Side Project

Hey guys! I am taking a short break from my multiple weekly blog posts.  I’m doing a side project that I’m super excited about.  It has absolutely nothing to do with youth ministry (gasp!) but is taking up more of my time than anticipated.  Just thought I would give you a heads up! I’ll be back soon! 

A Few Things Every Parent Should Know About Youth Ministry


Youth Ministry is probably the best job ever.  We get to play video games all day, leave the office at 2PM after taking a 2 hour lunch, and we almost never have to buy our own food on the weekends because we can just order pizza with the Church credit card.  We only have to do real work on Sundays – even then, it’s pretty easy!

That’s what a lot of people think youth ministry is.  As awesome as that sounds, it’s not an accurate description of youth ministry.  Believe it or not, youth ministry is more than games, pizza, and glorified babysitting. Here are a few things I wish every parent knew about youth ministry:

1) Youth ministry is a lot of work. We almost always work 5 days a week.  We’re on call 24/7.  There is a ton of work that goes into making an event, small groups, youth group, and mission trips happen. As much as it may seem like we only work on Sundays, that is far from the truth. 

2) Your expectations of your youth worker are probably too high. Most youth workers quit their jobs after a couple of years because they cannot meet the unrealistic expectations of parents and Church staff. Do you want our youth group to triple in one year? So do I!  Is this a realistic goal? Probably not.  Make sure that you’re setting realistic goals in your mind for your Church’s youth ministry and its staff. 

3) We really do plan intentionally.  I know sometimes it seems like we’re doing a Super Bowl party, lock-in, or ski trip just for fun, but we have planned every single event intentionally.  We do parties and lock-ins so our youth can experience genuine Christian fellowship and we often use them as a chance to do service in our community. We do our ski-trips because we get some of our best worship times during these trips.  Everything we do has a Biblical purpose behind it (except maybe our hot-dog eating contest…that’s just for fun)! 

What are some things that you think every parent should know about youth ministry? 

Interview with YL Summit Team


On February 22-23, 2013 there will be a new youth ministry conference in town – it’s called the Youth Leader’s Summit.  I’m stoked about this event! I had the chance to sit down with the team and get some info.

What is the Youth Leader’s Summit?

Youth Leaders Summit (YLS) exists to Encourage, Equip, and Empower those who work with Students. It is a conference for your entire youth ministry team, whether you are paid, unpaid, volunteers, interns, new to ministry, or a ministry veteran, this is the conference for you. Austin Walker had a wild and crazy dream five years ago to have a conference that had the bells and whistles of other conferences with an added focus on connection to other youth workers for encouragement and resources. Youth Leaders Summit was born out of Austin’s desire to impact the world for Jesus. He believes that each of us, as individuals, has the ability to truly disciple about 12 students at a time, following the example of Jesus. YLS was created with the dream in mind to uplift youth leaders in three ways. The first is by encouraging them that what they do for God has incredible value. Next, to equip youth workers with tools and ideas to more effectively disciple students. Finally, it is important to empower them to take those tools and use them to the best of their abilities for God’s glory that the world would be forever changed. The model was taken one step further by desiring to connect youth workers to one another for regular fellowship and providing a place to share programming ideas and resources allowing each to be as effective as possible at discipling students so that millions will be reached.

The connection within and outside the conference itself sounds great – but how will you accomplish that?

Social media will be a huge resource.  We’ll use a ton of avenues of social media to keep connected.  We are also going to try to meet up in person by region.  In addition to those we’re going to use our webinar platform to communicate with Summit attendees.  We’ll keep up with periodic e-mails and see how you’re doing, too.  And if that’s not enough – we’re going to give out all of our contact info – we want to be available year-round to youth workers when they need it.

So….who are you?

We are youth workers, either currently or previously. (All the bios for the speakers are on the website We have a passion for Jesus, a passion for students, and a passion for transforming students’ lives for the glory of God. We believe that there are things that have worked in the programs that we have studied and implemented and want to share that expertise with others.

We also make it a point to have fun while we do all of those things!! We love to laugh with and at each other (usually at each other).

You like to laugh? Do you guys pull a lot of pranks on each other?

We don’t do many elaborate pranks or anything that involves too much work…but we do really like scaring each other   Oh, we also throw dodgeballs at each other when we walk through doors…we like to have fun!

Click Here for a sample of the YL Summit team’s scaring fun! 

Please note that I (Tom) encouraged Austin and the gang to pop out and scare all of the YL Summit attendees frequently – it would make the event fun and terrifying! 

Why should I go to YLS? There are a ton of other good conferences (SYMC, Orange, NYWC, etc) and my budget only allows for one conference a year. 

These are great conferences! However, they are quite expensive, time-consuming, and tend to be impersonal. YLS is going to offer great things, including high quality worship and messages, but we are really focused on connecting youth workers with one another for one common goal – to reach students for Jesus Christ. YLS doesn’t have a publishing company, or a curriculum line attached to it. Rather, we are focused solely on the execution of effective relationships with students and programming for students. We understand that there are financial constraints attached to what we, as youth workers, can do as far as continuing education. It is our desire that no one be turned away from YLS, which is why we have started our pricing so low.

Discounts are also offered in order to make it work financially for as many people as possible. We want to help anyone who works with students on any level to create lasting connections on a higher level of effectiveness together.

I love free stuff. Will there be freebies?

There will be freebies at each of our big group sessions and many of our breakout sessions.

Austin – what’s the funniest face you can make?


That’s an epic face. Okay…back on topic. Okay…this all sound great, but…why Minnesota? Why February?

Well it’s my (Austin) home base.  I’m from here and I can network here with some of my existing resources.  The YL Summit definitely has the capacity to expand with time, but we had to start somewhere, so why not home? We chose February because the spring just gets really busy with planning our summer programs and everything else going on. Any later than February is tough too, because there are so many conflicting spring breaks.  If we waited until fall then we would be competing with a lot of other established conferences.  Plus it’s the new year and we all have shiny new budgets and funding for continuing education.

Awesome stuff, guys.  When is your next FREE webinar? 

January 17th at 8PM CT.  We’ll be discussing the topic, “When Tragedy Strikes”.  With national events like Newtown this is a really important topic to cover.  We’ve personally had a ton of tragedy in our Church this year, too.  We just want to discuss some healthy ways to handle tragedy when it happens. The best part? It’s totally free! Click here to sign up!

Thanks guys! 

Make sure you check out the YL Summit this year! You don’t want to miss it! 

Our Contact Information



Phone: 651-300-4YLS (4957)

Social Media:

Find us on Facebook: YouthLeadersSummit

Follow us on Twitter: @YLSUMMIT

Follow us on Pinterest: YLSUMMIT

Follow us on Instagram: YLSUMMIT

5 Ways to See Your Students More

I love that a lot of us are being encouraged to make students a priority over administration, design, planning, etc. in 2013.  This is awesome! Here are a few things you can do to make sure you see your students more this year:

1) Invite them over for dinner.  This one is great – call the family and invite them over for dinner.  The best part? 9/10 times they will invite you over instead!  Free food and a lot of quality time with students. 

2) Go to as many of their events as possible.  Keep track of sports and extra-curriculars and go see your youth perform!  This one seems like a given, but it’s easy to forget unless it’s a student on the varsity football/basketball team.  Make sure you’re checking out the drama club and chess club, too. 

3) Pull random all-nighters.  Is your wife/husband out of town? Need something to do? Grab a few guys for a random all-nighter! Make sure you get another adult chaperone, a case of monsters, and a 5 lb bag of gummy bears.  Then plug in your X Box and you’re ready to go!  My students LOVE when I do this!

4) Get snapchat.  This is a great app that lets you send silly pictures back and forth with your youth.  Snapchat is notoriously connected with “Sexting”, so be careful that you’re not sending anything stupid (I know it would be funny to send that dude in your small group of picture of you mooning him, but it’s not the best idea).  This is a great way to “see” your students when you can’t hang out with them and it enforces that this app can be used for fun – not just sexting. 

5) Hang out with them at your programs.  This one seems glaringly obvious but is often the most overlooked on the list. Sometimes we’ll be so busy with the program itself that we forget to hang out with our students.  Make sure that you try to connect with as many students as you can when they come to your event!

What are some ways that you make sure you see more of your students every week?

Final Four – Best Blog Post of 2012

Hey friends! Just in case you don’t know yet, I have been nominated for Best Blog Post of 2012 along with 70 other awesome blog posts from over the year.

Thanks to all of you, I have made it to the FINAL FOUR! I’m super pumped have gotten this far.  There are SO many good blog posts out there. If I’m going to win this I need your help.  Take a moment to shoot a vote my way.  If you don’t think I deserve it then go ahead and vote for someone else – there are three other great posts in the final four.

Go vote (CLICK HERE)!


Is College Part of the Calling?


College and youth ministry.  Do we need to be college educated to be youth workers?

I just graduated a few months ago.  College, for me, was tough.  Of course it hard due to coursework and exams, but the thing that made it most difficult for me was my mindset. 

I honestly didn’t think that a college education would help me in ministry.  

If a college education in ministry consisted solely of ministry related classes then it would be easier for me to see it’s merit.  But I was taking astronomy, finite mathematics, and all kinds of classes that have nothing at all to do with what I was passionate about.  I have yet to use difficult equations or my vast knowledge of neutron stars in youth ministry. 

So…what do I think? Is college a prerequisite for youth ministry? 


God can call you to youth ministry without a college education.  Heck, God has done a lot more with a lot less. 

BUT (of course – there’s a but…)

You should get a college education if you are serious about youth ministry. Here’s why:

It provides life experience. When you’ve gone to college and have struggled with the things that every other college student struggles with, it makes it much easier for you to counsel your graduated Sr. High students through college. How can you know what they’re going through if you haven’t gone through it yourself? 

It’s good training. Despite the elective courses that may or may not help you in your ministry career, you do learn a lot. I’ve gotten to take some awesome courses that have increased my knowledge of the Bible greatly.  If you feel called to ministry, why would you not go all out and try to learn as much as you can? 

It helps you get a job in YM.  It is significantly harder to get a job in youth ministry without a college degree.  You may be able to snag a part-time job or be a volunteer youth leader but finding a full-time job without a degree is nearly impossible.  Do a quick scan of requirements for YM jobs on Youth Specialties – most require a 4 year degree.  There are a few that don’t mention having a degree in the requirements – I’ll give ya that – but those jobs are still bound to have applicants that do have degrees.  Let’s face it…the person with the degree almost always looks better (on paper) than the person without. 

It can translate into longevity.  If you can spend 4+ years studying late, cramming for exams, and taking a course on underwater basket weaving without giving up – chances are you can spend 4+ years dealing with troubled teens, staying up all night for lock-ins, and convincing parents that God can impact lives on a Ski Retreat.  Longevity is so crucial to youth ministry but is often neglected.  Most students have 3-5 youth workers while they’re in the Church – let college help you prepare to stay in YM for the long haul. 

Again – God can use you without a college education. You can still teach teenagers without one.  You can still change lives without one.  But when God calls us to do something, we should do it to the best of our ability.  That may mean going into debt and spending four more years in school – but it’s worth it.  


The Importance of Accountability in Youth Ministry


I’m a sinner. 

I know this may come as a big surprise to you – I seem perfect (hott wife, rock hard abs [ha], uber video game skills, etc), but I’m not.  Often times in our Ministry careers we will forget how important it is to confess our sins to our trusted friends.  We forget to share our struggles sometimes.  Sometimes it’s because we genuinely forget to, but more often than not because we don’t want other people to see the sin in our lives.  

As ministry leaders it’s important to fight sin to the best of our ability.  After all – we are judged on a higher level than the average Joe (or Joan) [James 3:1].  Here are three tips to help make sure you are properly dealing with your sins:

1)  Get an accountability partner(s).  Having people to share your sins with gives you a friend who will keep you accountable for that sin.  Make sure this person is someone you trust – the peanut butter to your jelly.  If I know that my accountability partner is going to call me weekly to make sure I’m keeping my pride in check, then I will more consciously try to be humble. 

2) Confess them to God! Sure – God knows that you’ve sinned long before you bring it to Him.  But we’re called to confess to God on a regular basis and ask for forgiveness of our sins – when was the last time you’ve genuinely asked for repentance from God (1 John 1:9)?

3) Stop Sinning.  I know this one is almost impossible to do – but you need to try.  When you genuinely ask God for forgiveness of your sins and keep sinning anyway, it’s a slap in the face to God.  I know that we all sin and to completely stop is nearly impossible, but with the help of accountability partners and God – nothing is impossible.  

God is bigger than ANY sin you face. 

Best Youth Ministry Blog Post of 2012

I’m up for Best Youth Ministry Blog Post of 2012 – so excited and honored to be a part of some awesome blogs in the YM community! 

Take a few minutes to read through the posts that have been submitted – there are 70 posts overall and they’re all great.  Of course I want your vote, but any one of these blogs is worthy of a vote – check them out!

Stuff Youth Say

I had a lock-in a few weeks ago and did an impromptu all-nighter with some kids on Sunday night (they had Monday off from school).  Here are a few things that were said throughout the events:

“I just peed on the street!” -6th grade boy

“I would definitely run over a human to save a bunny” -10th grade girl

(When asking what they wanted their team name to be for a game) “We’ll be the Pebbletown Magickarp Lightbulbs” and then another boy quickly says, “Awh man, I wanted that name!” -8th grade boys

“Your mom’s too ugly to show in public” -7th grade boy to his 6th grade brother

“I don’t want to watch football…let’s watch Sex in the City!” -7th grade boy

I’m going to have to start keeping a notepad around to write down this stuff – these guys are awesome!