adolescent, Family Ministry, Ministry, stories, Student Ministry, students, Uncategorized


Some kids are tougher to reach than others. My proximity to kids helps me to realize some of the severe trauma that some may experience. Dropping kids off at their homes that have no furniture, no electricity, and no food you begin to realize the lives they live after 4pm. You may be the only consistent person in their life, they may not know how to respond and act around you, they may fear abandonment and have seen so much loss they don’t even want to try.

The toughest kids are the most rewarding kids when you give them love over time consistently, show up for them and speak life into them.

Dealing with kids that have dealt with extreme trauma in their lives is tough. They can be more argumentative, angry, defiant and lack the desire for social connections. Don’t take it personally. You did not cause their trauma, and you are not the sole person reasonably to fix it. It takes time and will be rough at times. Things will be said and done that seem like a personal attack. Sometimes, students who have faced trauma ‘test’ your willingness to stick around. Show up. Some great advice I received once was to “let all the badness roll off you like water off a ducks back.” Remember to not take the rough moments personally.

Despite the frustrations you get from dealing with students who have faced trauma in their lives, you are called to love them anyway. Know them, ask them questions, treat them fairly, be clear with expectations of behavior and be fair. Invite them to have lunch with you. Treat them as they are, kids. Build a relationship that is founded on trust, respect and consistency. You may be the first time they have seen this type of relationship.

You will get tired. Tired of the struggle and tired of the slow process in building relationships. Keep at it. It is worth it, they are worth it. These students will come around, it may take longer, but they will open up. When they do listen to their stories, help them to see that their stories do not define them and speak life into them. Help them discover their passions and strengths in life.

Parents are important too

adolescent, community, Family Ministry, students, Uncategorized



Navigating family dynamics can be difficult. As someone who works with the children of other people this is particularly true. You are in a kids life as a coach, pastor, teacher or mentor and trying to help them navigate life. Parents are also there to help navigate the lives of their kids. I have seen and experienced a few situations where this dynamic was tricky. When in the middle of conversations with either kids or parents there are a few key concepts that help me to navigate the conversations.

They aren’t your kids

This idea is crucial. The kids that you working with are not yours. You are not the primary spiritual leader, the primary influencer, for the kids, their parents are. This is difficult especially when you do not agree with parenting styles or situations. Just remember that your influence diminishes when you are not able to have access to because you’ve over stepped a boundary.

Point the kids back to their parents

There will be times when kids just talk trash on their parents. They will yell about them and get angry with them. There will be times when those same parents talk badly about you for whatever reason. You are able to demonstrate grace and peace when you can point kids to their parents and even support those parents that may have treated you unfairly.

Admit when you’re wrong

Sometimes we mess up. We let a kid get hurt (guilt of this one a few times), we don’t show up when we are supposed to or we give advice that is contradictory to what the parents want. Simply saying sorry and asking for forgiveness is a huge step in dealing with parents.

Dealing with kids also means dealing with those kids parents. Make sure you have open lines of communication and cue the parent up for even greater influence with their kids. Have dinner at their house and get to know the kids family. Go over expectations and follow their rules for their kids. It may be difficult but when all the stake holders in a kids life are united you will find greater success in influencing the lives of kids.a


adolescent, church, community, Family Ministry, Ministry, Student Ministry, students, Uncategorized


I believe in students. I love to see them grow, learn and be awesome. I love to cheer the students that I lead on throughout their lives. Sometimes, working with students is difficult. They have drama, struggles and hurts just like the rest of us. Yet, the time I can spend with students is time I know I am impacting the world.

Orange believes this too. Orange believes in students, in all kids really, and their families. They believe that for kids, no matter their age, to understand God they need to be connected relationally to other people. That these leaders need to engage the kids they work with and their families to walk alongside them in life in order to grow their faith. Orange equips churches and leaders to help point kids and their families best towards Jesus.

This year Orange Conference is helping equip churches and leaders to reach not just their few, but entire neighborhoods and communities. At Orange Conference this year we are exploring the question: What would happen if the neighborhoods around our churches began to see church as a fun, safe, and helpful place for families and the community at large? There will be awesome speakers, a lot of laughs and insights into how the church make a lasting impact on the communities we belong to.

Join us this April for one of the most impactful experience you will have. This is not just for family ministers and lead pastors. This conference is people looking to leave a meaningful legacy in the lives of students, their families, the community and our world. Come be equipped, refreshed and rejuvenated to point your neighbors towards Jesus.

More information about great speakers, the theme “For Our Neighbors,” and all things Orange Conference head to their website at:

Home Page

Registration opens up October 13th! You don’t want to miss out on this adventure!


Orange is Coming

adolescent, Ministry, Student Ministry, students, Uncategorized



Orange Tour is underway and you have to get your tickets. Every year Orange takes the information, speakers and resources from the Orange Conference and brings them to you. It is a great time to learn, laugh, and create a dialogue around your ministry.

Last year, I had the chance to have Orange Tour come to the church I was the student minister at. The people on the tour are amazing. Even Reggie got into the hustle of the day as we set everything up. Orange leaders make themselves available for attendees to chat with, ask questions and better themselves. Not everyone is able to go to Orange Conference, that is why they bring the fun to you.

Monday is coming and Orange Tour is bringing it. Here you will discover the best ways to connect kids and their families to Jesus throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Monday is coming is a great idea to test your ministry against. How are students and their families acting on their faith throughout the week? How is your ministry helping them to do just that?

Through the speakers, workshops and conversations at Orange Tour you will be challenged. Challenged to re-evaluate your environments, your programs, and even your mission. We all want students and their families to live out their faith. To have an autonomous faith that can change the world. Monday is coming will challenge our current practices and provide practical steps to see success.

Check out Orange Tour this year. It will be a great way to invest in your leaders and your ministry. Create space to have conversations about your ministry with your leaders, students, parents and your lead pastors. Sometimes, for success to happen we change what our success looks like. Monday is Coming will help you connect Jesus to the everyday lives of people and to the moments that mean most to them.

For more information check out Can’t wait to see you there.

Be ready for Orange Conference 2017! Registration opens up on October 13th


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.