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The Famine Blog

Knowing and Being Known: Helping Youth Find Their Identity


By Andrew Esqueda

This last year we realized that our students (and many of us leaders) were searching for their identities. I mean, this is something that we fundamentally know; but it was starting to become more apparent in our youth group. Many of our students, especially high schoolers, were asking: “Who Am I?” It’s an important question to ask. The problem was that they didn’t have the resources to help them begin to answer the question posed. So, we began a teaching series on identity. The basis of the series was the phrase Knowing and Being Known. The phrase comes out of the conviction that we were created to know God and to be known by God, as well as to know others and be known by others.

Some of our students asked–and you maybe asking as well–what does the phrase “knowing and being known” have to do with identity? It seems that it’s more about relationships? Well, that’s it—it is about relationships! So many of us have become concerned about who we are, and when we address that concern it is exclusively reflexive and not relational. But, the truth is that we cannot, and we were not created to, know ourselves in abstraction from one another, or in abstraction from God. In introducing this idea to our students they found huge relief in the fact that who they are isn’t determined exclusively by them. They were a little confused by this idea at first, but then it became a huge relief for them. Our identity is not exclusively determined by others either; however, it is informed by them. It’s informed by the reality that we are made in God’s image, that we are rescued by Christ, and that we are called to be relational participants in God’s Kingdom; it is informed by our relationships with our family members, our friends, and all those we encounter.

There’s this great theory in quantum mechanics called “entanglement”. It’s theorized that when sub-atomic particles split that the new particles keep a connection to one another. When the particles that used to be connected are now their own individual sub-atomic particles they maintain a relationship; thus it has been observed that when one of the particles moves the other one will as well. The sub-atomic particles are inside the nucleus of atoms and atoms make up all matter, and sub-atomic particles are constantly splitting. Therefore, even at the level of the cell we are relational beings.

When we realize that our identity is wrapped up in God and our relationships with other people, we come to the comforting reality that in seeking to find our identity we are not alone. That’s a comforting idea for our youth, and certainly for you and me.

In the Still of the Night


by Tash McGill

Is there a match made more in heaven than 30 Hour Famine and the lock-in? A room full of hungry teenagers and some worn out leaders? The rush of that last meal shared together followed by hours of games and activities.

I like to start with giant water balloon volleyball, then work our way into karaoke before settling into movie marathons as the 2am munchies of a traditional all-nighter set in.

And then, it comes. The still of the night. Usually between the 1st and 2nd movie when the excitement of staying up all night has faded into comfortable sleepiness. The still of the night is when whispered conversations can turn from schoolyard gossip to heartfelt wrestling. Let’s be honest, parents and youth workers know the power of hunger and exhaustion to release vulnerability.

It’s a power that can be used for good and for evil, the same reason we do a response time on the last day of camp, right? But all cynicism aside – I love the still of the night when the walls are a little easier to break down and new relationships can be formed while older relationships go even deeper.

And it’s often the time we can be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief and hope to get some sleep ourselves. But I encourage to stay tuned in for the vulnerability that students experience in the quiet hours of a lock-in.

The power of shared experience is the single most impactful tool for human transformation that is known to us. The pivot point of turning insight into action is critical to long-lasting change. The 30 Hour Famine is built on this principle of understanding world hunger issues and taking that insight into action.

And in the still of the night our chance to have conversations that move insight and understanding into action is at an all-time high.

So I’ll never groan in anticipation of another all-nighter or lock-in. In fact, a group of teenagers and adults hungry together is a perfect recipe for change.

Go be hungry this month and enjoy your late night conversations.

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do


By Marty Estes

If you’ve been in ministry for very long, chances are you’ve face a drought. Now, I’m not talking about the literal kind of drought, where there’s no rain and you have to ration your water. What I AM talking about is the drought you face when it seems like the Heavens are shut up, you’re not hearing from God, and there seems to be no direction or vision for what’s next. This is particularly nerve-wracking when you’re the leader. The main vision caster. The one who is supposed to empower and inspire your volunteers to go reach the masses and do excellent ministry. Yet, there you sit, on another random day in your office, wondering what to do next. Anyone else identify? Surely I’m not the only one.

Here’s the truth: there are going to be times in ministry where you flat-out feel like you’re wandering in the wilderness. Youth ministry is just not a continuous stream of burning bushes, parted seas, and voices from above. In the midst of wandering seasons, however, we still are asked to function, provide programs and direction for our students; and not just that, to grow them! The hardest part of ministry at this time is that you can feel as if you aren’t even growing yourself, let alone your students. However, we aren’t alone.

Abram knew how it felt.  Long before he was Abraham, father of the Hebrew nation and venerated icon of scripture, he was Abram, a man of self-made wealth who had it made. At 75 years old, when many people are winding down, Abram was just getting started. In the midst of all that comfort, God’s voice popped in and turned his world upside down:

“The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” ~ Genesis 12:1

Excuse me. What? With that one command, God asked Abram to walk from a life of ease and certainty into a place of uncertainty, reckless trust, and blind faith. But, isn’t that exactly where God asks us to go? As you minister to students and their parents on a daily basis, please don’t try to tell me you have a complete roadmap for every single thing you’ll face and every little thing you’ll do. It’s impossible. Because ministry is the land of uncertainty, where schedules made for weeks can change in an instant. All it takes is a phone call, a text, or a meeting.  Or maybe for you, like me, it’s listening to the doubts, fears, and questions we have about our own ability to do this thing called student ministry. And there, in that moment, is the drought. I know you’ve felt it. You’ve felt it as you’ve wrapped your arms around another hurting teen, not knowing really what to say about the painful situation they’re in. You’ve dealt with it as your own family has faced a hard week, you’ve been overworked, and it’s Wednesday and you haven’t even been able to touch anything for student ministry yet because of getting asked to do other things. You’ve walked through it with your volunteers, trying to figure out what to do with them to effectively use their gifts to meet needs for your students.

And what do you do in the midst of all this, when you simply don’t know what to do?


Trust that, like Abram, God will lead you to the place you need to be. That he will tell you when to stop and when to go. When to speak and when to be silent. When to move and when to stay still. And you pray. Pray with full abandon, telling God everything and asking him to show you where you’re going. It never, ever hurts to ask! He may not say it, but He will show you when the time is right.

Abram’s journey lasted another 100 years, saw him take a new name, and not even reach the Promised Land of his people. But, where Abraham is buried is not what we remember most about him. Instead, we remember Abraham’s faithfulness, the trust he had in God, and his ability to follow through on God’s requests even if he didn’t see the endgame. If you are in a season in your ministry where you don’t know what to do, remember this: God is still at work, even when we can’t see. Hold on like Abram, and God will use you, too.

Creative Leadership


By Ryan Schaible 

When was the last time you watched the movie Apollo 13?

If you answered something like “Never” or “It’s been a long time” – you are welcome (nay, required) to stop reading this blog to go and watch it, but please do come back.

Seriously…I’ll wait…

Still with me? Cool.


There is an important scene in Apollo 13 – one that I’ve used often when training ministry leaders. A team of NASA engineers need to find a way to build a new oxygen filter for the spacecraft, using only parts available to the astronauts while they are hurling through space. The engineers are almost literally tasked with finding a way to fit a square peg into a round hole.

This is a perfect illustration of CREATIVE LEADERSHIP.

Ministry leadership requires the continual development of so many different skills, but too often the importance of CREATIVITY becomes under-developed or (in some cases) neglected all together. When I talk about creativity, I don’t mean your ability to design a cool ministry logo or having to write a new hit worship song… CREATIVE LEADERSHIP is about finding new ways to do things no one else is doing, to see new things no one else is seeing, even when the resources seem slim.

Creativity can be defined as simply the use of imagination and originality. YOU have creativity right now; you just might be overlooking it (in yourself or in your team).

If tomorrow I could double your ministry budget (or in some cases just GIVE you a budget to start with), what is the first thing you would start doing? What if I quadrupled your budget?

We all have that mental list of things we want to do in and through our ministry, but we just can’t do it because the resources just aren’t there. We want to build or fix up a facility, buy better equipment, fund new programs, or finally fix that carpet stain in the sanctuary from that Middle School Ministry game three years ago that went horribly, horribly wrong.

But we can’t fix the problems because we don’t have the resources, right? So we make excuses, dance around the problems, or pass the blame…and our ministry is hindered in the process. Not hindered by a lack of resources, but by our own lack of creativity.

It is time for more CREATIVE leadership. What CAN you do with the resources you DO have available? Remember that resources do not just equal dollars. Where are the PEOPLE you can turn to? What SITUATIONS or EVENTS can you get a foot in the door? What NEW OPPORTUNITY is right around the corner?

When we are leading from a healthy place emotionally and spiritually, the problems we see in ministry do genuinely come from a good place. Perhaps we want a better facility because we want to provide a safe and fun place for people to gather, or we want equipment to make or teaching more engaging and effective so more people can clearly hear the good news of Jesus! Check your heart – your motivations are not bad. What might be missing is a little bit of CREATIVITY. What new thing can you do right now to make your ministry stronger? What haven’t you tried? What is no one else in your community doing? Get creative and start seeing things with new eyes. Set a new exciting vision.

A good, exciting, and creative ministry vision doesn’t cost a dime.

Yes, a life of ministry means sometimes you wake up feeling like you are trying, day after day, to fit a square peg into a round hole. You’re not gaining any ground – you’re like a hamster running on a wheel. Pick your metaphor…but perhaps what the world needs, what the Kingdom of God needs, are more people willing to find ways to fit that mismatched peg. Scripture is filled with countless stories of people who did CRAZY things (have you read the prophets?) because they were all-in when it came to following God, and they weren’t concerned about facilities, or budgets, or equipment.

The needs of ministry are real. The resources will always seem lacking. Find new opportunities, set a new vision, and get creative.

Thinking Through Fundraising


By Daniel Kiefer

Summer is four or five months away and if you’re like me, you have already booked your camps, mission trips, activities, over nights, and various other events that keep your students engaged all summer long. No matter what your summer looks like, most of the things we’ve planned cost money, which is something most parents don’t have a lot of. And when deadlines come around we are left begging parents, “Show me the money!” Many parents are left saying, “We don’t have any.” This is where you sweep in and shower them with all the fundraiser cash that you have collected. So how do you best leverage your fundraising super powers?

Build a Team

First you have to build a team of invested parents. Often times we overlook the greatest resource we have: parents. Get all the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that you can to be a part of your fundraising team. This team will spread the load of work among many people instead of you bearing the workload yourself. Cast your vision to this team and get them to invest their time and talents to help raise the money needed. Now that you’ve built your team you need to…

Cast your Vision

Let this team know what your goal is for the amount of money you need and why you need to raise it. For instance, our goal is to raise $150 per student going to camp. We need to raise that much because camp is expensive and most families have multiple students going to camp. But more importantly we believe that camp is an experience for students where they can have an encounter with God that can change their lives. Once your team has bought into your vision, figure out which fundraisers are going to get you the…

Biggest Bang for your Efforts

For years, I would overwork myself trying to squeeze every last dollar out of 3, 4 or even 5 fundraisers. We did car washes, catalog sales, discount cards, and parents nights out, lunches after church, doughnut sales and even car washes. Did I mention car washes? We would do ok, raising on average $500-600 for each event. But the effort involved in these fundraisers never matched the payoff. At most we would get about $50-60 total per student raised, which isn’t really a lot compared to the amount they owed for the events. So I began to look for the best way to raise the most money we could. I settled on 2 fundraisers that were high on the profit margin and began to focus on those two fundraisers alone. Now certainly there are always tweaks to make to these fundraisers and this is where you learn to…

Get Creative

Think of outside-the-box ways to promote your fundraisers. Sometimes when we reuse the same fundraiser year after year it tends to loose its momentum and in turn it doesn’t do as well as it did the year before. Find ways to promote it differently, or put a new twist in it. This is where your team of parents can help. Sit down with them and find new or better ways to do these fundraisers. Once you have all your planning done it is time to…


Delegating different tasks will help you avoid getting burned out. You cannot do your job alone; you’ve got to have help. I am a firm believer that the more people you have helping the more successful you’ll be, not just in raising these funds but overall in your ministry. Find people who can do the jobs that you cannot do. Find people to do the jobs that you’re not skilled in and let them work their magic.

The best two fundraisers that I’ve ever done are our annual golf tournament and and an envelope fundraiser. The golf tournament is a lot of work but it can be a huge success. The one key to our golf tournament is selling hole sponsorships. Our goal this year is to sell 2 per hole and this is where my team of parents will come in and help. They have way more connections in the community to business that are willing to donate money for camps just to advertise their business. The envelope fundraiser is not original with me, I found it here: This fundraiser is very customizable and will work in a lot of situations. You can do any number of envelopes and it is all 100% profit. The thing I like most about this fundraiser is ANYONE can participate in it. Some people can donate $500 and some can donate $1 but no matter the amount given it all goes to help a student in your ministry.

So what are your fundraisers that have been successful? How have you built your fundraising team? What creative new ways have you put a twist on a reused fundraiser?

Teaching Girls to be Intolerant


By Kathy Jackson

The end of 2017 and the beginning of the new year of 2018 has been pretty interesting so far with the #metoo movement.  How do you address this in your youth ministry?  Do we just go on about our business and ignore this movement or do we talk about it head on?  How many girls, soon to be women, do you have?  What do you want to give to them to be able to deal with what they may confront when they move into their “real” world experience?

At the first meeting this past fall of our young teen Girl’s Bible Study, I passed around paper and asked them to choose one word per girl to describe themselves and the others sitting around the table.  Much to my chagrin the most common word was “pretty”.  Really?  “Pretty”?  That is what was tops in their mind…how they looked.  After we thought about it, my co-leader and I couldn’t blame them.  These same girls (5th, 6th. and 7th graders) were just coming to us from wearing bows in their hair, Mary Janes, and bobby socks.  Everyone at church would say “Don’t you look pretty?” “How cute,” and other remarks about their clothes, hair, and shoes.  These are the only compliments they ever hear from our church goers. No one has taken the time to stop, talk to them about anything personal….only how they looked.

What role do we as youth leaders have in changing this conversation and thought process in our churches?  How do we get our leaders and congregants to describe our girls as “resilient,” “brave,” “strong,” “courageous,” “self-assured,” and “intelligent?”  Or do we have a role at all?  If we, as leaders, can’t change the way we describe them, how does this conversation ever change?

If we remove the politics from #metoo and get to the heart of the message, we will discover that it IS up to all of us as to how the next generation views the world.  What if we taught our girls to be “intolerant?”  That might surprise you! But what if we taught them to be Intolerant to everything Jesus wants us to be intolerant towards: poverty, sexism, racism, ageism, homelessness, food endangerment, and hypocrisy, just to name a few. Jesus wants us to be intolerant towards sin.

As we teach our girls to be “intolerant” we must also teach them to be loving in that intolerance. Micah 6:8 says “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  So we should teach our girls to be intolerant toward injustices. Injustices such as poverty, homelessness, food endangerment, racism and sexism plus the other things in our society today that Jesus would not tolerate.  We need to teach them to speak up and not be afraid as long as they are grounded in their faith. They need to be assured that Jesus wants them to speak up about injustice.

These days call for special teachings, teachings of Jesus’s intolerance against injustice and his wish for us to be intolerant but to also show mercy and kindness.

Coming Back to the 30 Hour Famine


By Jen Bradbury 

Most youth workers I know are familiar with the 30 Hour Famine. Many have even done it… at least once.

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you did the Famine years ago but then, for whatever reason, stopped.

That’s what I did.

For over a decade, the 30 Hour Famine was a staple in my ministry – one of its go-to, yearly events.

But then, the Famine lost steam – not because it was a bad event, but simply because we’d done it so many times and also because February, the month we’d traditionally participated in the Famine, became the worst month to hold an overnight event in my context. Between sports, forensics, and math team meets, virtually none of my kids could participate in the 30 Hour Famine.

So, in 2014, my leaders and I made the difficult decision to take a break from the Famine. At first we thought we’d just take a year off. But then one year became two and two became three and eventually three became four. That’s when something interesting happened.

At a brainstorming event over the summer, one of my high school seniors – who’d never participated in the 30 Hour Famine himself, but whose siblings had – suggested we do the Famine. Since many of his peers were completely unfamiliar with the Famine, he explained what it was based on what he’d heard from his siblings. After doing so, the people in the room got excited.

Really excited.

So, we scheduled a date for the Famine in October, far from the national Famine dates but on a weekend that worked for the teens in my ministry.

After four years off, when I sat down to plan the 30 Hour Famine, I realized I was excited about it in a way I hadn’t been in years. I wanted to teach teens about global hunger, poverty, and even the discipline of fasting and was thankful for the forum the Famine gave me to do so. I pulled from past years and recycled some of our greatest hits – teachings and activities that proved effective year after year. Then I supplemented those ideas with new ones, uniquely designed to minister to my specific group of teens in this specific time and place.

Our actual Famine event was everything I dreamed it would be and more.

Teens grew closer as a group. They participated in an important, transformational spiritual discipline for the very first time. They dove into Scripture and wrestled with God’s heart for the hungry. They served our local community and learned how hunger exists, even in affluent suburbs like ours. They also got acquainted with the organizations committed to fighting hunger in our community. What’s more, they learned to articulate what hunger is in a way that I hope will make them empathetic to those who are hungry and more committed to serving them. In all of this, they encountered Jesus – in each other, those who are hungry, and those who serve the hungry.

So, friends, what are you waiting for?

If you’ve never done the 30 Hour Famine, or it’s been a while since you’ve done it, try suggesting it to your team and see if there’s any energy behind it.

If there is, seize it.

Schedule a Famine date – even if it’s not one of the national dates – and then do it.

Then watch as God uses the Famine in the lives of your students, in ways you dreamed of as well as ways you never dared to imagine.

Making Space for Wonder


By John Sorrell

The 30 Hour Famine allows students to be confronted with realities outside themselves. This is actually the number one reason why I love the Famine. It isn’t always an easy event, but the long-term impacts on students are consistently present. I look forward to it every year.

The Famine creates space for students to expand how they presently see the world and our place in it and God and our relationship with Him. I’ve found that making use of wonder and even imagination as a lens through which we reflect during the Famine can be valuable. I saw this mostly through closing our Famine each year with communion. While I know this isn’t possible in all settings I hope it can help inspire the sense of wonder and imagination through your Famine weekend.

In Your God Is Too Safe, Mark Buchanan has a chapter devoted to wonder called “What Ever Happened to Wonder”. That chapter has always resonated with me. He challenges the premise of having all things figured out and invites the reader to reconsider how much about God we don’t really know. About halfway through the chapter he takes communion into consideration and equates how it is commonly practiced to that of scientists explaining a kiss in sheer scientific terms. When that happens there is a loss of wonder and imagination. He continues talking through his experience where the practice of communion left him hungrier or thirstier than when he entered.

I found during the 30 Hour Famine as we neared the end and students began to anticipate breaking the fast together in whatever mysterious way we had planned that year we could enter a time where we redefined communion. Not only with larger drinks of grape juice and bigger pieces of bread but a new vision of a community practicing this almost mystic spiritual ordinance of the church.

Mark’s last paragraph on the topic of communion is this:

“Jesus said, ‘This is my body. Take and eat. This is my blood. Take and drink.’ He didn’t explain it. In fact, all attempts to explain it have been mere descriptions of kissing [This is a callback to a fantastic point he makes a few paragraphs earlier]. He just stated it and left it to our imaginations to figure out how it was so. He left it to us to remember – to vividly remember – His life and death and resurrection and ascension. To experience right now, right here, His presence. To anticipate with a wild yearning our seeing Him again, eating this meal with Him in Heaven. And to leave full.

It takes imagination.”

– Mark Buchanan, Your God Is Too Safe. Pg. 55

It isn’t only in communion where imagination and wonder can be invited. If our students gain insight into local areas of need and how their help and energy could change their neighborhoods, it becomes powerful. Or if they see that by skipping a few fast-food meals or coffee runs that money can further help someone else through microloans. The possibilities are endless of course.

You might, like me, have a love/not-so-love relationship with the Famine. Its impact is inspiring, but it can be hard some years to get excited about having that coffee withdrawal headache I would always get Saturday afternoon. My hope is this year we can create space to imagine and wonder with our students through the various elements of the event.

As you prepare for your 30 Hour Famine event this year, is there a topic or time where you can invite your students to dream? Encourage them to reconsider, with the help of imagination and wonder, what could be if God breathes life into our vision and action.

What Starbucks Taught Me about Belonging and the Church


By Elizabeth Murray

Every Sunday morning I drive by Starbucks to get to church; and every Sunday morning, Starbucks is busy. The streets may be fairly empty, but there are folks drinking their morning coffee at Starbucks at 8 or 9am.  I always wonder why—why are they there? Why aren’t they at church? It’s clearly not because they are too busy, out of town, or don’t want to get up that early. So, I asked myself this question, “What does Starbucks offer that the church does not?”

People come to this space to work, read, meet up, do homework and lots of other things. Why not just stay home and read your book? Do you really want to be at a busy, loud Starbucks while reading? Don’t you have an office to go to? Why don’t you do your homework in the library? People go to Starbucks because of the atmosphere. Sure, you get your work done there, too, but is it always the easiest place to work? No. Have you ever walked in to Starbucks in the evening? It’s so crowded.  I always wonder why people are there. Walking into Starbucks can be like walking in to home. You feel comfortable there, you know what to expect when you go, you know how to order your drink a special way, and you might even see someone you know! I have noticed this when I have been at Starbucks—people need community and belonging.

Starbucks has created a culture of belonging. It is its own community. What do I mean by that?

As humans, we need community. We are made to be in community with one another. We are not meant to live without human interaction. God created us to love other people, to laugh, to talk to others, to ask questions, and to be reminded that there are other people just like us in the world.

Maybe the people at Starbucks on Sunday morning are like me and they live alone—if they don’t leave their house that day, they won’t get any human interaction that day. That’s a pretty scary feeling—if you have gone a whole day without seeing or talking to anyone, you know that it can be weird. But, if I get up and go out today, I get to interact with other humans. I have also seen a lot of people doing Bible studies at Starbucks, both individual and in groups—people who are not scared to share their faith in a public space. Wow. Are other people noticing?

The Greek word koinonia means community. In the books of Acts, the Church is born. The first Christians are there and they join in community—a community of believers that are coming together because they have something in common. Acts 2:45-47 says,

 “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything.  They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.  Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.”

We are not meant to do our lives on our own—we are meant to go through life being in relationship with others.  What does it mean to belong?

Belonging is not about fitting in. When you try to fit in, you are trying to be something you aren’t. Belonging means that you are accepted for who you really are. People come to Starbucks because they are accepted for who they are–something, again, that all of us desire. They order what they want without shame, they can stay there as long as they want, and they are accepted there.

Social scientist Dr. Brené Brown defines belonging this way: “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging does not require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Maybe now we understand why people are at Starbucks on Sunday morning? It feels like a safe space for them. They can come and relax without feeling judged.

Is it possible that Starbucks has created a space that more people want to come to than the church?

How can we create spaces of community and belonging for the youth in our church and our community?

Trying New Things


By Mark Eades

In Ecclesiastes 3 we read “there is a season for everything.” In youth ministry, these verses speak to us about whether we should be thinking about doing something brand new or redoing something tried and true. As you think through your ministry schedule for the upcoming year, here are several ideas to think about:

Be yourself, not somebody else. I often find myself believing that if I can just do what other youth pastors do I will have an awesome group. That belief will almost always fail. God has given you the group, the church, and the community where you are. Gather ideas from other sources, but adjust them to what you know would be best for your group.

Think outside the box, but not too far. You have a very unique view on the community where you live. You aren’t looking through a school teacher’s point of view or a coach’s point of view. You see a place where both God’s grace and truth must be heard.

I like to spend time meeting with local middle school principals when I can. Apparently, one of the scariest things that incoming 6th graders experience is the daunting task of opening their locker for the first time and remembering the combination. With this new information about my community and a Christ-centered perspective, I decided to try something new. We held a simple “locker practice” in the summer so new 6th graders could become more comfortable with lockers.

Be organized, but very flexible. It is important to come into each meeting, retreat, or trip with a plan of how it will go. God gives us the ability to plan ahead, and he is a part of that planning. But in the moment God can and does awesome things that don’t match our careful plans! Be ready – but be ready to change too.

I like planning, so I have a spreadsheet of teaching lessons for the next 6-9 months. However, each week I try to communicate with a few of my leaders on what is best for us to hit on that week. Most of the time we follow the schedule, but occasionally we adjust based on new input.

There is a season for trying something new, and there is a season for continuing what works. Use ideas from others, but also be confident in God’s plan for you and where he planted you.

One last idea: don’t worry about never repeating a great idea because it’s not “new” anymore. We repeat major events every three years when we get new 6th-8th graders. We know they have been field-tested, but the students still get to enjoy a “new” activity.