The Posts With the Most

Every now and then over the weekend I find that I have time to go through and read some past posts from bloggers that I try to keep up with… In the off-chance that that’s what you’re doing right now, I thought I’d make it easy for you… I give a brief “subject” and then the following links take you directly to a few of the blogs that I have written that have gotten the most action of late for both this site and for the Dare 2 Share blog that I contribute to.

An Open Letter to A Departing Youth Pastor… this post has been the most read blog of any post I’ve ever written. It deals with leaving a church (or any job) well. This one was Retweeted and picked up by a few other organizations.

Holiday Red Cups… this is a post I wrote for Dare 2 Share in my “Dear Aaby” series. It is advice on how to turn a conversation into a possible opportunity to share Jesus with those who do not know Him.

What Is Your Mission… Trip?… this post encourages those in youth ministry to use your mission trip for more than just a one-week experience.

3 Areas of Neglect In Your Ministry… I’m excited by the way this post seemed to encourage many veteran youth workers to take a look at where they are spending their time and placing their efforts.

5 Youth Pastor “What Ifs”… This one was a highly read and re-tweeted  post from a few weeks ago. It deals with five questions I wonder about and if only I had done some things differently “back then.”

Any one of these a particular challenge and/or blessing? Any post you’ve read in the last few weeks from another blog you think I should be sure to read?

Happy weekend. Happy reading!



SMS Classic: Help Me! I’m Busy (Part 2)

(This is the second part of a re-post of a SMS blog post)

Last week, in the first part of this SMS post, I tackled the subject of being “busy” from what I would call an analytical view (some place the emphasis on the first part of that word)… If you didn’t read that post, you may want to do that by clicking here.

This week, I want to take on this same subject but for those who are little bit more of the free-thinking bent, perhaps an abstract-random and maybe even a little ADD. The bottom-line, some people reject a disciplined “charts and graphs” scheduled lifestyle.  As I created the “chart” last week I knew that there would be many who would not resonate with the ideas presented.  Well, I hope this week I can help you with some different ideas that will help create space while still getting the things done that need to get done.  Keeping in mind the presenting problem… we’re trying to please all (if not most) of the people all (if not most) of the time.  Ultimately we know our call is to please God, but for some reason there just seems to be a high demand from people and we struggle with the idea of getting everything done that needs to get done.  It shouldn’t be just about keeping people pleased or “at bay,” but about excelling in our strengths and influencing the Kingdom and His children.

As we begin, know that you don’t have to choose between being a charts and graph scheduled pastor or an abstract random leader.  My guess is that most of us are a little bit of both. My hope becomes that either or both of these posts can help you become more efficient in your position.

Because there are many daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly demands it is easy to get buried in the just keeping up mode.  Feeling like you may sink and drown is not a pleasant feeling.  Missed appointments, unfinished tasks and last-minute prep can easily become the norm.  Well, here are a few simple suggestions (some may call the simplified systems) that may help.

  • First 15. I believe I’ve written about this in some other SMS blog post, but it’s a pretty simple principle to adopt.  In the first 15 minutes in the office (whether thats at a home office, coffee shop or your physical church office) set aside the first 15 minutes (or get to work 15 minutes earlier than normal) and set up your day.  This way you’re not so systematic that your every day is scheduled in advance, but your every day is in fact scheduled that day.  By way of example, lets say on a Tuesday morning I arrived at 8:45am knowing I had staff at 9:00am I would think through my day and the apparent pressures.  Let’s say these were my feelings:  I’m feeling like I’m way behind on my camp talks for this weekend.  I need to have a parent gathering soon, maybe sometime in the next month.  I haven’t started my prep for the games on Wednesday night and I have about six emails sitting in my inbox that probably will require 30-45 minutes.  In the first 15 minutes of my day, rather than doing work on ANY of these things I set up a block schedule (whether written down or just in my mind).  9-11 Staff; 11-1 emails and lunch; 1-3 camp talks and 3-4 games and other youth group prep and 4-5 camp talks again. Tomorrow, the stuff that didn’t get done will probably feel like a little more of a priority and the first 15 will held dictate my next day.
  • iText (or iEmail). When my wife wants to remind me of something she’d like for me to pick up at the grocery store she simply will email me or text it.  That way, I have a written record of the thing I need to buy.  Well, I’ve started to do this to myself.  iText or iEmail is the practice of communicating to myself.  So, as I have the thought “I need to email Bill, Joe and Sam” but don’t have the time to do that right now, I will text/email that to myself.  I then have a written reminder of a task I need to complete. Personally I have found email to be the better choice for me. Even at night, when sort-of mentally debriefing my day or clearing out messages I’ll come across that email and be reminded of those things that I need to do right then or prioritize for tomorrow. Sometimes a second email is sent so that it needs to be read the next morning upon arrival.  This “new school” to-do list gives me a feeling of satisfaction when I can delete the email because the task is completed (feels better than crossing off a list)!
  • Seasonal Scheduling. Go ahead, rebel against your own system!  Some of you need charts and graphs for short seasons.  So, using the concept from last week, set up for yourself a graph, knowing that for this season you’ll feel good about it.  But because you’re a natural rebel or not THAT self-disciplined I’d suggest you stick to the chart for as long as you can and when you see that it isn’t working, mix it up, change your hours, change the days you normally would do a task, etc.  In essence, be in the state of constant change.  However, I do suggest that through all of this, communicate well.  Nothing worse than an Admin, a Pastor or a Spouse thinking you’re doing one thing while you completely changed things up but didn’t tell them!
  • Network Accountability and/or Mentor. If you’re a part of a network or have someone who can hold  you accountable, I’d suggest you set up the communication with a person (in or out of your church) where the accountability partner can pray for you and hold you to the list of things you want to get done that next week.  This person may prove to not only be a pray partner, but someone who mentors you through the priority list for the week (or month).  Be warned, vulnerability might lead to some self-discovery and less of that Pied-Piper, “I can do it on my own” mentality (Praise God!).




Rather than being more verbose, I’d just say that this blog may be meant to whet your appetite on the subject.  I can explore/explain deeper if you’d like to engage any one of these more!

Know you’re not alone!  There are many who want to support you and help, it sometimes just doesn’t feel this way.  Praying for all you out there.  I hope I can help meet some practical needs!


SMS Classic: Help I’m Busy (Part 1)

I’m going through some of my old SMS posts because of two simultaneous requests from some friends about “scheduling.” So, it gave me the idea to re-post some of the blog posts that seem to have ministered to the masses.


A good friend of mine, whom I consider very much “on the ball” as a Youth Pastor recently confessed to me that he’s really struggling with keeping his schedule straight and balanced while still trying to maintain his sanity as he navigates youth ministry, church ministry, family life, personal relationships, etc. etc.

Okay, this wasn’t a just a good friend.  It was four.  I literally have had the same conversation with four of my good youth pastor buddies in the last three weeks.  So, I thought I’d give this Student Ministry Stuff (SMS) blog post a shot at tackling the foundation of the Youth Pastor’s Time Management.

Some people are “charts and graphs” people.  Others reject them.  So I’m going to challenge myself to do a two week SMS blog post again and write to both those who can deal (or should deal) with the attempt at becoming organized with a thought-out plan (methodology). Next week I’ll try to get in the mind of a free-thinker and create a non-system way (philosophy) of taking on the busy schedule.  So, those who already reject me for being “chart-y” give it a shot anyway, and/or come back next week.

Let’s lay the cards out on the table right away–we  (Youth Pastors/Leaders) want to do well, we want to please others, we want others to like us.  But we feel like we’re failing a lot of the people a lot of the time.  It seems, as a Youth Leader (whether paid or not) that ministry never ends and there is always someone else we can be reaching out to, discipling, blessing or keeping off our backside.  Toby’s Mom wonders why you’re not giving Toby individual attention; the board member wonders why he didn’t see your truck at the office “at all” on Thursday?  Mr. Gregory emailed you about the most trivial theological discrepancy “he heard” you taught his daughter last Sunday. Unfortunately this may be your life:

Why didn’t you return my email?… Where are your receipts?… When is camp?How come we didn’t do more songs last night?… Why do we sing so much?Can you fill-in for me this Sunday and preach?… We used to have 40 at youth group, why are there only 32 now?… Toby didn’t know about the mission trip application deadline, can he still turn in his form?… Honey, how many nights are you going to be out this week?… Daddy, you went to Toby’s game, how come you didn’t come to my spelling bee?

Jesus.  Will. You. Please. Return.  NOW?

I am praying for you.  I’ve been there.  I want to help.  This week I’ll present one possible help: become a little more task-oriented by creating a pretty simple system that helps you keep things in place.  The reality, this is not a fix-all, but I hope it creates a little rhythm in your life and will help you see when and where you do and do not have margin in your life. Essentially, I hope it gives you a little more of a helicopter view of your ministry/church life and could possibly give you freedom to say the words that you (I) need to say a little more often: “No” and “Help.”

The following are some suggestions to give yourself a little overview of your ministry life and the landscape of the year, it’s just the first of a two step process for the day (be patient).

  • Create a list of the “majors” in your ministry (sacred cows and regularly scheduled programs): This list should include youth group night, Sunday school times, small group time, all the normal camps or retreats you do, etc. You’ll probably add to this list as you think through the following lists as well…
  • Make a separate list of your typical weekly meetings: This list may include staff meetings, one-on-ones, network meetings, etc.
  • Jot down a third list of the weekly tasks that are obvious to you:You need time to study for messages, time to return calls, plan for programs, set up chairs, powerpoint creation, etc.
  • Write down (4th list) the things you like to avoid that take time (that is, if they haven’t already been listed above): For me this was stuff like data entry, return phone calls (I’m much better with email), reports for committees or elders, financial matters, etc.
  • Create a 5th list of the spiritual and relational stuff you wish you had more time to do: This list, for me, would have included more prayer time, personal normal sabbath, more prayer time, long term study for a teaching series, time of being mentored (not just mentoring others), more prayer time, personal evangelism, more prayer time.

Now that you’re overwhelmed again with all the stuff you can/should/need to to, you’re going to create a chart that helps you to see that some, even most, of the stuff can get done if you’re smart about where you place these items in your chart (as you add them to your chart, scratch them off your lists).

A couple tips:

  1. Be realistic… I have friends who love to study the Word.  In fact, I love to study the Word.  But the reality is, I couldn’t be effective at being a Youth Pastor if I was spending 10-12 hours on each talk.  I typically had 2 or 3 messages each week (not including the semi-regularly scheduled preaching in “Big Church”).  I would have had to neglect other areas of ministry–namely shepherding people– if I were to spend that much time on each talk.  The same could be said for other areas, not just messages.  So, be realistic about how much time you actually need to spend on emails, financial matters and messages.
  2. Understand your season… If you’re creating this chart while in the midst of planning a camp, retreat or mission, you’re probably overwhelmed with how long things take. You may want to wait until after the major event to give yourself a more realistic view. In addition, understand that this chart is just an overview, not a “have to” list.  This is YOUR chart, it can change and it isn’t a legalistic formula (I hope).
  3. Don’t celebrate your busyness… You are going to have to come to the realization that you simply can’t do it all, your above created lists may be so long that an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper isn’t even big enough for your Sunday tasks.  This is when you need counsel. And probably counseling. Seriously, have someone help you pare down your list/chart.  Don’t be the Pied Piper and try to do it all yourself.  Begin to recruit others around you to do some of the stuff you don’t like or aren’t good at.

StudentMinAdminPlanner (larger view)

In Word, Pages or even Excel, create for yourself a simple chart, like the one above, where you plug in those lists that you’ve created.  Take this bad-boy to church, give one to your spouse and begin to operate with it as a bit of a check-list.  In a couple weeks you’ll see that you need to make some changes or perhaps you’ll find that you’re not quite the ANALytical thinker and need more of a “philosophical” approach that I’ll attempt to take a crack at next week.

Last… remember you’re called to minister to students, leaders and parents.  This is a great calling. I am excited that you’ve been called to it and even though the words don’t come often enough, I’ll say them again.  Thank you!