebraska.

That should be a sticker or something, that cyclists can put on their helmet or panniers after going through Nebraska. They had “I survived the loneliest road in America” pamphlets and stickers and such for people who traversed Nevada in their cars, and biking across Nebraska is far more difficult than driving across Nevada. Someone work on that.

Nebraska is hot. And humid. Though it was on average 10-12 degrees cooler than Nevada, the degree of humidity made it so much less bearable. Not to mention, the roads are long, straight and full of the same old nothing. The towns are deceivingly small. When approaching the towns from 5-10 miles away, they all look like they could potentially have a rest stop, gas station, or at least somewhere to hide away in the shade. Most are accompanied by huge grain silos and processing plants. From a bit away, they look somewhat like large buildings, but as you get closer, you realize they hold far fewer people than an office building. Several towns had populations of less than 400.

I have been learning some good lessons throughout the past few days.

Number one– never toast bagels with a cook stove. They don’t taste right.

Number two– don’t take into account the advice of a local any more than the advice of someone else on the road. Local Nebraskans will warn you about the “huge hills” ahead. I had several even stop on the side of the road and cheer me on up some of the hills. They aren’t that big. They really aren’t. There are alot, but they’re all less than half a mile long. Everyone here has also told me the wind will always be in my favor. That’s not even close to true. I haven’t had a headwind for more than five minutes since Denver. I have been pushing into a constant NE wind for several days now. It doesn’t look like it will subside anytime soon either.

Number three– there are a ton of things I can’t control, I just need to go with whatever happens. Heat, wind, flat tires, humidity, hills, humidity, rain, wind, humidity, you get the point. I can’t control these things. They happem, they persist, but in the end, I’ll make it through. No matter what ends up happening, I always make it through the day.

I’ve been in four different states since I last posted. Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa -I even passed another time zone border. In just a few days, I’ll be back on eastern time, and even closer to home.

From cope to McCook was about 140 miles. I tried my best to take it easy and slow, but I ended up totally killing myself. I was so anxious to be done with the day I pushed through the last two hours or so. It wasn’t a terrific idea. The next day, I was slammed by wind, and utter fatigue from the previous day, and I only made it halfway to Hastings. I meant to do that in one day, but ended up taking two full days to get to Hastings, where I then took an unplanned day off to let myself recuperate and prepare for the hiller next few days. After Hastings it was one easy day to Lincoln, and one more easy day to the beautiful campground I’m currently at in Iowa. It hasn’t been bad so far, but I’ve got a 125 mile day to des Moines, and then another 130+ day to Iowa city. I think I’ll take a day off in Iowa city, depending on how I feel.

I have met some really cool people along the way. While in Kansas, I stopped in one town. It turned out the subway I was stopped at is where several of the church folk hang out after church and get lunch. I was greeted warmly, and had great conversation with a bunch of terrific people. I ended up modifying my route to McCook, because Google maps was trying to take me on some roads that everyone there deemed unridable. That was pretty awesome, because I had just missed the church service that I was trying to make it to. Secondly, I met a man in Holdrege that was absolutely selfless and generous. His mom was somehow friends with my great aunt whom I had spent the previous night with. I ended up staying with him, and getting a nice shower, a bed to sleep in, and all the food I could ever need. This was another one of those crazy God things that is just too crazy to call a coincidence. The last person I met was just today. I arrived at the campground at about seven in the evening. I was getting ready to pay for my camping, but didn’t have a ten. Since the camp office was right there, I figured they would have change for a twenty, so I walked over to ask. The camp manager has overheard me talking about my trip to some other fellow campers. Rather impressed with what I was doing, he offered me free camping, and directed me to the showers and electricity. After I had explored a while, I was stopped again when he came around with his truck. Apparently, there had been a cabin reserved, and then canceled just today. It had been completely paid for, but there was no one in it. He offered me a beautiful view of the lake, with AC, a microwave, refrigerator, couch, and two beds. All for free. This is the only thing allowing me to write this right now. It’s really one of the kindest things someone has done for me while I’ve been traveling. It’s definitely a blessing.

There’s so much more I’d love to write, but I can’t tell you all everything that happens. I’ve gotta make this trip somewhat for me. Lots of stuff happens. Just letting you all know I’m still alive, and doing well. Thanks for the never ending support.


If you’d like to read more from Noah, you can check out his progress on his blog.
If you’d like to support Noah, click here.

Aren’t teenagers awesome?

Finding Rest In the Midst of Mess



By Marty Estes

I unlocked the door of my office and had to push a little harder than usual to get it to open. As I turned on the light I shook my head as I could barely see the carpet underneath a pile of dodgeballs, boxes of candy, posterboard, rope lights, and a random box of assorted goodies that included multiple cans of Lysol spray, Frisbees, a bolt of orange fabric, and Gold Bond powder. I used my foot to sweep some of the mess out of the way and into a singular pile off to the side and walked to my desk, and settled down in my chair. If my floor was messy, my desk was the scene of a catastrophe: Mountain Dew cans, my BB-8 bobblehead, and office supplies competed for space with post-it reminders, a screwdriver, legal pads, my Bible, and forms, forms, forms. All of this screamed at me with one loud voice:

Welcome back from summer!

If you’re like me, you spent your summer doing ministry. Ministry like that involves VBS, mission projects, fun nights, camp, and more time out of the office than in. It’s incredibly awesome to get to participate with Jesus in the calling of hanging out with teenagers for the glory of God. It’s also incredibly tiring, and things can pile up quickly if we’re not careful. One or two weeks out of the office turns into a monster of garbage, to-do’s, and misplaced intentions that saps our souls and gets us atrociously off-kilter as we get ready to step into one of the critical times for youth ministry.

It can be overwhelming when we look at all we have to do, and all we haven’t done; but the most important thing in that office, or youth room, or closet is not the mess. It’s not the stack of papers. It’s not the overflowing trashcan or the lost and found pile you just can’t seem to get rid of. The most important thing is you.

And while the church board or custodian may be breathing down your neck to swing back into things, to clean up your mess, and to dot every “I” and cross every “T”, you and I need to understand that our relationship with Jesus is the most important thing, and that He cares more about you than all the details. He cares about us so much that He calls us to restore our own soul so that we can participate in the restoration of others.  You’re not alone in this. Right now, across our nation, weary youth workers are recovering from summer and diving right back in to fall. How are you doing, really?

I don’t know how you’ve done it in the past, but let me share some easy ways you can recalibrate and restore yourself so you can enter into this next season of ministry in a way that both honors God and your calling and allows you to rest a little.

1. Make a list.

Very spiritual, I know; but seriously: you need to make a list. Make a list of everything you need to do, and everything you want to do, and begin to prioritize those things. Got an event coming up? List it! Need to spend time with your spouse and kids after being on an “every other week gone” schedule during summer? List it! Need to stop eating so many donuts? List it!

Why list it? Because ideas stay ephemeral until they are out of our head and in the open. Making a list doesn’t solve these issues, but it does mark the beginning. Make a list and stick to it. Cross things off so you can see your progress. As you make a dent in the things you need to do, you’ll see it and feel better about yourself and get energy to accomplish the goals ahead.

2. Spend time with Jesus.

You’ve spent all summer pouring into lives all around you. You drove teenagers all over the place. You stayed up late counseling.

You probably even neglected your own spiritual health. Real youth workers do it, and if we are honest with ourselves, there are times, maybe not just this summer, where we have neglected spiritual disciplines simply because they got lost in the shuffle of what had to be done.

Leader, you need time with Jesus to be effective!

I know you’ve heard that so many times because I’VE heard that so many times, but it’s true. The impact you will have on those you’ve been called to shepherd will only be as great as Jesus’ impact in your own personal life. When you neglect time with Him, you’re neglecting yourself, which negatively impacts everything you are a part of. It might be hard, but carve out that time and spend time with Him! You’ll be glad you did!

3. Do something you love.

Whether it’s hunting, board gaming, reading, sitting on the deck in the evening with a cup of coffee and watching the sunset: you need to make time for you. Find what gives you life and immerse yourself in it! It’s not wrong to have hobbies. We should enjoy them for what they are and take time away from our jobs, offices, and calling occasionally in order to recharge.

For me, it’s board gaming. I love games like Settlers of Catan, Mysterium, King of Tokyo, and others; and thankfully, my family does as well. So I get the added bonus of spending time with the people I love who love me. Speaking of family…

4. Rediscover your family (and friends).

For many families, summer is the hardest part of the year, because ministry often beckons us away on camps, retreats, events, and more. It can be easy to get so caught up in our roles as ministers that we forget to minister to our own families (and friends, particularly for you single youth workers). As you recuperate, your family may need to recuperate as well. I can’t tell you how important it is that you lean into your family after being so busy. Your children need you, your spouse needs you, your extended family needs you as well. In almost 15 years of ministry I have seen men and women win others to Christ but lose their family in the process. This should not be! Make sure to be present with your family. Put your phone or tablet away when you enter the house. Don’t let work follow you home if possible. Allow your home to be your “Fortress of Solitude” as you recover. Your family will be thankful you did.

5. Understand that it’s not all going to get done immediately.

Lastly, this is one of the most important parts. You’re only one person. Admit it. You only have so much time and energy. You will NOT get it all fixed, put back together, and shined up in one day. Maybe not in one week. Maybe not in a month. Guess what? There’s grace for that! This is not an excuse to be lazy but a reason to celebrate. We are messy individuals saved by the grace of God, and we still make mistakes. Don’t make the mistake of working so hard to make sure everything’s perfect that you never recover from your summer pace and burn yourself out. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Allow yourself grace for the journey and work at it in light of everything else in this list, and give yourself the rest you deserve.

That’s right, you deserve it. Good job this summer, fellow youth worker. Now, go get some rest.

Good Samaritan Politics


By Amanda Leavitt


At our midweek senior high Bible study recently, just before we focused on the story of the Good Samaritan, some students who cannot vote yet began spouting diatribes about the upcoming election. I quickly put the kibosh on it, reminding my students of our calling to love and respect people. Funny timing then, as we switched gears to watching a bunch of video vignettes about the meaning of being a Good Samaritan. The last one caught my attention because it ended by describing that the Samaritan in the story was someone that the prevailing culture hated, and that God loves those that culture hates, and that Jesus loved those that no one else would, and that Christians ought to be loving and caring for those who the predominate culture despises.

It felt God ordained that we heard this just then, and it struck me that in an election the cultures we find ourselves within are tied closely to the political party we camp in. So, finding those that our own culture hates may be the easiest in the midst of an election. Opportunities to practice Good Samaritan-like behavior are in front of us everywhere, when more than half of the people we encounter likely disagree virulently with our own perspective.

Every four years in the US, the start of the school year is blip in a cacophony of the noise around the national presidential race and the patriotic cheers for the summer Olympics. This election year the noise is even louder as the violence in our own country seems to rise, and anger and fear surround so many volatile situations. It seems that in this presidential election, as with many in the past, people believe that the president we elect will cure our nation of the ills that bring anxiety into our lives. Many believe that somehow if we elect the right one, they will protect us from reality of the hidden nature of the future and the unpredictability of the actions of other people. As a Christian I accept as truth that all people are sinful and that makes the reality mentioned in my last sentence all the more worrisome because unpredictable sinful people can do terrible things. This is the reality we live in; and no president or Olympic champion can actually protect us from that reality no matter how much they’d like to say they can, even if they try their hardest. This is an uncomfortable truth.

It is the truth we try to hide from as we defend the person we believe is best to lead our nation. It is the truth that rises up around us. It is a truth our teenagers are grappling with as they are bombarded with the opinions and perceptions of their parents, teachers, peers, and media of all forms. I hear my students arguing with another about the one they believe will actually be able to fix our nation’s problems. I am amazed how people insult one another as they insult the political candidate they disagree with, how the most “Christian” people I know turn savage when a friend confides that they might vote for the opposition. I am sure you’ve seen it: they become like scared cats, hair standing on end, cringing, almost shaking.

We are sending our students into a politically charged school year. Their opportunity to be witnesses of the way God loves abound. We have a grand opportunity to help students think this through in our youth ministries. It is only August, the volume is only going to get louder through November. Our students also have the platform to speak into Who is actually the cure for the uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that plague the hearts of the people in our nation right now. They have the platform to breathe peace, joy, love, and Kingdom hope into ugly situations. It is a challenging calling, but the beauty of the Good Samaritan’s behavior has spoken boldly without words for over 2000 years. Lord, let us rise to the challenge and bring others to do the same.

Helping College Students Try On Faith Ownership


by Eric Woods


I’m not much for trying on clothes. I’m happy to be the guy who buys his jeans online and returns the ones by mail that don’t fit.

But my sister-in-law? She’s a different story. She is fanatical about trying on clothes before she buys them and making sure they fit just right. Rumor has it that, as a child, she’d try on a dozen pairs of pajamas at the store, and then—because you wear them lying down—would lie down in the dressing room in each pair, tossing, turning and squirming to make sure they were going to be comfortable for sleeping.

And, as I think about the 20-something million students heading back to college in the next few weeks (or heading there for the first time), I find that image stuck in my mind. As a campus minister, serving on a state university campus for more than a decade, I had a front-row seat for the kinds of spiritual tossing, turning and squirming that many students go through as they try on their faith… sometimes, really, for the first time.

The four (or five or six) years of college that an increasing number of young adults experience, needs to be the time when they are allowed, even encouraged, to try on their faith, see how it fits, and ultimately gain a firm sense of ownership.

Let them squirm.

The college years at both Christian and public schools can be an uncomfortable time. The protective and familiar faith grid of parents, youth pastors, and the “home church” now stands at arm’s length. Competing viewpoints from peers and professors can threaten to unseat long-held beliefs and presumptions, and college students find that what was a comfortable faith back home, may be not so comfortable anymore.

That’s ok. Let them squirm. Expect them to wrestle with what they believe, and let it be ok. Resist the urge to step in and check the fit for them. Instead, commit yourself to praying for the college students you care most about, and make sure they know you’re available as a sounding board…a safe place for tossing and turning.

Hold the mirror.

College is also a time of self-reflection, a chance for young adults to step back and ask themselves if they like what they’re becoming. As pastors, youth pastors and parents, our job is to hold the mirror, not provide an ongoing commentary about the trends we don’t like.

I’ve made it my mission to affirm what I can affirm, and on the flip side, to simply be there to help students see themselves clearly. I find they are much more likely to abandon bad habits or steer clear of trouble if they identify it themselves. It’s a skill they need to practice now.

Make sure they own it.

At the end of the day, or the college career, we want to have young adults who are so comfortable walking around in their faith, that they can’t imagine moving on to the next phase without it.

More than a few times, I’ve had graduating college seniors—yes, they do eventually graduate—tell me that when they came to college, they thought they knew what they believed, but now they really do. After being allowed the space to try it on for themselves, and walk around in it for a few years, they have left their college years with a faith they truly own, and one they will hang on to for a lifetime…like a comfortable pair of pajamas.