Archives For August 2012

The role of a youth pastor is unfortunately cross-functional and creative.  Read that again.  The responsibilities that are the weekly to-do list are daunting and incredibly unachievable.  No, that’s not pessimism – that’s realism.

Here’s the thing, ministry is not meant to be done on your own.  That’s not profound, that’s simple.

I have been looking for a job as a high school pastor for 4 years now.  I have seen interview after interview, panel after panel.  Though each community is unique, one question remains consistent: “How do you balance your ministry?”

Believe it or not, my answer is not “I just do.”  The key responsibilities of youth pastors are two-fold: Lead students, Train leaders.  This second half is often overlooked.

As I said above, all churches and communities are unique, but this fact remains true no matter how big your youth room is.  You need staff support.  No, I don’t mean free labor to pick up a gallon of milk for your Wednesday night game.  I mean a group of people who are passionate about connecting with students.

I had a professor in college that continually beat into my skull that, “life-change happens in the context of a meaningful relationship.”  This means the gallon challenge won’t officially bring students into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  However, a student and a volunteer talking about the gallon challenge could.

That might seem a little unattainable but it remains true.  Students connect with each other and with Christ through volunteer leaders.  I would strongly argue that the best way to grow your ministry is through training and empowering your volunteers.

I know a lot of youth workers who think they can connect with every student and single-handedly disciple and grow the ministry.  I don’t know about you, but I might label this as a messiah complex.  The ministry of your youth group should involve the extension of your heart for Christ and students through the time and effort of your volunteers.  This is why it is crucial to focus on the development of your leaders as much as you focus on the development of your students.

Take a look at Luke 9:1-2 –

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

Huh. If Jesus didn’t do it on his own… you probably shouldn’t do it either.

So this is where the rubber meets the road.  Are you investing in your volunteers or are they free labor?  Is your staff growing or is it tough to get people to show up?  This is why I see the ministry of a youth pastor to be a healthy balance.  Investment in students is most successful when you empower your dedicated leaders to do it as well.

This is not an excuse to run your ministry as the CEO of a fortune 500, but it is permission to share the responsibility.  Ministry is not a one man or woman show.  Developing your relationship with your leaders allows you to see the gifts these volunteers bring to your community of students.

This isn’t a formula – it’s an idea.  There are a lot of ways to make this practical and I encourage you to find what works for your group.  A great place to start is looking at Justin’s blog on the 10-foot rule.

So as you plan your next message or event, grab coffee with a leader and see what happens.

*Timothy Crossland is a youth ministry major from Azusa Pacific University who is now up in Kirkland, WA (looking for a youth ministry position, get him, he’s amazing). He just started a blog at and you can follow him on twitter at @tbxland

A few weeks ago some of our choir students came up with this idea, practiced this one their own, and opened our services with this a capella song of “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Goyte.


One of my favorite parts about my job is that I get to help students discover their gifts.  I believe that knowing how you are gifted is a key characteristic of not just an effective leader, but a kingdom worker in general. God specifically created each one of us with unique talents and abilities that we need take full advantage of.  It is a huge part of us finding our identity in Christ.  We need to find security in who God created us to be so that we aren’t consistently trying to become who we feel others want us to be.  Normally, that message is taught about moral integrity, but I believe that it can also apply to Godly servanthood and leadership.  When it comes to student leadership, I always encourage students to lead according to how God created them.  While I want them to be looking at other leaders and applying leadership skills that they have observed, I don’t want them to lead like someone else who has different gifts. When we aren’t using our gifts, we are keeping ourselves from reaching our full potential.  I got to see a great example of this a couple months ago.

This summer, we took our student leaders to the Student Leadership Conference (if you aren’t already going, you need to go next year!). At the conference, two of our students (Delaney and Ashley) got the opportunity to lead a workshop.  Each girl got to teach their workshop two times, which allowed for them to learn a valuable lesson. The first time around, both workshops fell flat.  After some debriefing, we found that the problem was that they weren’t using their gifts. For example, Ashley is an incredible writer, often sharing her poetry in our weekend services. Being the writer she is, she wrote a beautiful lesson on how to lead like Jesus. Now Ashley is great at communicating what she has written down, but isn’t strong when she teaches off of memory.  The first time she led her workshop, she abandoned what she had written and taught outside her “sweet spot”, where she fell flat. Because of that, we told her to read off of what she had written.  99% of the time, that is the worst advice you can give to a speaker, but with her, it was perfect.  She started her workshop by explaining that God has gifted her with writing and she began to read off her message with the passion in which she wrote it.  The results were powerful and impactful, with several students walking out talking about it.

Once Ashley made use of the gifts that the Lord had given her, she was able to lead like never before. That is what I want to see all students doing, making use of their gifts! If you are wondering how to help the students in your ministry do this, here are a couple resources you can check out:

  • Student Leaders Start Here by Doug Franklin: What I love is that this book is a workbook.  It teaches students leadership principles while allowing them to take quizzes to find out more about their spiritual gifts and leadership style.  We are currently taking our students through it.
  • Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath: It is a secular book, but it is incredible. When you buy the book, you are also buying an online strengths quiz.  The book walks you through the pros and cons of your strengths.
  • Congratulations… You’re Gifted! By Doug Fields: This book takes you through the S.H.A.P.E acrostic (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences).  We use the S.H.A.P.E. model even in our adult ministry at Saddleback Church.

What are you doing to help your students find their gifts?


Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker

Here is my message from a few weeks ago for Saddleback HSM. This is one of four Saddleback Church high school ministry services. This series was called Hollywood Jesus and we would take some of our favorite movies and pull Biblical truths out of them. I did the Lion King and talked about how we live out the song “I Just Cant Wait To Be King” and how we build our own selfish kingdoms rather than living in God’s.


Our summer camp this year was one of the best times I have ever had at any camp. It was my first camp with HSM at Saddleback and we partnered up with CIY (Christ in Youth, check them out HERE). We combined forces to put on this amazing week for both students and leaders and it was amazing to hear the stories of life change.

Here is the high light video from the week.

I would consider myself a bridge builder. I absolutely love connecting with other people and forming brand new relationships from people I just met. Especially when it comes to other people in ministry. I love to talk and learn from other people because I feel like it can watch and learn from other pastor’s and ministries. I understand that this is some people’s personalities and it is not some people’s natural instincts to go out and talk to people they do not know and start a relationship with a complete stranger. But this is something we all need to learn to do because it is vital to ministry.

To many of us are so stand-offish towards other ministries. They are them, we are us and that is where it is going to stay. But how effective is that really? We may be doing great ministry in our area, but someone else could be doing it “better” and together you would be unstoppable. Imagine the damage to the enemy if pastors from different churches joined forces every once in a while to put on huge outreach or discipleship nights where we raise up the next generation to show them that the ministry that they are involved in is not the only one in the area doing what they are doing!

It might not be everyone’s niche to be bridge builders of other ministries, but it is something that needs to be learned. I believe Jesus did not intend for a ministry to be an “island”, doing it’s own thing and that’s it. In Mark 6, Jesus sends out the disciples two by two, he sent them out together to do ministry in His name.

Mark 6:6-13

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

This is something that a few great friends and pastors are trying to do with this conference for all the local churches in the area. Trying to get as many high school and young adults together from many ministries for one night under one roof to be encouraged and learn about God to ignite their passion for Jesus.

Really think about it. Think about what could happen if churches combined on some events. We need to partner up just like Jesus partnered up the disciples before sending them out. Join us?

What events have you combined with other churches? 

*Click HERE to check out the IGNITE page.

I’ll be the first one to admit it. I get jealous of other pastors or ministries. I’m human. There are other people who are just better at speaking than me, who are more creative than me, and you see it by how many people follow them, listen to them, show up to their events or services. But pastors cant get jealous of each other right? How does one combat not getting jealous of other ministries? Here are some things that I have to check myself on.

  • Jealousy will make a person lose focus. When you are jealous, you are focusing on someone’s else’s God-movement and not focusing on the one that God has given you. It causes us to loose sight of the responsibility that God has given us when we focus on someone else’s. I know for me, if I were to focus on what my ministry as much as I spent watching someone do theirs, I probably would do better myself. When you get jealous, your path is set by THEM rather than the Lord.
  • Admit it. There is no use of hiding it. Why? Because we know we’re in it for God’s Kingdom, not for ours. Does it matter if the church down the road is bigger, better, more influential if God’s Kingdom is advancing? Let’s just call it like it is, it is sinful and worldly. It is usually out of our own spirit of jealousy and it will cause us to say things and think things that are not kingdom building. Suddenly they’re not our brother/sister any more, they’re ‘competition’.
  • Turn it into inspiration. Obviously you think that person is successful, otherwise you wouldn’t have jealous feelings about what they are doing. Instead of sitting back and letting it happen, turn it into a learning experience. They are obviously doing something right in a way that you want to see your ministry succeed in as well. Seek them out and and take them out. Pick their brain. You never know what you can learn and maybe you will see what ever results you saw from their event at yours. If not, you have a new ministry friend and contact.
  • This might not be what you need. When people are jealous, it causes you to see things that your ministry may not need, but because you see “them” have it, you want it. But the thing is, a ministry might not have a strong fellowship aspect, so they try a dance party and it was a huge success for them. So you see it and you want it. But your group already has a great fellowship aspect but it really needs more people in small groups, but you dont see it because you’re so focused on their needs and not your ministry’s need.

When we are jealous it usually means that we are are not satisfied with what God has given us. Because when you look at what you have, you are blessed. If we are teaching the what the Bible says we need to believe that God will not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and we need to be content with what we have. In order to combat jealousy we need to be more like Jesus and less like ourselves. If we find ourselves to be jealous we need to in prayer and work on changing our hearts to those we are jealous of. Jealousy is such a human thing to be involved in and it has no place is Godly work.

Here is a great funny video we made for our services last week. A few weeks ago I posted a blog on wanting to do video announcements in HSM (click HERE if you want to check that out). But we made one for this last weekend and it was received well. Instead of doing announcements from the stage, like usual, we did it on video and it is way more entertaining. I’m looking forward to making some more for our weekend services.


Look at that sand art! It’s amazing isnt it? All the time and the effort that was put into this awesome piece of art. The detail. It’s beautiful. But the crazy part about this beautiful sand piece is that tomorrow… it is going to washed away with the waves. It is going to crumble and fall because it is only made of sand. There is no solid foundation.

This is what happens when we do not have a solid foundation as well. In our human nature we are selfish. We are self-kingdom building machines. Pretty much everything we do we are building up ourselves. We care more about our popularity than we do making Gods name the most popular name. We care more about the stuff we have and the clothes we wear than making sure everyone in our community has clothes to wear. We care more about what others think of us rather than what God thinks of us. These are all self-kingdom building attributes. Building our own kingdom is building up our own selfishness. Pleasing people will ALWAYS fail just as sand castles will ALWAYS crumble. When we focus on pleasing people, we build our own kingdom. Building our own kingdom is living in a way that God has not intended for us to live.

Our biggest form of worship is self-surrender. Building our own kingdoms will fail. Always. Submitting under God’s because His plan for your life and will for your lofe is far better than you can ever imagine.


Why don’t we stop trying to please others? Why don’t we stop worrying about what others think? Why don’t we put aside our selfishness and stop cutting others down so we can show how important we are to everyone else?

Daniel 4:3b, “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.”

God instead wants us to join His kingdom. Because his kingdom will never be going away. It will never crumble. It will fail us, leave us, or forsake us. It is going to outlast everything and living by it through His Word (the Bible) we are invited to come into it and join His kingdom instead of building our own.

We have to stop building our own kingdoms because like all of the great earthly empires we learn about in history (Romans, Persian, Babylonian, etc) they only last as long as their king. Same with us. What we build on our own only lasts as long as we do. Submitting to God’s kingdom because we know he will do way more with our lives than we can is the ultimate form of worship.

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I think when it comes to this topic, I think in an ideal world of perfect ministry we would have a huge budget AND have as many of the best volunteers to have running anything you want who are so passionate about youth ministry as you are. I think it is safe to say, that never is the case. I have had the opportunity to have had worked in both situations: a ministry where we have had more volunteers than we knew what to do with and in a position where the budget is generous. Both are amazing, both are valuable, both would be ideal for having in ministry.

Why budget?

Because you can get any resource you need. You can pull off any event that you can think of and do it well. You can put in anything that will help students experience Jesus through these elements you buy and use. Where I work, I look at everything we put into it is to direct the student to a closer relationship with Jesus. Whether it was through an event we put on, a video we make, a funny and entertaining game, or a sermon illustration, we will program it into our service to help enhance the atmosphere for the student to experience Jesus in a way they ever thought of before. I cannot tell you what a fun aspect of ministry to think of doing something and then having the budget to pull it off.

Why Volunteers?

Let’s be honest, they run the show! There is nothing like a solid volunteer who is sold out for the ministry. Volunteers are the ones who are in the real trenches. They are there at your services, without being paid but just for the love of loving on students. They are out hanging and talking with students, running sound, lights, leading small groups, doing anything that you cant. They are un-replaceable.

What would I choose?

One of the cool parts about my job is that I get to meet, hang out, and talk with a ton of visiting pastors. One of the most asked questions I have gotten when it comes to running the services is, “If you were to strip everything you have down, what would be the top things to running a successful service?”

After having a gracious budget and after having so many gracious volunteers, my answer is always: quality volunteer leaders.

Great leaders make great programs. Real, fruitful, authentic, intentional ministry comes from the relationships in which forms between you and your volunteers and the volunteers and the students. You build a solid, quality team of leaders you will have a solid, and quality atmosphere around your service that no amount of budget will ever be able to buy. I work with an amazing team of sold out volunteers but we are constantly wanting more because we realize the value they bring to the table when it comes to the relationships they are building with our students.

“Man, Im definitely coming back to this church because of how much money they can spend on events!” said no student ever. 99% of the time, students really come back because of the relationship that is formed with a volunteer leader at the event.

Budgets have a limit, volunteers are priceless.