It was my turn to lead our all staff chapel time at Hopevale Church this past Wednesday, so I had to figure out what I thought God wanted me to share with our team.  I was reading Bill Hybels’ book AXIOM in preparation for leading my Next Gen team Tuesday and came across a chapter called We Need All of Us.  For some reason that chapter stuck out… not the content of the actual chapter (it was good… don’t get me wrong) but the concept…  the idea that ALL of us on staff play a crucial role.    So here is what I shared.  If you are on a staff at a church (no matter in what capacity) my hope is that this will be as encouraging to you as it was to me as I put it together (I probably got as much or more out of this putting it together than those I shared it with did :-) )


No matter what role you find yourself in at the church you work at… whether you are the senior/lead pastor, youth/student pastor, administrative assistant, a receptionist, or a part time building cleaner… you have a significant and important role in accomplishing the mission of the local church where you serve.

Hopevale Church’s mission is to become “A community of grace and truth inviting people to know and follow Jesus.”  So I reminded our staff that everyone in that room… and even those who were not but served in some capacity… they all play a vital, crucial, important role in accomplishing that mission.

In 1 Cor. 12 we find these words (paraphrased): “you are the body of Christ… and each one of you is a part of it… no part can say “I don’t need you.”

It also says that “God has arranged the parts… as HE wants them to be.”

Three months into my first ministry I experienced my first disappointment in ministry… and I almost threw in the towel.  I was a middle school pastor at a small Baptist church in Indiana, and was beaming with potential and excitement.  I had graduated from college earlier that year and couldn’t believe that I was 1) working at a church (my dream job) and 2) that I was pulling down a paycheck for it. (you know… making the big bucks ;-) #highroller #thatministrylife #sarcasm) I thought ministry was always going to be awesome, that people would always obey the Bible, and that teenagers would think that I was cool because I was their youth pastor (boy… do you learn the truth the hard way).  I planned an experiential prayer night for my group and thought that it was going to be well received and that they would love it.  THEY HATED IT!  I cried.  I yelled (in my apartment to myself).  I almost quit.  I was full of self doubt and self loathing… and I believed that maybe I was not supposed to do this or supposed to be a pastor.  That is why I find these words in 1 Cor. 12 so encouraging.  Every leader in the church goes through these thoughts: “What if people find out I am a fraud?”  “What if I really don’t know what I am doing?”  “What if I make mistakes?”  We all have insecurities as leaders.  And if there is someone who reads this and says “I’ve never thought that, ever!”  Then they are completely full of themselves and arrogant (and we all know what happens to the prideful… TIMBERRRRR!!!!!)  We all go through these seasons.  Isn’t it awesome to know that it isn’t US that has placed us where we are… but it is GOD that has put us exactly where HE wants us to be?



It is easy, in ministry, to elevate our WORK for God over our WORSHIP of God.

No story illustrates this reality as well as our two friends MARY and MARTHA… and what took place in their home when Jesus showed up.  MARTHA got to WORK… MARY got to WORSHIP.

Martha prioritized her WORK over her WORSHIP… and Jesus told her flat out “You are worried about many things (WORK… MINISTRY)… but only ONE THING is necessary in this moment (WORSHIP).  Mary has chosen that and it will not be taken from her.”

Jesus wanted to help Martha reprioritize her life.  He was not saying that her work wasn’t important.  He was showing her that WORK shouldn’t be priority over WORSHIP.

A few years back I got this all wrong.  I was a ministry-a-holic (still can be from time to time).  Everything in my life was ministry… to the detriment of everything else… even my relationship with Christ.  I wasn’t praying (unless it was related to ministry), I wasn’t reading my Bible or any type of devotional material (unless it was related to ministry)… my parenting suffered… my being a husband suffered… and wouldn’t you know it… my ministry suffered. (I had no idea that was happening, btw…)  Someone pointed this out in my life… and it wasn’t pretty at the time, but eventually I came to the realization that I was on the edge of burning out and it was mostly because I had prioritized WORK over WORSHIP.

I am learning (haven’t learned fully… because I still run back to this) that WHO I am in CHRIST is more important than what i DO for Christ.  MY PRIORITY NEEDS TO BE WORSHIP.


Your church not only needs all of you (everyone that works together)… but needs ALL of YOU (INDIVIDUALLY… especially you as a worshipper.)

The worst thing you could offer the church is your WORK without your WORSHIP.



It’s that simple.

Reflection = Humility (or humiliation… whichever you prefer :-) )

So for the past two days I’ve decided to read through some of my blog posts from when I first started writing this thing. I caught myself thinking two things 1) I was completely ridiculous & 2) I thought I was the STUFF in youth ministry.  Do you know what I’ve learned in the 7 years that I have lived since I started this blog?  (I was 28, BTW…)  I have learned that NOBODY cares about what you write if it isn’t helpful or useful in some way & that even though I know WAY MORE about youth ministry now than I did back then, I am coming to realize how very little I actually know.   I think that perspective begins to come with age… but I remember busting out of college thinking I knew better than every other youth pastor out there how to do this thing because I had read some books, sat in some classes, and had a few small successes under my belt.  Boy was I wrong!!!  Man… what I wouldn’t give to go back to 23-year-old Sam and say, “You think you get it… you think you know… you haven’t even scratched the surface!  Wait until your kids get to be around that age…and watch all your graphs and strategies and “this is how it theoretically should work” statements just fly out the window.”  I am learning 2 major lessons through all of this that I think are important for everyone in my type of position to learn:


Nobody likes a know it all… Especially a 20-something one who has no kids (or babies) who tries to pose to parents of teenagers like they know how to parent their kids better.  It’s annoying…  and I was that… and I apologize!  My kids have taught me more about youth ministry than my classes ever could.  I now view parents of my students as partners… not projects.  I look for ways that they can teach me about youth ministry… and not what I can teach them about parenting.

2) When I do speak… BE FULL OF GRACE & TRUTH

The words that I speak into others (students, parents, youth ministry peers) need to be edifying, building, and full of grace.  There is no place for ARROGANCE, HARSH LANGUAGE, or KNOW IT ALL ATTITUDES.  I am constantly reminding myself lately that “to win the argument but to lose the person is to LOSE.”  Paul said it this way, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

HUMILITY & GRACE go a long way!


forward slide loop pic.001


Starting April 12 in Ignite (high school ministry at Hopevale Church) we are looking into the future of where God is leading us in the area of serving.  FORWARD is a strategic serving endeavor where we will INTENTIONALLY identify some SMALL STEPS FORWARD and some BIG STEPS FORWARD that our students can take to begin a life of CONTRIBUTING instead of just CONSUMING… of SERVING instead of just SITTING.  The idea of FORWARD was birthed out of a study that I was doing in the book of Philippians.  In chapter 3, Paul starts naming off some of his past achievements… things that would bring his resume to the top of the pile in any company or church… but then he says this:

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.”  Paul’s pursuit of Jesus Christ… and where Jesus was leading him was of MORE VALUE to him than what he had done in the past and where he had been.  Later on he says these words, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.  But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking FORWARD to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Paul is convinced that the best days of following Jesus are still ahead of him… are still FORWARD.  The goal that we, as followers of Jesus, strive towards is becoming like the one we follow.  And there is this quote that I can’t shake: We are never more like Christ than when we are serving.  Jesus said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.”   I am convinced that the best days for our high school ministry are ahead of us.  We’ve done some pretty great things in the name of Jesus… but I believe that Jesus is calling us to GREATER things in the future.  He is calling us FORWARD.

We’re Back!!!

Okay… It’s been a while since I wrote anything on any format.  Ministry gets pretty busy over the winter months and my energy for writing gets put into other endeavors.  But now it is time to do a re-launch of sorts.  I’m not promising what everyone else who writes these posts promises (more and frequent content) because I can’t make that promise.  What I can say is that I am beginning to write again and want to share some things that I am learning and growing in.

There are some big changes coming for me in my ministry world this summer… and I am very excited about them.  Starting in July I will be overseeing not only Student Ministries at Hopevale Church, but I will also be overseeing our Children’s Ministries and the staff that lead those areas.  I won’t be a traditional “Family Pastor” because my main focus will still be working in Student Ministry with our High School students… But I will be coaching our children’s ministry team with vision and strategic leadership to set them up to win in their ministries.  I believe my unofficial/official title will be Next Generation Ministries Pastor.  So what does that mean for the content on this blog? Probably nothing… because the focus of this blog has always been life, family, youth ministry, & leadership.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for this next stage in my ministry life… but I’m going to have to until July 1 (that’s when this officially starts). :-)  So stay tuned… more content is coming soon.

Soul Care

So after all the drama that has gone down with Mark Driscoll lately (accusations, stepping aside for a while, and ultimately stepping down from his church) I started thinking about church leadership and soul care.  Mostly because pastors spend so much time pouring into the lives and souls of other people… but don’t often spend time allowing God to refresh their soul.  I am kicking off a series at Hopevale Church this sunday called “Rhythm” that is all about this concept.  More + Faster does not = HEALTHY.  But that often is our solution… especially as leaders.  We often skip the one thing that helps us grow to try and figure out the 30 things that help others grow… ultimately cutting off the root of any growth for anyone.  But the longer I have been in ministry… the more this reality sinks in: HEALTHY THINGS GROW… and HEALTH STARTS WITH ME. If I am not spiritually healthy, I can’t lead others to be spiritually healthy.  Oh, I can say all the right things, but I can’t authentically lead someone there.  So I am committing myself to some healthy leadership practices of the soul:

1. Spend Quality Time with God Every Day

2. Make Time in My Schedule for Significant Relationships

3. Sit & Serve (make sure that my work for God does not exceed my worship of God)

4. Say NO to More NOISE and More CLUTTER.

5. Develop a Rhythm Strategy.

I’ll write more on these 5 practices this week… but the bottom line is this: HEALTHY THINGS GROW… and HEALTH STARTS WITH ME.

Ministry Season Evaluation

So today is the last day of school for students in our area.  It marks another year of youth ministry that has come and gone.  One of the questions I had early on in my student ministry career was “How do I know if I’m doing well or being successful with this ministry as it’s pastor?”  That question led me to develop a year end evaluation that either I or another leader in my ministry could walk through that would help measure it’s/my effectiveness and give me benchmarks and goals for the future.  Learning to measure my ministry has tremendously helped me manage it and lead it better.  “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”    Over the years that evaluation has changed and morphed into what I use today not only for my personal ministry assessment, but for those I oversee and their ministries as well.  I thought, “Why not pass that along to anyone else who might be able to use it to help them grow and get better at what they do?”  So here it is :-)  Click on the link for the PDF.

Year End Evaluation_High School

Developing Systems in Student Ministry: A MUST HAVE

One of the big things that I have learned in my leadership development over the years is that it isn’t good enough to say something and hope it happens… or say something over and over again and hope it happens either.  What I have learned is that the most successful youth ministries, organizations, etc… Say what they value, and then reinforce what they value through SYSTEMS.


organization: “We love leadership development”

random observer: “Oh really?  How many leaders have you developed?”

organization: “Well… we haven’t developed any yet on purpose”

random observer: “So… would it be fair to say then that you love the IDEA of leadership development?” :-)

Ideas without systems are just good ideas… and they don’t usually go anywhere on purpose.  It is usually easy to spot an organization, youth ministry, etc… that struggles with systems.  How?  Just follow the word trail.  How many ideas actually are implemented and effective for the long haul?

When it comes to student ministry, we could probably name off multiple things that need systems in order for them to run effectively… but I want to concentrate on putting systems with what we have identified as organizational values.  I’ll share with you what Hopevale Student Ministries’ 4 main values are and the systems we put into place to make sure that EVERYONE in our ministry knows these are big values for us:

VALUE #1: Relationship Evangelism  

SYSTEM: INVEST, INFORM, INVITE  (we strategically throughout the year have events and nights that we call INVEST nights.  We use this hashtag on our twitter and facebook posts when it makes sense to.  We teach on it almost every year… and it comes up a lot even in talks that aren’t completely about it.  We had cards printed at the beginning of this year where students wrote down names of friends that they were going to pray about going through this process with.  If you are going to call this a value… you have to have a system to back it up.)

VALUE #2: Large group Learning  

SYSTEM: SUNDAY NIGHT PROGRAMMING (this one kind of speaks for itself.  We stole Northpoint Church’s verbage with our programming and systematized how we program.  We want every night to be APPEALING, ENGAGING, & HELPFUL.)

VALUE #3: Small group Discipleship  

SYSTEM: COMMUNITY GROUPS (we identified that students (people) grow best in the context of mentors and peers… so we made our main growth engine reflect that.  We recruit and train great mentors for students and have at least 2 mentors per group (gender and grade specific).  We take the time to train and develop these leaders (although we could always do a better job) and we also have accountability and celebration in place to help them feel that what they are doing matters.  One main thing we are starting next year to get even better at this is developing group leader coaches who can consistently be in the lives of group leaders for care and mentoring.  If we say that we value this and think it is the best engine for discipleship… we need it for our leaders too.)

VALUE #4: Missional Serving  

SYSTEM: CRASH MONTHS, OUTREACH OPPORTUNITIES (we adopted the “crash” mentality. (crash is a group of rhinos)  we decided that if we could get everyone in our ministry to focus all of their energy toward a project… we could do some awesome things.  So we have dedicated a month the past 2 years to putting rocket fuel into this value and giving students BIG opportunities to serve.  Our strategy involves local organizations that they can serve at, country wide serving opportunities, and overseas mission endeavors.  Then we use these months to promo other serving opportunities throughout the year.

That is how we do it… it is A way, not THE way.  The most important thing is that you put SYSTEMS to what you value so that your values don’t get lumped in with just another thing that is said and never accomplished.

So… what are some of the systems you have wrapped around your values?