This will be a weird post in that I want to share an idea that we recently did for an outreach, but I will also share how it didn’t go off as I hoped. The reason I am sharing it is because the moment this idea was shared with me I loved the concept and I still love the idea and believe in the heart of it. I didn’t think of it so I will just go ahead and say it is my favorite student ministry outreach idea out right now…hands down.

I have a friend Alyssa Corrova, who grew up in our ministry and is now on staff with Cru at Miami (Ohio) University. She is a top-level leader and Kristin and I respect the heck out of her and are on her support team. She is younger and cooler than me so last summer I asked her if she could do any one outreach event (because I wanted to add a new high school event) what would it be? She said she had long dreamed of an event that wasn’t about a time, or place, but was about the gospel infiltrating people’s paths via facebook. She described to me a campaign where students would film there story’s (testimony) and put them up on the same day with the same look/feel/branding so it would be obvious they were connected, but they wouldn’t say you need to come hear this speaker at this conference or anything like that, but they would simply said this is me, this is my story, and I want you to know about it, you can even talk to me if this stirs your heart.

I loved the idea. I called it an outreach 2.0 event. It was simply about the gospel and people sharing their stories that obviously glorify God…and nothing else.

We decided to name the event storytellers, because it captured the heart of the event and because Elevation church had a logo, bumper and some other great stuff available on their resources page for free.

What I love about the event is that a great outreach (dodgeball in our world) will have 60% of the people in the room who don’t know Jesus, but this event can have 80-90% easily. We have all read a friends Facebook status update, or checked out a picture or video that they posted. It is easy to get your captive network to watch your stuff because they love you and want to support you. I told our students that if only 10 people did this event and they each got their testimony to be viewed 20 times we have shard the gospel 200 times. Having a youtube video that you promote and link to viewed 20 times is very conservative, so the exponential potential of the event is through the roof.  That coupled with the fact that in this day and age people might argue the existence of God or the validity of God in their mind, but they will rarely argue with someone’s story.

You have now heard what I think is the genius of the event and why it really can’t fail.  I will not tell you how it was executed, the successes, the failures, and what my expectations were going in and coming out of the event.

The Wednesday night before the event, we themed the whole night around Storytellers. I taught on the gospel and the importance of sharing our faith and than bridged this being a simple opportunity. We than guided students through how to write/frame their story and than I showed them a video I created that would be similar to the one they would film.

The sheet said things like 1) tell us about yourself (family, background, who you were before Christ), 2) what was going wrong in your life or what woke you up to the fact there is more in life 3) How did God find you? 4) How is your life different with Christ? 5) We than had students explain the gospel and possibly share a favorite verse.

We have four values as a church and a ministry. I have always said that when we are healthy, we want 100% of our people worshipping, 75 percent in groups, 50% serving, and 25% sharing their faith. I think I thought this outreach was accessible and somehow took the maturity that it takes to share your faith. I thought that more students would engage in this, but the reality is in most groups only 25% are ready to share their faith.

Here are some things I would do to try and make the event something that more students took part in.

  • I thought if we did it on a Sunday during church and after 9am-4pm we would have everyone able to do it and already at church, not at sports/work, and able to sign up for a spot. That wasn’t the case, we still had people avoid it. There is no time you can get that makes people want to share their faith better.
  • I wish I would have built Wednesday so the first part would be the explanation and promotion and the second part would be filming videos. That would take a lot of cameras but I think it would have given a few more the encouragement.

Having said those things, the event is a guaranteed success because we define success as people sharing Jesus. We had around 20 students do videos and they shared their faith. They didn’t just share their faith, but the videos on average were viewed over 100 times, so they shared their faith to a whole lot of friends and family.


I hope to see some other ministry get to morph this idea and watch it spread.



Some time in college someone asked me to DJ there wedding to save money and it has now snowballed into a fun hobby a few nights a year.  I am actually sitting at an event right now and was thinking of things I have learned that I think apply to life, ministry, and anyone who works with people.

1)    Atmosphere is built with music

Every time a TV show wants to edit a montage of create an emotion they use this rule, PLAY MUSIC! Some people still don’t realize that you need to pave the way with the emotion you hope to create and lay the foundation with a well-selected song or playlist. If you are planning an event and having a meet and greet time you need to have music.  Simply put you can manipulate emotions and create a good time with music

2)    Give people what they expect

People pay me to pick and play music. They don’t want to hear me talk (or they would pay me to speak). I have seen DJ’s try to teach the crowd a dance they love but no one else cares about. Chances are people expect something from you or are at your event for a reason; give them that thing.

3)    Most people don’t know what they need

This might sound like it goes against the rule I just named, but hear me out.  People know they want to dance and they expect that from you, but they might not know what songs will make that possible.  They listen to Owl City and Bob Marley in their car and don’t understand that your average mid tempo rock song is the worst thing in the world to dance to.  You have to give them what they need whether they know it or not.  If that doesn’t apply to leadership and management, I don’t know what does.

4)    You can only hit large demographics

Its not that I hate Bob Marley (as previously stated) its just that his songs are marginal.  There are songs that hit large demographics like the YMCA, and My Girl.  People want to play what they want but don’t understand that there is a room full of 4-5 generations and only certain songs unite them.  Churches are the same way. If you do a sermon series on marriage most in the room will want to hear it, but if you do a sermon series on marriage in your mid 50’s at the empty nest stage, over half the room has been marginalized. Again I am not saying that you shouldn’t tip your hate to everyone in the room but realize what is touched and where you spend the bulk of your time.


Not every idea I have is a good one, but every once in a while I stumble on something I think is worth sharing.  This concept isn’t rocket science, but it has worked well for us in the stage our high school ministry is in.

I think my setting is unique being in a church of 1,000 people. I have shared it before but we are big enough that there is an expectation for excellence and “big church” things, but we are small enough that people still expect the intimacy and relationships of “small church” culture.  Every church, size, and ministry has its unique challenges and we the youth pastors still have to figure out how to respond.

As our student ministry has grown it has become harder and harder to know everyone personally and still know where they are at in their walk. I can’t talk to everyone on a Wednesday night and I don’t have everyone in my small group anymore. (in fact I don’t even lead a small group, but that is another post for another time)

I decided that I wanted to as best I could, once a year, to have some one-on-one time with as many students as I could. I want to ask how their relationship with their parents is, what God has been teaching them, how their small group is going, where God is taking them as a leader etc. This sounds cool, but lets just say it; your average student won’t make this happen. I can get my student leaders and some others whose parents want me in their life to talk to me, but to have a snapshot of our groups I need to reach the majority.  The majority of our Wednesday night audience doesn’t have time, won’t make time, and/or doesn’t think I am cool enough to meet with on top of already attending Wednesday nights, being in a grace group, and serving weekly.

The solution is dangling a carrot in front of them to make the meeting worth it.  For the last two years I have offered an exclusive t-shirt available only to those who meet with me in these meetings.

I am a t-shirt snob so I got out of my way to make these cool. I get a great design from my friend and even budget to print it on a shirt that people will want.  Here is this years design. American apparel with the cherry on top of foil printing on the shadow.

I put meetings before Wednesdays, after Wednesdays, on Sundays and every day of the week after school. It fills my schedule but it is invaluable to have intimate conversations with that many people and know where they are at, let them know that I value them, and know where they are as it comes to teaching and shepherding the masses.

What do you do to make sure you know your entire ministry as well as possible?


Ministry is often an ego contest. I would be lying if I said I don’t compare myself to others.  That is not a good idea; all you can do is make sure you are being faithful with what God has given you.  I THINK THAT MIGHT BE A STORY IN THE BIBLE.

For that reason WE track the percentage of growth in something since the previous year.  Sometimes stats can look good or bad depending on the context and story. Here are those numbers and some things that HSM is doing well or may need work on based on what we are looking for.

FIRST TIME VISITORS                   UP 5%

(This is up, but not at the level of our overall growth, makes me wonder if we are developing a core, or if we are becoming an aged group whose outreach is slowing down?)

REGISTERED STUDENTS                       UP 26%

(This is the core I talked about. This is great, but must be looked at with outreach. We don’t want a stagnant core.)


(this is just the way of measuring our target audience, no real commentary since it is a combination of the other two above)

ADULT INVOLVEMENT                 UP 61%

(You could look at this and think it is great, and it is, but the reason it is up so much is because we were way understaffed the year before and this was just catch up. We have a long way to go before we are on pace.)


  • I am very aware how lucky I am that I get paid to do what I do for a living. Feeling so blessed and grateful for the ministry God has given Kristin and I.
  • Tonight was the last HSM Wednesday night of the school year.
  • Closed out our facedown series with God is love.
  • I talked out of I Corinthians 13 and talked to our seniors for the last time.
  • We talked about living out love as a response to the love God has shown us.  That means loving yourself as God loves you and loving others as God does.
  • I finally got to tell them that the worst part of my job is seeing them put pics up on facebook in college of beer pong, slutty Halloween, and spring break stuff no one should see.
  • These are not cases of loving yourself as the image of God or loving others.
  • The world cannot see us living empty religious love. That is a clanging gong!
  • Time got away from us and I didn’t get to embarrass our worship band and hospitality staff and tell them what an amazing job they do week in and week out.  If you guys are reading this THANK YOU!
  • Jim Heffner got on the mic and embarrassed me.  He said everyone had to give me a hug before they left.  I was honored and I am a hugger.
  • We have so many great students I am going to miss. The bittersweet part of the job.
  • They aren’t gone forever, it was awesome to have tons of our college people back and coming to the house the last two weeks. Awesome to see them grow up and start talking about marriage counselingJ
  • I mentioned that we pause Wednesday nights for the summer.  Let me explain more….We still have our grace groups meeting and they are student lead, we have 5 different trip options for students, and we have monthly gatherings for large group.  Things do not slow down, they just look different.
  • This time of year is so busy. I actually have a yearly list of things I launch into after our last Wednesday night.
  • Tomorrow Dave Nicodemus and I will have the big Momentum planning session for our pre-session antics.
  • In the next week I will also do major work at clarifying the systems, positions and job-descriptions for HSM next year.
  • This is also the time of year that we do the teaching calendar for next year and gather resources and teaching series ideas. Any ideas from someone reading this?
  • We are also launching into our college ministry for the summer. Excited about the people HSM has developed into this next stage of life.
  • Also going on the yearly shopping trip to try and make our basement music/sound and game room stuff functional again.  Some people are of the persuasion that pool sticks need tips, and mic stands should hold mics. I happen to be one of those people.
  • Doing some big planning for the 2010 Kalahari retreat in the next week too.
  • Finally diving into the world of a mass texting service. We dabbled in it before but are now committing money as email, facebook, and websites just aren’t getting it done. Shoutout to Kelly Coville for doing the admin work as it was no small task to input 500 numbers and find out their cell carrier.
  • 7 years ago, I did an internship at Wooster Grace and lived with Jake Workman’s family. This summer he is interning in Columbus so I found him a family to live with. Can’t wait to hang out with him and put him on some blind dates.
  • I actually have at least two other blind dates brewing between friends of ours I want to meet. That is definitely me and Kristin’sguilty pleasure.
  • I am so pumped for the MTV movie awards this summer. I am really digging Aziz Ansari’s comedy and writing and expect this to be a breakout night for him.
  • I mentioned a few months ago I realized I am not using creativity enough in my life. Over the next months I have arranged a coffee house show, hope to write some songs. Hope to oil paint, am going to dabble in comedy writing and filming some videos for ministry stuff. Not sure what any of it will lead to but I am excited.
  • Graduation party season is right around the corner.  Youth pastors don’t have to buy groceries for these 3 weeks.
  • So much more I could write, but I want to eat a bowl of cereal instead.


Last week I attended the CE Leadership Summit (CELS) for youth workers.  One cool thing they do is collect resources beforehand from people attending and make them available to those in attendance.

One resource I contributed was the yearlong planning sheet we use to plan our Wednesday night teaching and curriculum for the year.  You can view or download the sheet here.

I got some great response and feedback on the sheet so I thought I would put it up. I also thought I would paste in an exchange I had with a friend about it…

1. Is this something you do by yourself or with a team?

I plan that sheet mostly by myself. I mean I pull in Dustin and other many leaders and get their feedback but if I am being honest up until now it has been mostly me. That is not a good thing, I have kept this close to me since it is a passion and strength but this next year I need to involve others in this process.

2. Do you just “re-use” this sheet as a template each year (obviously changing the dates, etc.)?

I do re-use the sheet every year and change things. This was the first year it has had all the stuff as it appears now. We didn’t always do testimonies every night etc.

3. How much time does it take for you to compile all of the series ideas?

I am a blog guy and always checking out sites of curriculum, and what other churches are doing so I am compiling ideas and lists as I see them all year.

When our Wednesday nights settle down in May before Graduation I usually try to hammer the next year out in a week. It obviously gets revised and things change. I will email it to my big 3 volunteers after I have it in the first try form. We use the 7 checkpoint Andy Stanley wrote a book about as a guideline so while a title or direction can change it is pretty solid that in certain blocks we will do a book study.

4. Do you find it pretty easy to stick to it the entire year or do you end up making quite a few series adjustments along the way?

It can be hard to stick to things for the whole year for some guys, my biggest flaw is that I am a planner and usually can stick to a plan too much. This year one of the ways we helped stay flexible and adapt to our students was we put in a series called youpick and let students pick what they wanted us to talk about. So I knew that we were addressing wherever they were in the month of Feb-March. Other than that I think I usually have a pretty good idea going in what we will need.


  • Kalahari ended last weekend so its probably time I do my mind dump and recap.
  • Every year this weekend knocks me out from going full speed for 4 straight days. I have my annual post Kalahari sickness.
  • It was a phenomenal weekend. People ask and I don’t want to give some cliché answer so here is my best thesis. I love what God does at Kalahari because it seems to meet all our students where they are. Those who don’t have relationship with God hear the gospel, those who aren’t walking with him spend time in a room (small group) and experience the body of Christ. Our leaders are challenged to lead their rooms, etc. No matter where a student is it helps them take steps.
  • Every year it has grown and this year we topped 1,000. Numbers don’t matter, but that one is pretty cool.
  • The other cool number was around 20 churches coming together. A few of the bigger churches shoulder the load but it is so neat to provide that for smaller groups. I love that I get to help provide and event for my home church the way others did for me growing up.
  • One of our big churches that has stepped away might be back in next year so I don’t think 1200-1400 is out o the question. Every year God has blessed this weekend. It is the second largest FGBC gathering behind Momentum. Not really wanting to pass them anytime soon. I am too tired as is.
  • DC Curry was our speaker for the weekend and was just great. He is a magnet and I think our people connected with him in the water park, before sessions, and on stage.
  • His Saturday morning talk about taking whatever we have (based on the 5 loaves and 2 fishes) and throwing it on the ground knowing that God provides the increase, really hit me.
  • Exodus from Liberty University led worship all weekend. We kind of stumbled into these guys last year and the lineup changes every year, but they are spot on. Musically, relationally, and ministry wise they are exactly what we want in a band. Their hearts are great, there leadership is great, and the music is top notch. I can’t imagine not having them because they have raise the standard of what we do.
  • Sidebar if you want to be trained in worship leading I would go to Liberty. They have so many bands and a couple majors that are turning out quality people every year.  I am very impressed.
  • We did something new this year and did 2 meals in rooms so we could save money over the terrible catered meals. I think Domino’s Pizza was a hit.
  • We also surprised everyone with a John Reuben concert on Saturday. I love that even if you have never heard of him or his music he will not let you have a bad time at his concert.  Felt good to see 600 white people with their hands in the air.
  • The Wooster church does so much to make this weekend happen. I don’t know if most people will ever realize it. I am pretty involved and I still feel indebted for the weekend they create for my students. I won’t waste your time but if you are from another church make sure you thank Nick Cleveland and his team. They are living this thing for at least 2 weeks plus the year round planning.
  • We are already in contract for next year. Kalahari 2011-February 25-27. If you are interested in going email me.
  • The sessions this year were fun. Josh Atkins and Ben Framstad raised the bar and added a ton of stuff that was fun using media and other creative elements.
  • Josh and I got to do the music parody video that have been on this blog all week, as well as the entrance video you saw too.
  • On Saturday HSM got to do 2 things in the session. Eric Osswald shared his testimony and it was great. People asked me if I helped him write it and the answer is no. It was a 2 part English paper he wrote to share his testimony to his teacher and class. God has done so many great things in him and I see such maturity. So excited to see him be a goalie at USF soon.
  • Rachel Weng also wrote, produced, and acted in our pantomime for that same morning. It was so great. She stepped up huge and had a vision and made it happen. So proud of her for leading. She didn’t just do what God put on her heart but she empowered other people in ministry. Go Rachel!
  • Stephanie Sollanek made a commitment to be baptized. That was so cool to see her grow this last year.
  • Luke Helmuth came clear from PA. I barely got to see him but I know God is preparing him for big stuff. I joke with him that I will give him my job so any chance I get to provide an experience for him I want to do that.
  • We finally seem to have learned how to get our people registered, in rooms, with leaders, and on busses. Dustin said this year went week. I can’t wait till next year. Imagine how good we could do if we have working email and internet the week before?
  • This year was fun but I can’t wait till next year when my family might be at a stage that I can take them……probably won’t happen but a guy can dream right?


The other day I read a blog entry about the vacuum created when a youth pastor leaves.  Unfortunately I can’t remember where it was or find it to give the link. The post basically said that most youth pastors create a ministry that is dependent on them. It is dependent on their speaking, discipling, charisma, gifts, and presence.

I have experienced this first hand throughout my life and want to always guard against it. I am not making any big announcement that I am going anywhere, but there will come the day that I will need a hip replacement and might not be able to stay up with HSM anymore. Here are some things we do in HSM to make sure it isn’t dependent on any one person.

  1. We don’t care how good you are at something; you shouldn’t do it all the time. No one speaks all the time, no one leads worship all the time, and no one plays any instrument all the time. Some areas are easier based on the people we have, but we want to set the precedent that we are always valuing multiple people and developing the next generation.
  2. Every position has an apprentice. We can improve in this, some grace groups are without co-leaders but again we want our movement to be reproducible in both people and DNA.
  3. Ministry (power, decisions, credit etc.) must be given away to others. You always hear to delegate for success and that means sharing the weight not just in title but everything.

I don’t want to be one of those people that makes my life and ministry sound like an ivory tower so I can’t pretend I accomplish this with perfection, but just wanted to get my thoughts up there.


I was recently sent a book to check out: The Greenhouse Effect-Cultivating students to lead by Mike Calhoun and Mel Walker. I was already excited about the book because Ed Lewis of CE National and Momentum fame was a contributor, but I learned to like it for much more.  I was really impressed with the wealth of experience and knowledge it pulled upon as it taught tons of different ways to push students and think about how we develop leadership. This book has several other contributors who knows there stuff that we can all learn from.

“The Greenhouse Project is the collaboration of 16 national leaders in the arena of student ministry. Each of the authors approaches the issue — How are we going to train students for leadership? They speak from unique backgrounds, and answer the question with empirical ministry.  The Greenhouse Project is the result of over a century of collective student ministry experience authored by some of the most innovative thinkers in the industry.

Mike Calhoun of Word of Life and Mel Walker of Vision for Youth edit for a think-tank that includes Jay Strack (Student Leadership University), Greg Stier (Dare 2 Share Ministries), Alvin Reid (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary), Alex McFarland (Southeastern Evangelical Seminary) plus ten other authors. The sixteen chapter anthology provides a comprehensive exploration of Student Leadership dealing with topics ranging from discipleship of students, time management, and pursuing vocational ministry, mentoring girls and how to give students a Biblical foundation.”

To reserve your copy at a pre-release discount, email greenhouseproject@wol.org and receive a 1-chapter preview immediately. To receive updates about the project’s status, and insider information keep an eye on Mike Calhoun’s Facebook page, or Twitter account.