Q & A with High School Students

A couple weeks ago we asked our students to write down any questions they have about Christianity, faith, spirituality, and that sort of thing. I’m going to answer a handful of them from the stage over the next few weeks, and then I’ll answer the others on video and post them on our ministry blog. Here are a handful of good ones I am looking forward to answering. (Side note: I will do my best to answer them. I don’t want to come across like I’m some answer machine when it comes to all things spiritual).

  • What will heaven be like, specifically?
  • How does predestination work?
  • What makes this religion (Christianity) different from others?
  • Where do religion and evolution meet?
  • Are the stories in the bible supposed to be taken figuratively or literally?
  • Are only Christians going to heaven?
  • What does God say about dating?
  • Can God help me get better at something?
  • Does God believe in love at first sight, or is it a myth?
  • How do I know if God is mad at me?
  • Is it OK to be mad at God?
  • Did Jesus feed 5,000 people or 4,000 people? The gospel accounts don’t say the same thing.

How Many You Got?

It’s the question that 98% of youth pastors hate to get asked:

“How many kids you got coming?”

Why? Because most of us don’t have huge youth groups.

My guess is that most groups have about 15 students coming each week, and that’s probably a combined crowd of Junior High and High School students.

My attendance was in a constant state of flux for years. I became the Golden Boy one year when I hosted an event with over a thousand teenagers in attendance. My title didn’t last long.

We had about 200 kids coming for a while in my Junior High Ministry. Then I transitioned to High School where we’d peak around 160 but then valley in the 60’s at times.

Nothing had changed but the attendance. I was doing the same thing year in and year out. I was working hard. I was committed. I was even putting together “evangelistic” events and teaching through topics that we intended to draw crowds. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Today I’m the same guy, doing the same thing (sort of), teaching through the same bible… but this year our attendance is way up.

I can’t take the credit because I’m doing the exact same thing I was doing when I got fired for my low attendance just 2 years ago!

Jesus would probably get fired by most churches if he was the youth pastor. He’d spend way too much time with kids and not enough time planning huge events. He’d be horrible using technology. I’m guessing he wouldn’t shop at Buckle. And come on Jesus… 12 students doesn’t really cut it if you’re church is MEGA.

Attendance isn’t everything, faithfulness is.

Hey youth pastors will small youth groups: you’re in pretty good company!

I worked my heart out for years and had 60 kids coming. I’m doing the same thing now and the numbers are up.

I think God is involved. God may have wanted me to have a smaller group for some reason. He might choose to cut my current group in half next year. He’s got the right to do whatever he wants. Or he may double it. Who knows!?

If your success as a youth pastor is based on your attendance, I’d like to introduce you to my friends at Church Staffing. Quit now, and go find a church that wouldn’t fire Jesus. Feel free to send me your resume’.

Don’t give up or give in.

Random Acts of Kindness

We had about 50 students and 15 leaders show up for our “Random Acts of Kindness” project on Saturday.

We took a special offering for the event for two weeks, then divvied up the money on the day of the event. We got them all into groups of 10, gave each group $100 three hours to go and do some covert serving in the neighborhood. Everyone seemed to LOVE it! Some of the random acts cost money, others didn’t cost a penny! Here’s a few of them:

They bought…

a necklace and ring for a woman.

movie tickets for a couple.

a Build-A-Bear for a child.

cleaning supplies to wash windows

Dairy Queen

a whole bunch of people Starbucks

a whole bunch of things at Walmart and Goodwill for random shoppers

toys for kids

dropped off flowers at the emergency room and toys for kids in the waiting room

delivered cookies to a mechanic shop, which led one of them to say, “Aww that just made a fat guy happy!”

delivered more cookies to a fire station

gave $6 to the Chik-fil-A cow standing on the side of the road waving at cars

handed out balloons to small children at the mall

There were a whole lot more… The students are anxious to get out and do it again. My hope is that they won’t wait for me to plan it.

Girl Power

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: The girls in my High School Ministry are leading the way.

We have some AMAZING guys who are a part of our ministry. But…

More girls serve in Children’s Ministry, 5/6th, Junior High Ministry and other various ministries in the church than guys do.

More girls are plugged into small groups than guys.

More girls show up to events, trips, and camps. Example: As of now we have 16 students signed up for a mission trip later this year. 13 girls.

More girls have found creative ways to own their faith than guys have. I can’t measure this one mathematically, but I’m pretty observant.

The list goes on and on.

My guys are doing great things… but if this was a spiritual Battle of the Sexes, the fellas would be losing!

For those pastors and churches who limit the role of women in ministry, and treat them as second-hand citizens in the Kingdom of God: come hang out in the Mission High School Ministry some time. You’ll be eating your words.


{the foxy buff woman in the picture is my lovely wife}

Communication Avenues

We use all sorts of communication avenues in my high school ministry.

Text Messaging is our primary means of communicating with students. We text students at least once a week with reminders about events we’ve announced. We use a company called “Boom Text“.

Facebook is our second most used avenue. We have a “fan page”, which isn’t ideal. It doesn’t allow us to send messages to our students and parents that are fans, just “updates”, which they don’t see unless they click their Inbox and look at the updates. I am friends with all of our students on my personal account, and I have them in groups of 20 so that I can send them messages. So I set them up like “Mission Students 1”, “Mission Students 2”, etc… Then I just copy/paste the same message into group messages. I’d like to just set up a page for the ministry that behaves like a normal profile, but Facebook doesn’t allow it. We utilize a few tabs on the page too (Events, Videos, etc…). We also tag every student in our photos, which draws them to the page.

We use fliers for everything. How many of them actually make it home? Who knows… but I can’t give up on this one yet. We could probably go paperless, but I’m old fashioned I guess.

We create a quarterly calendar, on paper, which is also saved as a picture and pdf and posted everywhere.

We have a Twitter account, but only a handful of our students are on their, so we primarily use it to update our Faceboook. It also posts to our website.

Email is last and least. I use it as my primary means of communication with my volunteers, but I usually copy every email with a Facebook message to them too.

We also have an “Announcements” time during each gathering on Sundays- they sure do seem like they’re listening, but who knows!


California Trip!

I’m headed back to California this weekend, to the very neighborhood I just lived in for a year. I’m taking 93 of my closest friends to Magic Mountain for the day, and then over to Huntington Beach the next day. The purpose of the trip is twofold: 1. It’s a sweet bonding trip for students that are already a part of my youth group, and 2. It’s a perfect onramp for a student to come hang with us who isn’t already plugged in.

There’s only one problem with this trip: I personally don’t like roller coasters! I have a good reason.

A few years ago I rode Goliath without my lap bar/seatbelt in place! True story, dozens of witnesses. If you watch the video of someone’s Goliath ride at the top, you should know that I was saying, “Well Jesus, I’ll see you in a minute” at the :49 mark, and then I floated up and out of my seat at the 1:02 mark.

As the little seatbelt checker guy was doing his final walk-thru, he came to my seat and noticed that I had shoved the lap bar between my legs (instead of locking it OVER them). He said, “Oh that’s not good” and looked around for someone to help him fix the problem. But then the girl who hits the GO button hit the GO button and we lunged forward. Everyone started panicking/giggling and I sat there confident that someone would hit the STOP button.


That’s gonna have to do!” the little guy says to me as we clickity-click out of the loading area.

Lesson #1: Magic Mountain needs to do a much better job at screening potential employees.

Lesson #2: It should be impossible to shove that stupid bar between your legs, rendering it useless. Sometimes an idiot will actually do it. I’m the idiot.

Lesson #3: My students saw that day that I’m willing to lay my life down for them… sort of.

So here we go, off to a nauseating, life threatening, roller coaster of a weekend.

Because I’m a youth pastor, and that’s what we do.

Because I love these guys 🙂

experience trumps education

I just got a message from a guy who has graduated college and is considering a career in youth ministry. My advice to him was the same advice I received when I was considering the same thing. Experience trumps education. If you have to choose between getting a degree or getting experience, always choose experience. Even if it means you won’t graduate until you’re my age, married, and everyone thinks you’re the professor on the first day of class.

I asked my lead pastor nine years ago if I could be a part-time intern and go to school full time. He said I could do that, but he’d be offering me the same job in 4 years that I was being offered right then. I took the job, went to school part-part-time, and have never regretted it.

I think school is a huge waste of time for many people. Well, atleast seminary is. Barnes and Noble has the same books, at half the cost, and you don’t lose 4 years of life. I still may attend seminary, but only now as I’ve landed the job I’ve always wanted.

I meet a lot of guys who have seminary degrees who have no idea how to lead a ministry. I’m NOT saying that seminary is a bad thing, it’s just not the answer. If you’re in seminary, keep plugging away!

So go drop out, find a job as an intern, and don’t blame me if it doesn’t work out.

Blame Matt Chandler: he feels the same way (sort of).