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Announcing the Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry Campference

Details at a glance:

  • January 9 – 11
  • Orange County CA
  • All-inclusive price: $300 – $365

There has been an explosion of churches moving to a multi-site approach in the last few years. Understandably, a church’s decision to move to a multi-site approach is rarely (if ever) driven by the mission of the youth ministry. And as such, youth workers in these churches are often scrambling to figure out best practices, formats and structures, success metrics, and all sorts of other variables.

Continue reading Announcing the Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry Campference

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Finding a Job: Resumes, Video introductions, cover letters and more

310135209_1c87f1ab1f_mYou have a lot of control over this part of the process.  It’s generally your first major step to tell a potential employer about yourself.  So you want to make sure to put your best foot forward.  As I’ve said a few times in this series I receive a lot of resume packets.  We have frequent openings as we have interns and residents positions.  I feel like I’m always opening up some sort of packet.  A few years back I landed on what I felt as an interviewer was the right mix of information both formal and informal that gave me the best introduction to candidates.  What we started doing was requiring a ministry resume, an informal video introduction and a cover letter that tells us why they are interested (there is some overlap between the video and cover letter.)   Your goal is to make sure that the employer reads through all your material and watches your whole video.  Most employers won’t ask for the type of video I’m advocating and will instead ask for a “teaching” video.  Your goal is to get them to watch this short video because it’s your first interview and will put you ahead of other candidates.

  1. Resume-  Don’t simply take a microsoft word template and put together a basic resume you send out to everyone. You’ve actually got to tailor your resume for particular jobs.  That takes work and it should.  Make sure that you aren’t highlighting jobs from 10 years ago unless they are specifically relevant to the job you are applying for.  And just a quick reminder. No one cares about your grade point average.  It doesn’t tell us what kind of a youth worker you’ll be only that you are proud of yourself for your grades.  You should list conferences and professional stuff you’ve done. It helps me see who is influencing you.  And make sure to have a section about your “interests” because that just gives me a small picture of who you are in a short blurb. Keep the resume to two pages and if you want to include a picture that’s great.
  2. Cover Letter– This is where doing your research matters.  Don’t right a generic cover letter. Show me that you’ve actually done some research on the church or organization and can speak to why you are interested in working for us.  This isn’t the place for name dropping but honestly tell me why you are interested. I can tell if you really get us by what you write.  This should be a page and doesn’t have to be an introduction because that’s what the video is for.
  3. Video Introduction– This is your chance in 2 short minutes to get a first interview ahead of everyone else. You need to shoot a simple video introduction that is clever, basic and will show them your personality.  I tell people that using a simple cell phone camera is fine. Just a basic, here’s a little bit about you and what makes you tick. I just watched one where the candidate was moving throughout his whole house introducing his life and he ended up getting on a scooter and riding away. It was quirky, funny and great.  You can tailor the video towards a particular job. They are easy to shoot and you can do multiple.  One quick note you are going to want to upload the video to youtube or a similar site and send a link don’t embed the video in an e-mail. This makes it really easy for a potential employer to simply forward your full packet to the committee if there is one.

Good luck job hunting.

Finding a Job series:

  1. How to start a search process and looking for jobs?
  2. Think about your fit
  3. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)
  4. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)
  5. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications
  6. Interviews: Presenting yourself well
  7. Interviews: How to get a second one
  8. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?
  9. Negotiating 101
  10. Negotiating 201
  11. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.
Photo by Oskar Seljeskog via Flickr (Creative Commons)
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Finding a Job: Prep Work- Be the most informed candidate they have

research_word_in_dictionary_magnified_sepiaI do a lot of interviews.  Over the years I have worked at a number of large churches and it often feels like I’m always in the midst of interviewing someone.  What tends to impress me the most are candidates who obviously have done prep work to know something about the church.  I am always looking for candidates who know our programs and the names of staff members who can also ask solid questions about how things work and fit together.  It’s fairly easy to tell also those who have simply gone to the website and memorized a few programs verses those who looked to try and understand what the church was all about.   You will do so much better in an interview process if you are “informed” about the church that is interviewing you.  What you don’t want to have happen is to have the interviewers feel like they are having to explain everything to you.  You will be a step above other candidates if you show you have done your homework. Plus they will be talking more than you. You want to be talking.

Here’s a couple ways to do this:

1. Explore the website:  It may not be good but it is your first resource.

2. Familiarize yourself with programs:  This helps you see connections and ask questions.

3. Know Names: At my church we have four main staff people all names Scott. It’s helpful to our interview team if you know that and have done a little work to show that you know what each of them does.

4. Read everything: Many churches have a monthly newsletter or magazine.  Read the past years so you can see what things have been important or are big areas they want to highlight.  Also read bulletins and if you are in a large denomination if they minutes of any meetings.  This will give you great knowledge.

5. Ask Others: One thing I like to do is just ask people what they know about the church. Hopefully you are doing some networking and have found some people in the area you can talk to. Ask them what they think.

There are potentially a whole bunch of other ways to get information about churches. You can check facebook, google the name, read the local paper, check with seminaries and Christian colleges.  Ask questions on social media.  Bottom line is any info you get will just help you be more informed than the next candidate and that’s what you want.  This will take some effort but honestly that’s what we want to see anyways when we are interviewing you.


Finding a Job series:

1. How to start a search process and looking for jobs? 

2. Think about your fit

3. Start writing your interview questions (you will be interviewing them)

4. Prep Work (be the most informed candidate they have)

5. Resumes, video introductions, cover letters and applications

6. Interviews: Presenting yourself well

7. Interviews: How to get a second one

8. Face to face to face to face. What to do when they bring you in for a weekend?

9. Negotiating 101

10. Negotiating 201

11. Seeking Discernment: Praying, asking friends, checking with family.

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What I’m learning about doing youth ministry better by overseeing kids ministry

DSC01951This last year I made a big shift in my career. I went from being a Student Ministries Pastor overseeing mostly Middle and High School to shifting part of my focus all the way down to birth. And I’ve become a better Youth Pastor because of it.

The reality is that for 15+ years I pretty much did youth ministry one way. It was my team and students as the primary relationships and any interaction with parents was a secondary thing.

Now that I work as a “family pastor” and interact with a wide age of children/students over an extended amount of time I’ve realized just how important interacting with and ministering to parents and the whole family really is.

In youth ministry, parents often drop students off without getting out of the car. Our interaction with them is very quick and often without depth or significance. In Children’s ministry it is very different. Parents are involved in programs, in the rooms with their kids, engaged with each other and generally much more present. Consequently, I have the opportunity to spend  more time with them. (Even as I write this I’m watching several moms walk by who have pre-school age kids.) I know that those families will be a part of ministries I lead for the next 18 years of their lives. That’s a big chunk of time and an investment I take seriously.

As I think about those 18 years I envision that a big part of what I need to be doing is to be resourcing those parents and families. In youth ministry, parents often have the mindset that it’s time for them to back away and allow other leaders to be involved in leading their students in the faith journey. That’s not at all how it happens in Children’s ministry. We partner in all things with the families.

Parents are always asking for advice and sharing stories with me about their kids. Together, we walk through major milestones. As I reflect, I think in youth ministry we forget to celebrate these types of milestones with the family.

One last area that I think I’ve learned from working more with children is the reminder of how important the relationships the children’s staffing
team is when considering the whole family, youth ministry included. My advice is to regularly talk to the children’s staff before transitioning students each year.
Ask about what parents will be huge helpers and which ones might be a little bit of a pain. See what they’ve done over the years to maximize relationships and teaching time with specific students. Are there special needs that you need to know about as youth minister? How can you leverage the relationships that have already been built without simply starting them over?

The children’s ministry isn’t your completion. It isn’t something that has screwed up kids either. It should be a big resource for you as you co-labor to minister to families. 

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Announcing The Youth Cartel’s Unauthorized Dictionary of Youth Ministry

Releasing in a couple weeks, the funniest, most consistently over-the-line book published in the world of youth ministry:

The Youth Cartel’s Unauthorized Dictionary of Youth Ministry, by Steve Case

From the back cover:

Most church people don’t like to work with teenagers. Teenagers scare people. But what do youth workers like you do? You love them. You spend all your time with them. You do your best to listen to heartaches, guide fledgling souls, and avoid dismemberment. You’re like a saint. A saint who drinks a lot of coffee.

Even with all that coffee in you and with the mighty hand of God shoving guiding you, sometimes the pressure, church committees and annual budget meetings can make you feel like you are gonna explode. Don’t do that. It’s gross.

Instead: breathe deep. Allow yourself one of those “snort” church giggles. You can even hide this book inside your Bible (just bow your head and you’ll look like you’re praying). Go ahead and laugh. We won’t tell anyone.

And, here’s just a little taste – four definitions in a row from a random page in the “A is for” section:

The end of the world. Watch for these telltale signs that the end is near:

  • The parents committee gathers together and spends two full hours talking about all the things you did (and do) right.
  • The Methodists drink in front of each other.
  • The local school system refuses to schedule games or practices on Sundays.
  • The church budget committee says, “We’d like to double your budget this year.”
  • Nicholas Cage does not “lose it” in a movie.

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Provides one million ways to not pay attention to the sermon, while pretending to be a tech-savvy smartphone Bible reader.

Aqua Team Rescue Force 
A great game! You will need:

  • 1000 Ping-Pong® balls.
  • A baptismal pool.
  • Snorkels for everyone.
  • Your senior pastor’s vacation schedule.

Seriously, you’ll laugh until it hurts. And we all might get in trouble for this thing. But, hey, if a company called The Youth Cartel can’t be a little edgy, we should change our name, right?

We’re offering a special pre-release price on the print version of The Youth Cartel’s Unauthorized Dictionary of Youth Ministry. Order prior to its release date (which should be on or about October 15), and we’ll knock the price from $8.99 down to $7.49. If you’re a bit of a risk taker yourself, you just might want to pick up a bunch as Christmas gifts for all your volunteers. Or, you could get one for your senior pastor as a creative way of resigning!

Pre-Order for just $7.49
Download a free sample

Amazon Kindle & Apple iBooks versions are coming October 15th, too.

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The McBackfire

The Daily Mail (UK) is  reporting on a social media campaign gone horribly wrong.

It seems someone at McDonald’s thought it would be a good idea to get Twitter followers to share stories using the hashtag #mcdstories. That’s when anti-McDonald’s advocates jumped on the opportunity to make a splash.

And within an hour McDonald’s had to change course because it was starting to go viral… in a bad way. A couple of my favorites from the article:

  • @jfsmith23 wrote: ‘Watching a classmate projectile vomit his food all over the restaurant during a 6th grade trip. #McDStories’
  • @nelo_taylor who wrote: ‘These #McDStories never get old, kinda like a box of McDonald’s 10 piece’
  • @JKingArt #McDstories I lost 50 lbs in 6 months after I quit working and eating at McDonald’sRead more

What does this have to do with youth ministry? When you plan things you always have to keep The Law of Unintended Consequences in mind. Ask yourself, what is my most perverted 7th grader or my most creative 10th grader going to do with this game idea?

Because if you don’t? They’ll McLove you. 

Photo credit – happymealy – Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Awareness Test


Watch the above video before reading any further.

Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.



“It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for.” This principle seems to be true both for moonwalking bears and for us in youth ministry. When we’re so focused on certain tasks, people, events, numbers, etc., we can actually miss what’s most important.

It happens all the time.

When I’m focused on how many students attended my mid-week program, but miss the conversation the Spirit was leading me to have with that one hurting student who just needed someone to listen.

When I’m giving more of my time and energy to planning a summer camp with my students than I am with a summer vacation for my own family.

When I’m reading the Bible only to glean some information to teach, rather than to encounter the heart of God and refresh my own soul.

When people constantly surround me—students, volunteers, fellow pastors and staff—but I’m navigating through life feeling fairly alone and isolated.

Awareness only comes when there’s time to slow down, to pay attention, to really notice what is happening right in front of me. It comes when all the swirling activity—counting the flying basketball passes—fades into the background and I can truly hear the voice of the Savior, who beckons and strengthens and comforts and exhorts. It requires others’ involvement in my life, those who can point out the obvious areas that I’m missing.

In this Christmas season of busyness, let us not miss what Christ is doing in our ministry, in our family, and in our own souls. Let us become people with eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand, so that we might experience the healing touch of Christ.

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“The” Future of Youth Ministry is less important than “My” future in Youth Ministry

A lot has been said in recent years about the future of youth ministry. Some great books have been written and much has been mused about what the likely direction things will go. I have read most of the books and to a large extent I agree with what many of the writers are saying. If I had to summarize what I think are the three major trends and shifts in the direction of future youth ministry I would say they are: Intergenerational, Family focused and containing a more robust theological reflection.

If I’m honest though I should admit that I care less about the direction we “think” it will go and more about my continual place within it. I decided to make a list of things that are a part of my present call to youth ministry and how I believe they will continue into my future because it’s what I’m passionate about. This list is in no particular order it’s just things that I think I want to keep focusing on that get me excited to keep doing youth/family ministry after 20+ years. Many of these things line up with what others are saying the future will look like which is great because it shows maybe I’m not completely off base on what I value and think I should focus on.

Here’s my hope is that you do the same thing for yourself. What makes you tick? What gets you up in the morning and excited to do your job? What are the things that you feel are non-negotiable things that you want to hang on to for a long time. Find them and do them and your future in Youth Ministry will be so much brighter and longer.

Mentoring younger leaders- One thing I love doing is caring for people younger than me. I should first say that I believe this is a 2 way street. I gain so much from the perspective of younger leaders and feed off their energy, passion and new ideas. I’ve always be in places where this is an organizational value. I particularly love connecting the right people and getting out of the way to see what happens. I think that many of us older leaders have a lot to offer as we share about our experiences, failures and successes.

More connection to parents/families- An area I’ve gotten more and more convinced is my future is that of whole family ministry. I am no longer satisfied to only be involved with students (and their parents) once they enter into the youth ministry. I want to be involved in their lives from the beginning. I think my future (and I hope all of youth ministries future) will be about more integration between children/youth/family ministries. This is way more than a programmatic hope too. I think that on a developmental level there is a huge need for us to think about the entirety of the family’s experience from birth through college. As a parent myself with three young kids I just see this as more and more of my role and focus. I can speak to parents in a completely different way as I have my own kids now.

Encouraging two-way dialogue between the academy and the church- I am a bit of a closet academic that teaches adjunct youth and family ministry courses. Because I went to school for an awful long time I feel like I actually have the ability to be a bridge between the academic institutions and the church. I think we need to figure out a way for learning to go both ways and there are some of us that are in good spots for that to happen. Maybe a better way to say this is I believe the academy desperately needs the church to help frame and shape the education and skills they are teaching.

A network of influence- I love to network but it’s not simply because I love people. I do it often because I recognize the gifts and skills that people have and I want to put them in the right places to maximize their influence. The National Network of Youth Ministry has had “we are better together” as their slogan for a long time and I believe it’s true. We need to continue building relationships and maximizing gifts and skills. It is easier to be connected to each other and with all the communication tools we have now we need to leverage our networks. I want to keep doing that.

An Advocate for children/youth/parents/families- Ask me what my job description is and I will say I’m an advocate. What I mean by that is I think my job is to speak truth and care for families and always be thinking about how I can do that in every setting. So when a senior pastor makes a comment about middle school students that perpetuates a stereotype I talk to them. When we need to become more intentionally intergenerational I will voice that thought. When we spend significantly more on pipe organs than we do on marriage enrichment I will speak to that.

Push the Intergenerational Envelope- I think a lot of churches do lip service to this area of ministry. Yes we say we care about having the whole church together but in reality it’s often a children’s sermon and then sending children and youth back to their areas. I have a huge heart for the church living in to baptismal vows that in my PCUSA world say we will commit as a church to disciple children and students. Part of my hope is to continue pushing to encourage older congregants and people who wouldn’t normally think of themselves as having much to offer to children and family ministries to step into roles where they are able to use their
gifts. One of my favorite books now is “Sticky Faith” by Kara Powell and Chap Clark. They state that this intergenerational piece has a huge impact on the faith lives of students continuing past high school.