Comparing Spiritual Growth to Growth in Attendance

I’m blogging this week for the Orange Conference 2015 Blogger Week. I’m going thru 5 questions that I’m hoping to get answered at the Orange Conference.

Question #2 is this:

What do you do when you see signs of spiritual growth in your students but there isn’t a correlation to attendance?

This will be the first time that I’ve been in ministry where the ministry isn’t growing in attendance in our large group progam. I made some decisions that I believe will help long term but they are proving to be a challenge in the short term.

One thing that is happening in my ministry though is I see students taking steps to grow spiritually. Like big steps.

We’ve had a huge increase in the number of teenagers volunteering in our church and we are seeing great results in middle school because of this, but our attendance in our high school program is not improving…yet.

They are also taking on roles in their schools that are growing their influence there. This is so huge knowing the way that God could use them to help others in their school.

A few questions that I’m hoping will help me find the answer…

  • How do communicate that great things are happening when attendance isn’t growing?
  • How do you stay encouraged when something isn’t going well?
  • How much do you focus on fixing the broken thing instead of driving full force on the things that are working?

So tell me, What have you done to stay encouraged when things aren’t going as well as you’d hope them to go?

5 questions I’m asking at the Orange Conference

5 questions for the Orange Conference

This is the first post in a series that I’m writing for Orange Conference 2015 Blogger Week. You can check out all of the action here at the Orange Conference 2015 Blogger Week.

Usually when I go to a conference, I’m looking to get some answers to some questions that I have.

I’ve written a few posts on how to deal with the answers to those questions in the past. Here’s one on how to turn your notes into action.

I will tell you that this year, I’m really excited about asking some questions. So for this Orange Blogger’s Week I’m going to tell you the 5 questions that I’m most excited about answering at Orange.

Today I’ll give you the first one. It’s simply this:

What is the scorecard that you use to know if you are winning in high school ministry?

scorecard for your ministry

Ultimately I’m looking for some high school folks that look at their ministry and they know the fruit they are looking for.

Questions I’m asking to help me discover this:

  • What’s the one thing you wish all your volunteers would help students do?
  • Why do you do what you do every week?
  • What’s one thing you hope students that are around for all 4 years of your ministry leave knowing and practicing?
  • How does your service help them take a step further down that path?
  • What is the most important thing you are doing as the leader to help your ministry achieve that goal and plan?

I’m looking for answers to this question because I’m looking to give incredible clarity to leaders this year on what we are shooting for in our High School Ministry. I’m looking for God’s direction on what we should be doing and where He wants us to go. I’m hoping finding answers to these questions will help me to clarify what God is already saying and provide some ideas for tangible steps to take in our ministry.

So that’s a big question that I’m looking to find some clarity on at Orange Conference 2015. If you are interested in finding this out alongside me come hang out with me at #oc15. Drop a comment below and let me know you’ll be there. I’d love to take you out to some coffee and pick your brain.

What question in High School ministry are you hoping to answer at this year’s Orange Conference?

The one thing that’s helped me more in the last 5 years than anything else

Ever feel stuck? 

You want your ministry to grow and you are turning your wheels in prayer, effort, sweat and tears. But you just don’t see or know what to do. 

I’ve been there. In fact, it was when a ministry I was a part of was growing and healthy. I had taken steps, specifically the vision and mission of our ministry, to fully communicate why we existed and volunteers and parents understood and were on board. We were growing in attendance for the 3 previous years. Our volunteer base was healthy and we had “enough” people not only to get by but see kids really cared for and invested in. 

But something was off. I was exhausted, I felt pressured to continue to come up with highly successful big things. I felt like I should be doing more instead of less. I wanted to find ways to continue to grow the ministry but I continued to feel inadequate. 

Not to mention I was not exercising and taking care of my health. I just had a kid and was feeling overwhelmed in every area of my life. 

I knew something had to change, but I didn’t know what needed to change or how to do it.

So I talked with my boss and let him know I couldn’t keep up and I needed to change some things. He said, duh! Of course you do. I didn’t know what he was talking about, he knew that I needed change to and that I needed to figure it out. 

So I spent some more time praying and eventually talked with Brother Jim about leadership. 

Jim has been doing a program called Infuse for a long time. It’s a coaching program where you get one on one time with one of the great ministry minds out there. I asked so many questions and read all his books to finally figure out the answer and solution to my problem, was not doing more or really even doing it differently. It was doing less.

I needed to give more away in order to keep up with the growing responsibilities of a family and a growing ministry. 

I don’t know where you are in the midst of your ministry life. I don’t know that giving away more responsibility is what you need to hear. But I do want you to hear one thing:

Asking questions of someone that has been there before matters. It’s why I think that everyone should ask their church to front the cost for a program like Infuse

I cannot tell you what it’s done for me and my ministry but also for my marriage and my parenting. 

I had to evaluate myself on a lot of different areas in an exercise we were doing and I asked my wife for some help. Here’s what she said, and it’s been one of the most encouraging things I’ve ever heard in my life.

She said, “Are you supposed to be grading yourself overall or just the change in the last year. Because if it’s based on the change from last year, I’d give you A’s in every area!”


This is why I’m pursuing some ways to get into coaching. It’s why I look forward to hearing questions from folks and helping them process through some things to see personal growth.

My advice, get a coach or a mentor. If you don’t know where to look, start with Infuse. It’s been incredible for my life and ministry.

I particularly want to say thank you to Brother Jim, Sam Luce, and Mrs. Julie. I’ve learned so much and felt loved by each of you. 

Thanks for investing in someone who is young and doesn’t really know what he’s doing. Thanks for taking the time to listen and speak. 

My life has been forever changed.

A New Year

Well it’s time to get cranking! It’s a new year and it’s time for working and crushing a new year’s set of goals. 

This blog is one of them. My personal site has gotten significantly less attention now that I’m working on my other project.

But why both?

This is a question that I’ve went through over and over in the past year and a half. Why am I writing on this personal blog? It doesn’t make much sense because my new love has a purpose and reason for existing. The why is clear. 

This site’s purpose has been a bit foggy though. 

But it’s becoming clear. 

This is my spot to brainstorm. To theorize about youth ministry and culture. And it’s about time that those theories become actionable plans for others. It’s time for me to move from learning to helping. 

It’s time for me to think for others and help them see what is really possible for them an their students.

So I’m pumped for a new year and new goals and new memories to be made. But I’m more excited to hear stories from others of being helped and taking steps.

What’s coming up for you in your next year that you are just going bonkers, excited about?

Digital Discipleship

I read this post from Will Mancini today as it was shared by my friend Josh Bradley. He brings up a point which might be quite controversial, but first desribes the most important church trend this upcoming year.

Declining church attendance.

He gives some great points that I think are worth considering. Ultimately, I think this makes a case for something that the American church hasn’t really taken great steps in yet.

Digital Discipleship.

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Passion – My 2015 resolution


It’s probably something that people would use to describe me, but lately it’s been a journey to find it. We’ve been going through some things as a family that have been tough last year. It’s been weighing on me. Gradually. Weighing. I haven’t been able to recognize it until a few weeks ago just how much it’s been affecting me. But it’s been noticeable in hindsight. 

One thing that I’ve learned through this year and it’s something that I know intellectually but really haven’t “learned” yet.

Passion and excitement and joy are a choice.

With so much good in the past year. More responsibility, more opportunities to learn and grow. More people that have invested in our family. New cars, new home. Not to mention a very lively 2 year old! It’s been such a great year. 

But if you aren’t careful, life can happen and you can just miss out on enjoying it. You can miss the fun by looking to the next thing. I wish that I could tell you I read it in a book or heard it via podcast or sermon, but unfortunately it only came through a series of tough conversations mostly with my wife. 

I have been pushing so much for achievement and “badges” that I’ve really forgotten how to just have fun. 


But thankfully, I’ve seen the dark part and am moving forward. I’m praying that God will help me to rediscover FUN. 

This year, along with a side project of mine, my resolution is FUN. To have as much fun with my family than I can possibly talk with other people about. To dance, sing, laugh, run, laugh and enjoy life. 

From what I’ve learned this past year, living isn’t all that tough, bringing joy to others is work. But it’s what we were made for. To bring glory to God, by loving others. 

This year, I’m all in.

Expect to read something on this blog on a continual basis this year. 

As I’m working on my side project, this blog will be getting some more love as I’ve got a little bit more breathing room. 

Here’s to an awesome 2015!

What’s one thing you are looking to change about your life this year? 

New Youth Ministry Podcast

Ok so I’m so behind on blogging. I’ll give you an update on why this week…but I had to post a blog telling you about this legit new podcast.


It’s called the Youth Ministry Answers Podcast. It’s a podcast put on by Kenny and Elle Campbell and I’ll be honest with you, if they were putting on an alligator fighting contest, I would buy tickets because it would be amazing. 


I love everything that they put out there for youth pastors and especially middle school youth workers.


However, I didn’t want to recommend the podcast without hearing a few episodes first and they are awesome. Filled with fun and laughter but also with a ton of wisdom. It’s a great podcast. 


Besides listening, you can also ask a question by going to and they are doing some awesome giveaways this week as well.


Seriously though, you need to subscribe to the podcast and get some wisdom on the fly!

Desk – Write more, better

It’s finally here!!

I’ve been using an app called Desk for the last few months as a Beta tester and I’ve been loving it!!

Yes, it’s awesome for bloggers. Yes it’s amazing for social media. But the absolute best thing about the app is that for some magical reason, it gets me to write more.

As a pastor or a leader in ministry, writing is an essential part of my job. I’ve had to learn this skill and find ways to improve my efficiency and effectiveness in this craft and Desk is now a necessary part of my workflow.

I’ll just go through a few of my highlights for Desk as an app.

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It’s Youth Pastor Appreciation Day

rick celebration

Yes, find a youth pastor and go encourage them today. I want to celebrate my youth pastors, JR Lee and Josh Laxton. I learned so much from you both and I’m thankful for the encouragement and challenge that you’ve given me over my life. Who I am as a leader is partly due to your investment in me, thank you!

We celebrate today, even though a lot of churches celebrate Sundays!

So go find a youth pastor and just tell them how much you appreciate them today!

Knowing God and Experiencing God

I was talking with Sam Luce yesterday and he mentioned something that I thought was incredible. He was talking about his intention of thinking through finding experiences for students where they can Know God but also things where they can Experience God.

My mind began to race with ideas of where our strategy is for our students to Know God and where we have strategies in place for students to Experience God.

Both are necessary.

But sometimes we get stuck in a “routine of normal” where we do what we’ve been doing, simply because it’s what we’ve been doing. We do what is normal because it is normal to us.


But I think it’s important for us to take a step back, look at our ministry calendars and ask where am I asking students to Know God and where am I asking students to Experience God.

They work in partnership with one another, but without one, there is no partnership.