We all need somebody



This week has been busy. I started grad school, started teaching for the first time in two years and in am going to be married in a few weeks. There is a lot going on. While having a discussion with my students this week all of our eyes were opened to how much stuff we are all actually going through.

We do this activity in our school called community circles. Think a class-sized small group in an education setting. I get to ask kids questions. Me being me I don’t go easy, even for 6th graders. I asked them this week “what is the toughest thing you’ve ever been through.” We all cried. Students talked about parents dying, cousins being incarcerated, rampant abuse, addiction, and death. We are all been through and are currently going through some stuff. I was amazed at my student’s ability to persevere through this stuff. All this trauma in their lives and yet they show up faithfully every morning. One kid still has PTSD from carrying his sisters out of their burning house and his arm catching on fire. He is the most courageous person I met, he’s 11.

In one of my grad classes by chance we were talking about talking with students dealing with tough stuff. A lot of adults were still oblivious to the sheer weight of the struggles students go through. Here are some of the things I spoke into that conversation and some thoughts I got after.

Calm on the Outiside, Freak out on the inside

We can’t imagine the hells some of the kids we work with go through. We grow accustomed to the routines of our days, the safety and stability we have created for ourselves and then we get punched in the mouth by the messes a student is facing. In trainings I have given I always tell adults, stay calm on the outside and freak out on the inside. If students saw how their stories impacted us in a negative way we would tarnish that relationship. They may no longer feeling like we are a safe person for them because we freaked out. Our judging eyes and emotions can reveal to the student a lot. Remember, stay calm, they are coming to you because they believe you care for them and may just need to vent.

Point them to the right people

You are not a mental health professional, social worker, or counselor (or maybe you are which would be totally cool with me). You may be able to listen to their problems and help students process their hurts but you can’t solve them. Professionals are needed sometimes to help students overcome their struggles and hurts. They are able to use their resources, tools and experience to help students out the best. Have some counselors or social workers in your list of resources. Point students and their families to them. Make sure to share what these students are going through with a supervisor. Don’t simply let it die out with you. For your own mental health and the students safety (and yes any liability concerns) let a supervisor know. Students need the best people to help them sometimes, and sometimes that’s not you. That is ok, you still matter and are important.

Show up

If students lives are marked by inconsistency, trauma, lies and hurt, you shouldn’t add to that. Show up for students. Be a safe and consistent person for them. Don’t lie to them and say you will be there when you won’t. Show up predictably in their lives and randomly too. Engage them where they are at. Take them to new places and share positive experiences with them. Laugh. Give them hugs and tell them you love and are proud of them. Don’t tell them everything will be alright, because do you honestly know that? Let them know you are with them no matter what and have their back.

Students deal with a lot of stuff. I am not trying to say I am an expert. What ways and tips do you all have to help students dealing with tough stuff?








I love to people watch in when I’m out for coffee, and just watch people interact with one another and imagine their life stories. Moving back into teaching and working a lot with youth in Rochester I get to observe a lot of different interactions. Something I’ve noticed is a lack of self-worth.

It plays out like this. One student will rip another student to shreds with their words and criticisms. That student in turn rips apart someone else. This negative trend never really ends. Anger and frustration boils over and an adult almost always needs to intervene. Questions get asked about how it started or why someone would make such harsh comments. They don’t even know. I believe that the continuation of this negative comparative nature, these negative competitions between one another actually breakdown natural relationships and undermine the psyche of kids.

I am not sure if there are studies that have been done on this (I am sure there are) but keen observation and reflection have shown me this. That because of a students lack of self-worth and lack of dignity they then put a label of “less than” on themselves. That, in order to rise above this label, a student feels that they need to bring someone else down lower than their level; That the only way for them to rise above is to bring someone else down below. So, my brain starts churning.

It is my belief that all students are worthy, simply because they are people. That all people are capable are worthy of dignity, respect and love. That all people, no matter their intelligence level or their socio-economic status, are gifted and talented in their own unique ways and destined to use those gifts and talents to do good things. How do we bridge this gap then?

Intervene and Model

As adults in a situation where we see this behavior we must intervene. Just step into the situation and tell the offending student to stop. That this is not the expectation for behavior and how we treat others. Address those students who are watching and empower them to step up as well. Model with students how you treat one another. Be fair and kind to them. Look for moments to celebrate successes and give room for students to work things out on their own, stepping in when you must. Most students are simply bystanders and realize when something is not right. Yet, there is a fear that them speaking up will also put a target on their back. This is where you, as the adult,  can empower students and help to intervene and model behavior.

Build a safe community

When you can build a safe community, whether in your classroom or student ministry, these situations naturally begin to diminish. Students feel that they have a place to belong. That they are loved and cared for and are a valued part of the community. Students begin to identify that this community is where they belong, where they feel secure to be themselves, and they are driven to do their part. Build a safe community by having high expectations of behavior. Empower students to own those expectations. Show value to everyones thoughts and believe that all students are capable of success.

Discover Strengths

I love giving opportunities for students to discover their strengths and passions in life. You see a student come alive when you are able to come alongside them, where they are, and show them their unique strengths and how they can use those strengths in a way that fuels their personal passions. I have a 6th grade student who is below proficient in reading. Yet, when this same student walks into any room it comes alive with joy and happiness. I love to work on his reading with him and then leverage his natural gift of connecting with people by celebrating his successes with other adults. When students have a champion who believes in them, who can show them their self-worth, who can simply say “I am with you and I’m for you” students begin to be empowered and thrive in their environments. Give students choice in where they will help, in how to complete a task, leverage their strengths even when you are working on their weaknesses.

This isn’t perfect, there will always be some level of negativity towards one another, some hostility that I believe is natural in teenagers (doesn’t mean we have to like it). Yet, the weight of those words is lessened when students believe in themselves, feel they belong in a community, when they have someone who will stick up for them and show them the way to go and when students are able to be empowered to use their strengths, anything is possible.

Time Left EVER




Ministry is this loaded term. It is a “churchy” word we throw around yet it is simply living a life that reflects Jesus. It is using your gifts and talents to engage the world around us and bring joy and hope into it. When we say that this mindset isn’t left to margins of life, what people are trying to say is that helping others and showing up for people shouldn’t be done after your own agenda is completed. What often happens though is we see our ability to serve then designated to only certain events. We pigeon hole ministry into only something a church can do. That if it is not linked to a church program, did it really actually happen?

Ministry is not designated to a particular place, program or set for a particular time. It is not something we do after work for a couple hours to check off a box for our spiritual checklist. It is our hearts and minds transformed by the grace of God. It is showing up for the least of these all the time. It is moral character and behavior that is different then the world tells us. If you feel your relationship is Jesus is set to Sunday mornings and only if you have some extra time or extra money, it is time for a heart check. Look at the world around you, where can you help and why haven’t you do so already? That is your ministry. You are fully equipped and ready to dive in. You’ve been called and have been invited. Will you begin to see that your life is the platform to do ministry?

Now Say You’re Sorry



I messed up. I apologized. We laughed together.

Adults should apologize to kids more often. It shows them that we need forgiveness and grace just like them. That, like them, we make mistakes and don’t have it all together.

Working with students can get aggravating at times. They say things that make your head shake and have a way of poking the bear inside of you in a way you thought no human being could ever do. Adults snap. Maybe we punish our kids to harshly, we raise our voice to loud, we make them cry, we use our size and position to intimidate those younger than us. Admit it, you have done it before in one-way or another. I felt bad of course. You know that moment in you where you went past the line. I messed up.

Then there is this moment where you have a choice to make. A choice about what type of person you want to be. Do you want pretend that it’ll all just go away or can you reconcile that relationship. I apologized. I said what I did wrong and why I reacted the way I did. I said I was sorry and asked for forgiveness. I got it. You know what, they apologized too.

I knew that there was still an opportunity there to build something bigger and more beautiful than before. We spent fifteen minutes hanging out together and laughing. We both learned something about one another that day. It was all good in the end. I think it would’ve turned out a lot differently if I didn’t apologize.

We have taken up a position in the lives of kids. As parents, as teachers, as pastors, mentors, coaches and friends. That comes with the responsibility to model behaviors that help shape them. Kids are always watching. We aren’t perfect though. In the moment you mess up, recognize it and leverage it to connect with a kid on a deeper level.


church, Family Ministry, life, Ministry, stories, Uncategorized



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.




life, Ministry, Uncategorized


The past few weeks have been nuts. I haven’t blogged in a few weeks and really just needed time to process life and all the changes that have been going on. I recently made the decision to move on from my role as a student pastor at the church I worked with. I took a position at a charter school back in my hometown of Rochester, NY and am super excited for this next stage of my life. I hope to use the talents, wisdom and passion that God has given me to impact my hometown and the lives of the students that I encounter. I plan to continue to blog on best ways to impact the lives of students, the community at large and how to lead the charge as a champion of students. Throughout this transition my fiancé and I have really been able to press into our faith in God, learning a few things along the way. The relationships we have made with people matter. We must trust the Planner, more than the plans we think we need. The best is yet to come.

The relationships you have matter. During the past month it has been these relationships that have helped me to navigate the major life changes I have been experiencing. People who have the ability to speak truth into my life helping me to weight the pros and cons of decisions and help cast a vision for my life. Making time to get coffee with a friend, people to help me move my furniture, and seeing people that I love help fill relational gaps that I’ve left behind. I got to sit with kids that I’ve grown to love and tell them the news. I’ve seen kids handle it with amazing maturity and seeing it as an opportunity to grow the Kingdom of God. There were tears of joy mixed with tears of sadness. Through all of this I saw the value of relationships. Relationships that help you make big choices, relationships that help us speak life into one another, relationships that encourage us to be the best that God has designed us to be.

In this process, more often than not things didn’t seem to work out the way I thought they would. There were hang ups, slow downs, chaos and bumps in the road. I realized I had these expectations of the situation, that I wanted things on my terms and my way. I think God laughs at that. I really began to learn this lesson yet again. To trust God, not the plans we think we need. We have expectations of the way things should go. Yet, God doesn’t need us to know His plans. He doesn’t have to show us how our lives will play out. We just need to trust Him, completely.

This mantra has come up a few times and I believe it. The best is yet to come. It helps me to stay positive in the moments of frustration. God isn’t upset or mad but simply wants me to be faithful to Him wherever I am. When we can look at our lives and see that the best is yet to come we can fully engage in our surroundings now. The best years of our lives of not some bygone age but we are currently in them. If the best is yet to come, then God isn’t done with us yet. Whatever season of life you’re in you can fully participate in the story of God because He still has plans and a purpose for you.

There are ways that God has shown up for me during this transition that have helped me to see His blessing in it. From the support of family and friends and even things coming up that show that this is where God is calling me to now. The people we do life with matter, respect and honor them, even in the midst of life changes. Look for ways to be part of Gods grand story wherever you are in life, knowing that the best is yet to come. Trust God, not the plans you think you need, just God.

Orange 2016

Family Ministry, Ministry, Student Ministry, Uncategorized


Orange 2016


The hope for all our ministries is that we will communicate the Gospel in a way that transforms people. That they will discover who Jesus is and that will change how they engage the world around them. What we do on Sunday morning though can quickly be forgotten. We have all seen people getting angry simply leaving the parking lot after service. Can we honestly say that the regular programming is having any impact if there is no change throughout the week? What if we engaged people on Sunday with Monday in mind. This is why I am pumped for Orange Conference 2016.

The theme for 2016 is “Monday is coming.” As leaders what if we communicated truth, evaluated our programs and shaped our interactions with students around this truth. The reality is the lives of our students, and their parents, can quickly crush the truths taught on Sunday. We have seen the struggle to get students to know the Bible, seen the fight with other activities in a student’s life and we’ve helped them navigate some of the junk that happens in their lives.

What if we began to shift how we do things. What if we are able to get connected with students throughout the week? Our ministry changes when we are not only connected but can bridge the gap between what we teach on a Sunday and the lives of our students throughout the week. What we communicate doesn’t change, but how we communicate it does to leverage the time that we have to make the most impact in the life of a student.

Here are some things I do to bridge the gap between Sunday and the rest of the week:

Weekly Home Groups:

Our student ministry revolves around our home groups. We meet weekly in the homes of our students. This helps us to get connected with students throughout the week. The coolest thing is that we as leaders are meeting students where they are; in their homes, on their turf, where they are comfortable in order to build lasting relationships and point them towards Jesus.

Contacting Kids:

One of my daily goals is to encourage a student. I go through my list of contacts and just shoot a simple text message. See how their day is going and strike up a conversation. Let them know you care about them. I reach out to take students out during the week and process life with them. I share my life with them and I encourage my leaders to do the same. When this happens students see a faith that is engaged not only in church on a Sunday but in the daily grind of Monday.

Equipping Parents:

Every week I send out a parents email. I utilize Orange resources and ideas to help equip parents. If we want to influence the lives of kids, we need to equip the key influences in their lives, their parents. From ways to navigate conversations about dating to links to resources, such as music, magazines or devotionals, equipping parents is a major way to impact students throughout the week.

Our ability to point students to Jesus greatly increases when we can stay connected with them throughout the week. I am excited for Orange Conference 2016 to hear about new ways to get connected with students. If you’re interested in attending this years conference head to http://theorangeconference.com/ to get more details and register!






church, Family Ministry, Ministry, Student Ministry, Uncategorized



It is ok to celebrate. We need to celebrate. If we don’t celebrate the victories, no matter how small, we will be left with drudgery and frustrations. So, we celebrate.

Celebration should be a part of your life, your workplace culture, and a staple in how you do ministry. Find excuses to celebrate. Go out of your way to make something a big deal. When we are always forward thinking and forget to celebrate the ways God is coming through for you now you miss out. You miss out on a heart of thankfulness, on an opportunity to praise God and a chance to party like a rock star.

The Bible says that there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner coming to know God. We must rejoice along with them. When a student gets baptized, when a student comes to know Jesus for the first time or when a kid for the first time comes to the end of themselves (Luke 15:17). Celebrate. Maybe it is not a huge party or a crazy thing. What if your celebration was a quiet prayer on the way home. What if it was a giant bear hug. Celebration can take many forms.

How you celebrate tells a lot of about your ministry and life. The ability to celebrate will instantly bring joy into the culture you are a part of.
Here’s some ways I like to celebrate:
Make a big deal of the big things (and some of the small things)
Laughing so hard you can’t stop
Make students feel special
Remember to enjoy the moment, and marinate in it
Don’t rush off to the next thing
What can you do this week to celebrate? Who can you celebrate with? What do you do in your ministry to make celebration important?




Snow Days

Family Ministry, Ministry, Student Ministry, Uncategorized

snow days

Thirty-two inches of snow crushed the east coast this past weekend. The snow disrupted church, travel, work and all sorts of other plans. Yet, these weekends can be seen as a gift; a gift for yourself, your family, and your ministry. When these things happen during the winter months you can leverage these days off for much needed rest, revitalize relationships and have unique ministry experiences.

For three (maybe four) days I have been stuck in the house. The roads are too bad for my car to get me anywhere. There are a few ways you could be spending this time. I would definitely be catching up on some rest. Don’t set your alarms in the morning and enjoying those cozy mornings. Snuggle up with loved ones or with your favorite book. When you start to get cabin fever get productive. Get some work tasks done, reorganize your office, do some laundry or clean your room. It is also a great opportunity to find some time to pursue those crazy ideas you’ve been dreaming about and wishing for more time to think through them. Set some time aside to get creative and dream.

The snow days also provide a great opportunity to spend time with the people who are closest to you. Literally, they are probably stuck in the same house as you. Round everyone up and play some board games. Make meals together and catch up on some t.v shows together. If you have kids, go on an adventure. Build a snow fort or go sledding. These moments in life are a gift for us to reconnect with the people in our lives.

With a unique opportunity like snow days come some unique ways to leverage them. Go around and help people shovel, or better yet, invest in a snow blower for the sole purpose of helping others get cleared out. You can strike up conversations with neighbors and build impactful relationships in your neighborhood and community. Snow days are also a great way to engage students. Create a shoveling gang to walk the streets together, laughing and helping other people together. Take neighborhood kids sledding at some random hill. Bend some rules to get on that one hill that you aren’t supposed to be on and create an amazing memory.

These opportunities can extend to just snow days. There are moments when we get surprise time given to us. It is important to make the use of that time; resting, crushing the day and loving people around you.

Multi-site students

church, Family Ministry, Ministry, multi-site, Student Ministry, Uncategorized


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.