OC#17 Rundown 17.1

Orange Conference hasn’t even started yet but I am already feeling excited and pumped for the next few days. Today, the YouLead Breakouts gave us just a taste of what’s to come. The first session was called “Understanding Social Justice in the City” from Sean Watkins. Then, I went to see Jon Acuff give some tips and advice in order to “Talk Better Now.” The mxain session was awesome as always with a lot of great speakers bring out the best of the theme For Our Neighbors. Here are some of the BIG ideas from both Sean Watkins and Jon Acuff and the rundown on the Opening Session.

Social Justice in City

Sean came out right and said that, “our calling as parents, our vocation as youth ministry leaders, is incomplete if we do not address social justice issues.”

Going through Nehemiah as a guide to leadership, character and how to do social justice reform in our communities Sean broke down how leaders can engage the communities around them. The issues in our cities, in our communities, that are evident to people around us should break your heart, should make you angry as it breaks Gods own heart and angers Him. We begin to engage the communities around use first by becoming more aware. We must lament and grieve to the injustices in the cities and communities we are a part of. That we should engage the least of these in a way that honors the fact that God is so portrayed as a stranger needing hospitality. Ask yourself questions that raise your own awareness about social justice issues and those around you. Who is missing from your programs? Who has come and not returned? Why? What are the social justice issues in the city? Once we are aware, we know, and knowing is half the battle. We must continue to strive to understand the context of social justice issues through the historical lens of our cities, understand the biblical mandate to engage in these issues and to look for ways to meet a need. From awareness, to action to advocacy. We must advocate for these issues that impact the lives of people we encounter. We cannot afford to simply not be racist but we must be anti-racism by advocating for those impacted by racism in our communities. Bring people along with you in this journey, be honest with where you are in it yourself. Find organizations that are combating these issues and work hand-in-hand with them.

Sean did a great job of clarify issues, giving us a biblical understanding of social justice and equipping us to take the next steps. Check out his, and others, podcast at Voices from the Margins. Sean works for Intervarsity and can be reached at sean.watkins@intervarsity.org or followed on twitter @seanisfearless

Talk Better Now

Most people get excited to hear Jon Acuff speak. I am no different. I walk away with something new to motivate me, a new technique to try at work or that little nudge to push me past my comfort zone. Jon gave a quick and dirty rundown on simple ways he prepares to give speeches and tips for listeners to be more successful.

Jon gave the audience some points on being a better speaker. His first point was to simply know your audience. This helps you to connect with someone through a message. Ask the host questions like what should you avoid in the speech, what is the audience going through, what are they excited about. These questions help formulate a better understanding of the audience, develops empathy with them and allows the audience to connect in a deeper way. His next tip was to play to your strengths. Simply write out your speech, then edit later. They are two different things and shouldn’t be done in unison. Using that template create main islands and bridges that connect those main ideas. Predict where there will be pushback from your audience on ideas and explain them in a way that they acknowledges their pushback but also challenges them. Be authentic in your talk. People, especially teenagers, can smell dishonest a mile aware and can be pretty unforgiving. When speaking, read the room and use tension through changing rhythms to tailor your talk to the audience. Practice until it is almost perfect and then make sure you enjoy the process, or the audience won’t either. A huge idea that Jon talked about was the speaking is a form of serving. That it is his goal to communicate an idea in such a way that it equips the leaders with something they can take way with them. That peoples response should be, “it was like you were reading my diary, you understood what I was going through.”

Jon has so much to give about being an effective communicator. He has a tone of great books out and is always on twitter @JonAcuff.


Opening session saw some awesome speakers light up our world and get ready to start a party. Jon Acuff, Carlos Whittaker, Gerald Fadayomi, Danielle Strickland and Reggie Joiner all brought their voices. Ways to see our neighbors, to help parents, listen to students, see people in a fresh way and how to start a party. We are FOR OUR NEIGHBORS

Click the section headings for Notes on sessions and connect with Orange using the hashtag #OC17



We have officially left 2016 in the dust. It’s 2017.

There are a mixed bag of emotions when a new year starts. Looking at social media it seems many people have had a rough go of things this past year. For others it was filled with joyous occasions and laughter. We lost a lot of good people. A lot more were born this year too. Yet, for all we enter into 2017 with renewed vitality. There are new goals, aspirations, and recommitments to ourselves and loved ones. This past week I have had some great conversations, found some rest, and am looking forward to 2017. Here are somethings that will help me make the best of this amazing year.


The week between Christmas and New Years I take some time to set goals. These goals are range in a variety of topics. I set personal goals often about working out, reading books, writing and personal projects. There are goals about my finances. These goals help me to stay motivated for the year and work towards a target. These goals usually span the entire year so they are long-term. I work hard to make them SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-oriented). I can look at these goals throughout the year and check on progress.


In the upcoming year I make sure to have people close to me to help hold me accountable. They hold me accountable to my goals but also to my faith and my personal struggles. Letting people into my world helps create authentic relationships. It is these relationships that have made 2016 an amazing year and I look forward to 2017. Accountability looks like making phone calls and meeting up with people. It is setting time aside to connect with another person and being honest and transparent with them. It is in these relationships that I look forward to an amazing 2017. 


I love adventures. I drive my wife crazy because whenever we go somewhere I’m usually doing things I shouldn’t. Those areas beyond the “no visitors past this point” signs are usually where you can find me. In 2017 I hope to create some spontaneity and adventure to my life. This energizes me and I get to have fun. Adventure can be trips but it can also just be doing new things. Shake up your life in 2017. 

Loving others

My wife has created a monster. We have created a generosity fund that we use to love people. We both love to bless other people and see huge smiles on their faces. We set aside some of our paychecks in order to give to others. I believe that living a live that builds and encourages relationships with people is the sweet sauce of life. In 2017 I hope we can continue to love people and do some crazy things in faith with our finances. T

What do you look forward to this New Years? How can you make this the best year yet?

Parents are important too



Navigating family dynamics can be difficult. As someone who works with the children of other people this is particularly true. You are in a kids life as a coach, pastor, teacher or mentor and trying to help them navigate life. Parents are also there to help navigate the lives of their kids. I have seen and experienced a few situations where this dynamic was tricky. When in the middle of conversations with either kids or parents there are a few key concepts that help me to navigate the conversations.

They aren’t your kids

This idea is crucial. The kids that you working with are not yours. You are not the primary spiritual leader, the primary influencer, for the kids, their parents are. This is difficult especially when you do not agree with parenting styles or situations. Just remember that your influence diminishes when you are not able to have access to because you’ve over stepped a boundary.

Point the kids back to their parents

There will be times when kids just talk trash on their parents. They will yell about them and get angry with them. There will be times when those same parents talk badly about you for whatever reason. You are able to demonstrate grace and peace when you can point kids to their parents and even support those parents that may have treated you unfairly.

Admit when you’re wrong

Sometimes we mess up. We let a kid get hurt (guilt of this one a few times), we don’t show up when we are supposed to or we give advice that is contradictory to what the parents want. Simply saying sorry and asking for forgiveness is a huge step in dealing with parents.

Dealing with kids also means dealing with those kids parents. Make sure you have open lines of communication and cue the parent up for even greater influence with their kids. Have dinner at their house and get to know the kids family. Go over expectations and follow their rules for their kids. It may be difficult but when all the stake holders in a kids life are united you will find greater success in influencing the lives of kids.a

Orange is Coming



Orange Tour is underway and you have to get your tickets. Every year Orange takes the information, speakers and resources from the Orange Conference and brings them to you. It is a great time to learn, laugh, and create a dialogue around your ministry.

Last year, I had the chance to have Orange Tour come to the church I was the student minister at. The people on the tour are amazing. Even Reggie got into the hustle of the day as we set everything up. Orange leaders make themselves available for attendees to chat with, ask questions and better themselves. Not everyone is able to go to Orange Conference, that is why they bring the fun to you.

Monday is coming and Orange Tour is bringing it. Here you will discover the best ways to connect kids and their families to Jesus throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Monday is coming is a great idea to test your ministry against. How are students and their families acting on their faith throughout the week? How is your ministry helping them to do just that?

Through the speakers, workshops and conversations at Orange Tour you will be challenged. Challenged to re-evaluate your environments, your programs, and even your mission. We all want students and their families to live out their faith. To have an autonomous faith that can change the world. Monday is coming will challenge our current practices and provide practical steps to see success.

Check out Orange Tour this year. It will be a great way to invest in your leaders and your ministry. Create space to have conversations about your ministry with your leaders, students, parents and your lead pastors. Sometimes, for success to happen we change what our success looks like. Monday is Coming will help you connect Jesus to the everyday lives of people and to the moments that mean most to them.

For more information check out http://orangetour.org/. Can’t wait to see you there.

Be ready for Orange Conference 2017! Registration opens up on October 13th





Stories are powerful. They have the ability to transform our hearts and transport our souls to far away places. Stories can breathe life into us as they inspire us to greatness. A good story pulls on our hearts and forces us think beyond ourselves to the world at large. You can tell a lot about a person through the stories they tell about themselves. If you listen closely you hear the values that define their lives and peer into their souls. A person’s story is who they are, it is continuously being written and it can change directions at any moment.

When we influence the lives of others we must be aware of their stories, and our own. We must look for ways to connect our stories to one another and to the grander narrative of God’s story. Let us listen intently to the stories we hear, have courage to share our own and learn to look for the greatest story of them all in the midst of it all.

We must become the greatest of listeners. I have been working a lot on being an empathetic listener. For a long time I was just listening for my turn to talk. While people would talk I would barely be listening because I was forming my own replay or wait for a pause for me to jump in. I have tried to be better. Listening just to hear the other person. To reply back with words that affirm what they are saying and show that I care about them. I listen to the stories people tell and I ask questions. How do these stories impact them? What emotions are they feeling as they tell the story? What can I do to help? I sit with them, sometimes just being silent for a long time, just so they can share. Look to understand them, their hurts and struggles, their excitements and joys and share in their experience. In understanding the stories of people we can begin to understand who they truly are.

The ability to tell a story is powerful. To engage the hearts and minds of people is a rare gift. We can influence the world around us with a simply story. You know who the great storytellers are. They are usually the one at a party surrounded by people listening intently or making others laugh in a classroom. When we can learn to share our stories transformation happens. We can relate to other people better. We, and they, don’t feel so alone. You can often hear a “me too!” during a good story. We need to practice sharing our stories. Take courage that God has given us our own stories for a purpose. That He has given us the hurts and experiences of our past so that we can learn from them and help others learn from them. The stories we share transcend our own personal experiences and allow us to see a deeper meaning in them.

When listening to the stories of other people and sharing our own we need to be able to find the link to the grander narrative that God is writing. I love that God has given us all our own stories. That He reveals Himself to us in such beautiful and unique ways; yet He reveals Himself to all through His Son. God is the master storyteller. Just read the Bible. What a grand story, what grand truth. In the midst of our own stories we need to look for the connection to His story. There is always something. Connections of grace, redemption, or forgiveness; connections of adventure, romance and faith. When we see the intersection of God’s story and our own He becomes more personal and real to us. If we want to know God in a deeper way, look for how your story mirrors His deeper narrative in the world.

When we engage students we need to listen to their stories. They reveal where they are at right now. Love them in that moment; empathize with them. Find the connection to a story of your own. Break down the walls that can often divide us and find a way to simply say, I know how you feel. Empathize with students and reveal a piece of your story to them. They will be able to latch on and build a bond through these shared experiences. These stories point us to Jesus, find that point and run towards Him.



Multi-site students


Over the past decade the impact of multi-site churches has continued to expand. Churches have various models and organizational charts to make these multi-site churches work. Student ministry can be a difficult ministry to multiple across campuses. There are different models and roles within a student ministry at different churches that describe themselves as multi-site. Whatever the model, or how the ministry is organized, student ministry across campuses have a few required elements in order to be successful. They must carry with them a united vision, their DNA should be the same, their should regularly held meetings to start informed and help one another out, responsibilities should be divided together and there should be a mentality of one church in multiple locations.

There must unity, throughout the campuses, in the vision of the student ministry. Like a tree that may have different branches yet shares the same roots.  The values that drive the ministry, the model that is being used and yearly goals should be all tied together across campuses. When the positions, whether paid or voluntary, at multiple campuses are not united, conflict always will arise. There will be confusion on what to do and how to do it. Meeting regularly helps to create this unity. You build relationships with other people on staff but also can work together to build the ministry. You get to trouble shoot with one another about issues that are arising.

A big thing is to make sure to delegate responsibilities. Have the student representatives of each campus do something each week. Whether it is building curriculum, planning outreach events or summer trips. Divide up the tasks by grade level or by personal strengths. It isn’t fair for one person to do all the work and the others just to sit back and reap rewards from another persons planning and hard work. This can be tricky with people who are volunteers or part-time student positions. It may take some conversations that clarify expectations and responsbilities too. However, when all people are able to to see their work at hand, there is more ownership over the ministry and therefore more success.

The student ministry must think “one church, multiple locations.” This may be the easiest to say and the hardest to implement. One church in multiple locations includes the idea of a united vision and the delegation of work. It is no less, and yet much more than that. Pray together for one anothers campuses and the success stories there. Be open handed with leaders and students that may be easier and a better fit at another campus. Create events that are inclusive to everyone and find a way to make all students feel as one community, not separate ones. Let one another speak at events, lead games or worship. Work together to build up a generation of students.

Multi-site churches can be tricky to navigate in student ministry. No matter the model you are using it is helpful to be united, share responsibilities and think as a team. Those things allow for success across the board.

Holiday Cheer



Christmas is upon us. Just a few more days and we will be knee deep in wrapping paper and covered in bows. Laying on the couch overstuffed with cookies and others carbohydrates. Then like that, Christmas is gone. Everyone goes back home, back to college; we tear down the tree, the lights and the nativity set you got fifteen years ago. There are things though that we need to continue to think of throughout the year, not just on Christmas. We need to think about being kinder, more generous, and reflect more on Jesus.

This time of year is always awesome because it just seems people are kinder. They smile more and are just genuinely more cheerful. Expect maybe Black Friday shopping, but we won’t get into that now. We need to extend that kindness throughout the year. We quickly forget the “spirit of the holidays” as soon as New Years is over. What can you do to be a kinder person this year? Maybe it is just saying you will compliment people more often, or swear less at bad drivers. Treating people well should be a priority throughout the year, not just on Christmas.

People give, a lot, this season. Maybe they save up all year just to give, or they have a “Christmas Carol” moment and wish to turn from their Scrooge-like ways. Either way, we are more generous during the Christmas season. What does it look like to be more open-handed throughout the year. Giving more of our time to others more regularly. Volunteer somewhere on a regular basis and become a staple of that organization that you’re passionate about. Give more of our talents away, using what you’re talented in to help a cause, to help a friend, and to further what God is doing in your church. There is always a need and you can fill that. We can be more generous with our money throughout the year. Instead of giving 10%, what if you gave 12%? You can become a better tipper at restaurants or buy that extra box of girl scout cookies and give them away. This upcoming year, lets learn from this Christmas and be more generous with our time, talents and things.

It is natural for us to think more about Jesus on His birthday. Yet, we get busy and distracted as Jesus slowly takes a back seat to life. Let 2016 be different. Take one month to be committed to one spiritual discipline, evaluate and keep it going the rest of the year. Carve out time to pray, read more, sing or play worship. Commit to that journal that you’ve written in twice and swear you’ll get back to but keep pushing it off. Keep Jesus the priority throughout the year. Allow Jesus to be the motivation for why you’re more generous and why you are kinder to others. Make it a priority to grow closer to Jesus in the new year.

We can bring the spirit of Christmas with us the rest of the year. Being kinder, being more generous, and loving Jesus in a deeper way is possible all year round. Lets extend the holiday cheer throughout the New Year.



stars hands



Recently, I opened up one of our home groups to high school students to just ask questions. To help make it a safe place I passed out paper and pencils and had them think and write at least one question each. We spent the rest of group answering them together. I simply facilitated the conversation, listened to students thoughts, let them wrestle together in the messiness and then would chime in some final thoughts. At the end of the night I thought this was such a great night. They wrote amazing questions and I really saw, in a more intimate way, what exactly my students are wrestling with. I hope to write a few blogs on some of their questions and hope then can help you in your own conversations with your students.


Can you believe in both science and God? Do you have to pick one?

The short answer: Yes!

Science and God can exist together. God created this idea of science. I love that as we discover more in the fields of science, from medicine to geology to astronomy we can see the creativity, the power and the evidence of God. I have had many friends in the sciences. Many Christian and some not Christian. What is amazing about them all is the wonder that they see through science. From stars and galaxies, discovery of new species and the study of the Earth the creativity of God is constantly being rediscovered. Scientists still struggle with coming up with an answer to a lot of questions we have in faith. I believe it takes more faith to believe in some scientific theories than to believe that God was the one behind it all. These questions are where science, God, and faith unite.

Many people say that science and God are opposed to one another. I believe that science produces evidence of God, is created by God for us to see Him, and helps develop faith in the things not seen. Churches should not limit talking about science. They should use the sciences to demonstrate the power of God. When churches stay silent about the sciences it speaks volumes of our ignorance and misunderstanding on how to see God through them.

When talking with students about science ask them questions about how they are able to see God in it. Talk to them about nature, about the expanse and creativity of God. Share with them the experience of not having all the answers but being able to trust in God. Use a common interest in science with students to build a positive relationship with them. Let us be leaders that can use science to demonstrate the power of God.


A Christmas Connection



The Christmas season is officially upon us. I love seeing all the Christmas decorations and the cookies that are everywhere. People saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and everyone just seems more joyful. This is also a rough time for student ministry. Families are out of town, students have Christmas plays to attend, they have other commitments and it is common to not see a few students for this entire month. Yet, we can still discover new ways to connect with our students over this hectic time of the year. It is a great time to be creative and think outside the box to grow your students in their faith and develop relationally in your ministry.


Press into your social media plan to stay connected with students. Show them a few pictures of what you’re doing this season. Post some devotionals along with some questions to help them process something in the craziness of the month. I’ve had many students say that these are the only time they are able to read some Scripture and connect with God. Do a few social media games to get students to post about their favorite cookies or Christmas traditions with their families. Create a video devotional for your students. Especially during the week leading up to Christmas and the week after. Something short that they can watch on Christmas morning or stretch their thought process past just the receiving of gifts. Shoot them a text message asking how their day is or ask them what they’ve been up to for Christmas. When you can’t be present with students, connecting with social media is clutch.


The Christmas season gives us a unique opportunity to have contact with students. Invite them into some of your Christmas traditions or start some new one withs students. Bake Christmas cookies, go Christmas Caroling, or just shopping for presents together. Recruit a couple students to help you decorate your house. Have a White Elephant Christmas party or Secret Santa amongst your students. Chances are you will watch ‘A Christmas Story’ or ‘Elf’ fifteen times over the next few weeks so have a few students over to watch with you. Go attend a students play, recital or concert and bring some other students with you. Think about what you would normally do and invite a student into that.


Serving with students is a great time to connect with them. Your church is probably doing extra events this upcoming month. Challenge your students to show up with you and volunteer along side you. Find an outreach opportunity in your community. Better yet, join your students in an outreach opportunity that they are passionate about.

In the busyness of this upcoming month we can still connect with students. We may have to think outside the box but students matter. They matter enough to go the extra mile this Christmas to connect with them.

Finding the Next Leader



In a meeting recently I had a prayer request that God would bring us more student leaders. It was met with the comment that in our church “we all need more volunteers.” All the more to be praying for it, I thought to myself. This is one of the areas I have had to most difficulty in being a student pastor. Word on the street is I’m not alone. Love to hear some of your thoughts on how you are building a culture that recruits leaders well and equips them to engage the students. Whatever your strategy, I’ve learned so far that in recruiting leaders it needs to personal, intentional and you need to be stubborn in the ask.

Being personal means meeting people. Go around and introduce yourself to people in church, smile and shake hands. Know their names and learn their stories. Invite potential leaders out to lunch or coffee to learn more about them and share the vision of your student ministry. Ask your current volunteers to be the same way, personable. It is a lot easier to invite people to serve when it is a place that they themselves can connect with and have fun.

There needs to be intentionality in “the ask” and have a strategy behind the process. Develop some key criteria and a vision for what a leader would look like and what they would do within the ministry. Write your vision for them and the strategy behind it. Have some key phrases that you and your volunteers use to talk about your ministry and create unison. Help make this process as easy as possible on them and on you. Look for key areas of people that can contribute to your vision and ministry. Ask some young adults, parents or college students and talk to them about how volunteering within your student ministry is a great place for them to influence the lives of students.

I think the most important thing I have learned in recruiting volunteers is learning to be stubborn. Be stubborn about the people you are asking to become leaders. Don’t let anyone just help, there may be things that you see that will not make it a great fit. Be stubborn in opening the door and be confident in saying no if there is something that says this person is not a great fit. Be stubborn in giving these people a vision about making the lives of students important to them. Don’t be afraid to challenge them to more, it may call them to stretch in their faith as well. Don’t settle for someone that is not a right fit just because you are in a crunch. Being stubborn about who you help lead and the vision for your ministry is crucial in recruiting the right leaders.

Recruiting leaders is inviting them to help influences the lives of students and change the future. This is not a position for everyone. While asking for help be sure you are personable in sharing the vision of your ministry, intentional in how that is down and be stubborn in who you ask.