Are you coming to Orange Conference 2013? You could WIN

I’ve loved the tradition of making my way to Atlanta every April for the gathering of Student Pastors, Children Pastors, and Sr. Pastors that occurs at the Orange Conference. The number one thing I’ve always heard others say about the Orange Conference is “would the conference be of benefit to me if I don’t use the curriculum?” and I always emphatically say YES.

Here’s a look back at some of the sessions our team blogged last year, and if you peruse these posts, you’ll see the conference is really more about the strategy of partnering with Parents to do better ministry.

Cultivating the Youth Ministry you would rather be at

The Truth about numbers in Youth Ministry

How to connect with Parents in student ministry

Creating an atmosphere of Exponential Change in Youth Ministry

Creating and Developing motivated volunteers

How to have difficult conversations with volunteers

How to Communicate to Middle School Students

How to create a strong Volunteer Culture in student ministry

This year, I know it’s going to be an amazing conference again. I’m really looking forward to hearing Bob Goff again, I had just started following him shortly before Orange Last year and we studied his book for our Summer study with Sr. Highers last year. Jon Acuff will be fun to hear again, because he’s always a good speaker. Plus, Doug Fields and Mark Matlock always share practical wisdom.

But my favorite part about the Orange Conference is meeting other Youth Pastors.

If you see me, I’d love to connect with you. 1000 hills gives away free coffee, and I’m a caffeine addict. I’ll also give you some swag! If you can’t find me, we’ll be posting on our instagram feed clues to find some amazing resources!

And to celebrate Orange Conference, we’re giving away a sick resource kit. Enter below!

Social Media and Youth Ministry

If you haven’t heard, the Youth Ministry Roundtable is back, and we think it’s better than ever. One thing that makes it better? We also brought back the Youthmin Tweetchat! We hadn’t done a tweet chat in over a year, and we missed the community that brought so much! When we combined the two of them, we realized we had something special.

So here is the most recent Youth Ministry Roundtable, just keep in mind that this is only part of the conversation, there were a ton of youth workers on twitter chiming in along with the panel.

And while you’re watching, we’d love for you to subscribe to our new Youtube Channel, YouthminTV. We’ll be doing a roundtable live every Tuesday, but we’ll also have a number of other videos, and we don’t want you to miss a single one!

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And if you really want to know more about Social Media and youth ministry, check out some of these posts and links to things we discussed:

Three ways Youth Ministry should be more like Facebook

Social Media Responsibility for Youth Workers

Eliminating Social Media

How Social can a Youth Pastor be?

Social Media creating community among Youth Pastors

Social Media guidelines for volunteers

great youth ministry blogs

5 blog tips for churches

texting strategy for youth ministry

putting teens in charge of social media

Social Media and the Church free e-book

Communicating effectively in a digital world

If this, then that

Heather's going to #SYMC!

I am going to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.  Tomorrow.  I just found out today.  Like two seconds ago.

I really wanted to go, and for a while things seemed to be falling in place.  But then I had a few financial things come up, and couldn’t justify $400 for it.

But then God did some pretty cool things:

  • A fantastic woman told me that I could share her hotel room, for free, since her husband travels and scored it for free.
  • A pretty cool youth worker had an extra ticket that I could have for free.
  • I won a free tank of gas from work.


So.  I’m going.  I’m excited.  You should be too.

Look for me there! is doing a giveaway, you just have to find me to sign up! You could win an ESV Leather Journaling Bible, $50 gift card to the marketplace, or $10 gift card to the marketplace! Over $1500 worth of gift cards are going to be given away!

But more importantly, you get to talk to me!  And I to YOU!  It is going to be GREAT!

Also, keep an eye out on this site–I’ve been commissioned to blog about everything I do, see, and most importantly, learn.

Let me know in the comments if you are going to be there! Tweet me @heatherlea17, or if you’re my Facebook friend, cop my digits off the page and call/text me!

Straight Talk: Your first year in Youth Ministry

Straight Talk is a series designed to highlight some of the most crucial elements of youth ministry that are rarely discussed. While some may not agree with me, I hope that each of you are open to learning about these topics. If you don’t agree…I’m ok with that! Let’s talk! 

Youth Ministry is serious business. Frankly, I don’t care whether you are a “lifer” or “stepping stone” kind of man/woman. Your calling is not for me to judge. In life and ministry, we are often judged by what we do. I like to believe that we will be judged more by what we choose not to do. This cannot be more important than in your first year of ministry. If you are entering ministry for the first time or starting a new church, I urge you to stop trying to be the hero. Hear me out…

Let’s say that youth pastor “A” starts a ministry. While he was interviewing for the position, he mentally gasped on the tour. During his interview conversations, he began having one with his mind that went like this, “Oh my gosh! Really? They do it that way? They must be kidding themselves. Remember to change that!.” Sound familiar? What happens next? Youth Pastor “A” gets hired and begins his ministry. He remembers these mental conversations and creates his “urgent” to-do list. He begins to change things. After all he says, “I have to make it my own!” Everyone is kind at first and willing to let him proceed. Fast forward a couple months: This youth pastor is frustrated that no one is listening to him. They just don’t trust me enough! I don’t have “buy-in.”

Youth Pastor “B” is in the same position. He notices all of the same things that are “wrong” with the ministry. He’s hired and starts his ministry. This is where the paths diverge. Youth Pastor “B” decides to spend his first year building trust with everyone. Not once does he put the ministry down. He never talks to his staff about things that should change. If someone brings it up, he takes notes and tells them that he’ll get back with them later on that. Instead, he views every decision he makes as either building trust or destroying trust. In staff meetings, this guy keeps his mouth shut. He listens. He never speaks badly about the previous guy. After a year, he forms a group to talk about major changes. These volunteers/students cannot wait to be on the team. They love this guy! Youth Pastor “B” is diplomatic and chooses which hills to die on. He isn’t offended every time someone questions him. He doesn’t get paranoid. He leads his group through the changes. Everyone claps, raises the youth pastor up on their shoulders, and gives him three cheers. Imagine that!

See the difference? Youth Pastor “A” changes things himself. Youth Pastor “B” leads his group through the changes. I’m not saying that changes won’t happen in the first year, but I’m urging you to prayerful evaluate which changes you make and if they have to be done “at that moment.” Most changes can wait until you’ve built more trust with your group. Calculate your changes.

Take aways: 

  1. Realize that you don’t have a right to “make it yours.” The ministry doesn’t belong to you…it belongs to God. Don’t make major changes the first year. Leave the service times the same. Leave ministry names the same. Do it their way. Chances are, the previous youth pastor had a reason for doing something the way he did.
  2. Invite open dialog. Allow people to disagree with you. Don’t blow up. Don’t over react. Be a man or Be a woman. If you can’t take the heat, then please quit and go to full-time counseling. Work out your issues and then come back to the ministry. We don’t need another church hurt by a pastor who has issues. We don’t need another marriage hurt by someone who is insecure.
  3. Only change the “This will KILL the ministry if I don’t stop it now” type of stuff. What do I mean by major? I mean MAJOR things.

When all is said and done, you’ll thank me! If you’re already in ministry and are navigating through poor decisions then apologize to your staff for moving so quickly. Build trust. Build trust. Build trust.

The Forgotten Essentials of Youth Ministry: Critical practices for smart, sustainable Youth Ministry

What is the big event this year that will grow your ministry? What curriculum will you teach that will have an eternal impact on your students? What message will you preach that will result in the masses committing their lives to Christ? Unfortunately these questions asked by pastors, parents, and congregation members leave youth leaders searching for the next big thing, or the next great idea that will launch their ministry into new levels of numeric growth and spiritual revival.

Many youth leaders who have burned out can attest to the fact that chasing the next big idea or program can leave youth workers worn out and disappointed.

Rather than creating a ministry that is dependent on the success of individual programs or creative ideas, it is imperative that youth leaders are driven by a Mission statement and VISION, which become the foundation or bedrock of the ministry. It is from this vision that all plans, tactics and strategies grow these are the essentials that can be foundational to successful and sustainable ministry.

1. What is a mission and vision? A mission statement tells the world why you exist and what your purposes are. Think of your vision document as you and your team fleshing out in great detail what every facet of your ministry will look like in 5 years. Does this sound exciting? Didn’t think so. Creating these documents is a long, boring, and tedious task, but it is very likely the most important thing you will ever do. Just as a degree completion plan sets the parameters for coursework that leads to a degree, and blueprints provide the plans for a solid home, a vision will guide your planning and programming, your curriculum and even the way you recruit volunteers.

 2. Determine where you are at NOW - If your team has created a vision for where you want your ministry to go in the future the next essential is to give your ministry an honest evaluation of where it stands at the present. Look at each of those “dream” principles or characteristics in your vision and begin to evaluate how far you are from making that goal a reality. For example, if it is in your vision to use a short-term mission trip to create relational and spiritual growth you must evaluate how far you are from achieving this goal. If you want a ministry of small groups you must determine how far you are from that goal. Do this step for every “vision” category i.e. volunteers, curriculum, programming, community service.

3. Bridge the gap - Things get more exciting in this final step when youth leaders take the gaps noted in step two and begin working towards their vision with tactical steps and processes. This can be an exciting but scary process. Using the example above, you may discover that an old minimally effective event stands between you and your mission trip. Unfortunately you can’t do both due to budget concerns and volunteer burn out but a solid well thought out vision gives you the confidence to scrap the event and begin planning for that life changing mission trip. In this final step it is important to devise the plans for moving away from the things you are doing that don’t fit your vision, and moving towards the events or activities that are more in line with the goals of your team.

 A few additional tips for effective vision and planning include:

Create a vision team from a variety of disciplines; it is no more unspiritual to have a business person on your vision team than it is to have a trained carpenter on a renovation team. Utilize the minds of people who do this for a living!

Recruit members of church leadership to serve on your team. If you are going to be changing elements of your ministry you WILL have pushback. Create allies in leadership positions so you can be patient in seeing your plan to completion.

Love your vision, like your plan. Your vision, if done correctly will be forged through hours of planning, debating and PRAYING. Stick with it… and let God bless it through the dedicated work of your team.

This is a guest post by Aaron W. Cuyler who serves as Youth Pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Madison, OH. This post came from a discussion in our Facebook Group, Everyday Youth Pastors, the best place for connecting with other Youth Workers on the interwebz.