Being a Student Pastor in a Money World

A Money World

Let’s be honest (and this may be a new concept to some people) but the world of a student pastor can be quite the juggling experience.  My next 3 posts will be all about the world of the student pastor and the things he or she juggles.  From a student ministry budget, to social media, to just plain business, all these can wreak havoc on the life and effectiveness of a student pastor.

So let’s start with what may be one of the more stressful areas in church life…the student ministry budget.

Here’s my example…My first church was an awesome country church in a small town in West Tennessee.  My memories of the people of that church swell with joy.  My memories of my student ministry budget however, lead me to tears.  Understandably by budget was small, but as we grew our budget did not.  I can clearly remember going into a deacon’s meeting to make a request to purchase pencils for a Wednesday night…PENCILS!!

So how are we supposed to grow and keep up with that growth with a budget (in our minds) that may not meet those needs.  Well…what do you spend your budget on?  Where does it go?  If you’re like me, a majority of you budget goes towards events like camps and disciple nows, as well as mission trips.  So how are we supposed to make our other ministry opportunities excellent if your budget is tied up in those major events.

Allow me to encourage you for just a second, less expensive doesn’t mean less excellent. That is determined by how you approach everything you plan. You can do excellent even if it’s free.

Let me stop for just a moment and be a little transparent…my office administrator will laugh the moment she reads this blog…she knows this is my struggle.  So let’s looks at some areas of the student ministry budget and see where we can still be effective with less money.


Wednesday Nights

I don’t know what your “main event” is for the week in your specific ministry, but I’m going to assume your direct your students to one focal gathering for your students.  Ours is our midweek worship service for students and we want to constantly make what we do on Wednesday nights better and the struggle is how we can effectively use our budget to enhance our midweek worship experience.

This is just a list of things that make up our Wednesday nights and where we spend our money.

Series Design: If we spend money on our message series design it may be on fonts or subscriptions to to sites where we can download images for backgrounds.  There are websites where you can download fonts for free (just make sure they are relevant and current).

Stage Design: Hello Pinterest!  Pinterest is FILLED with ideas that can help spark the creative juices in your mind.  Pinterest isn’t there for you to steal other ideas, but to learn and inspire you create something awesome for your ministry.

Games: If you have students who love games, may I suggest Jimmy Fallon or Hollywood game night.  There are great examples of free or cheap games you can incorporate into your specific ministries.

Other Events

Like it or not you have to do more stuff with your students other than Summer camp, disciple now, and a mission trip.  So how can you do these things without breaking the back?

Well, remember when you were a kid and you had to play outside with your friends?  What were some of the things you did them? We used to play whiffle ball, kickball, basketball, and football.  Why not play some of those games?  Those are extremely inexpensive.

You could also do something like a Messy Game night, go bowling, or have a pool party at someone’s house.  Then have another pool party and just call it a Luau…that’s sneaky…and cheap.


Getting the word out can be expensive sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be.  Your students are on social media…well, most of them are.  If your student ministry is in the social media world too, then getting the word out can be absolutely free. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc..

Email is free too, it just takes time to gather everyone’s information.

If printed information is a must, then I would encourage you to go to places like Next Day Flyers. This is an inexpensive place for you to get a large amount of printed material (post cards, flyers, posters, etc.) at a not so expensive price.


Student Ministry can be expensive, and some events are simply going to cost money for you and your students, but I want to encourage you to be creative.  Just because you are finding ways to cut the cost in some areas, it doesn’t mean that you have to expect less from those events or experiences.  Make a list of what you do in your ministry…where can you use your budget more creatively and effectively?

What are some things you have done to cut costs for your students?



Dear Student Pastor: Part 2

Fight the urge to be something you’re not.

We now live in the land of skinny jeans and flannel and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In fact I love flannel…not so much skinny jeans (because I’m not skinny).  I think if I were skinny I would still wear Levis 508s (if they’re on sale) because I just like them. I’ve actually been waiting on fashion to catch up with me. Well that’s not true, because I’ve never really been that fashionable, just ask my wife.  She met me when I was wearing pleated khaki’s and big shirts from Abercrombie and she still married me (she has no one to blame but herself).

The fact is this…I’ve always tried to be who I am no matter what.  Students still make fun of what I wear (that probably won’t change), but that doesn’t really bother me because I’m still being true to who God is making me to be and I’m positive students see that.  I hope they see that I am trying my best to be authentic in a world filled with masks.

Dear student pastor…don’t try to be something you’re not just to fit in with the culture of your students…It won’t make them listen to you more!  If you’re a khaki’s and polo kind of guy…rock it.  If you are really an Instagram full of coffee and Bibles kind of guy, then go be caffeinated and well read with the best of ’em.  But don’t go do these things in order to impress your students, all-the-while allowing inauthenticity to run rampant.

Student ministries are filled with students not striving for authenticity in their relationships with others or with God, and I can’t help but believe that a lot of that is our fault, because we aren’t being true to who God is creating us to be.

It’s ok to be you.  It’s ok to listen to Petra in your office.  It’s ok to not fit in a culture that is not your culture.  It’s not ok to be someone you’re not while trying to lead students to an authentic relationship with Christ.

After 15 years in this game, I’ve learned that students love people who are real with them. And they’re ok with us being nerds and weird, because they’re just as weird in they’re own way.

Enjoy being you with your students today!


Dear Student Pastor (Part 1)

I’ll admit it…it’s getting more difficult every day to pastor students today.  I think it’s this growing difficulty that is causing student pastors to change their mentality of ministry or even in some cases it’s caused pastors to change who they are.  Believe me, I know those urges, but I think it’s something that we have wrestle with if we’re going to continue to lean into the lives of students.

My next few posts will be specifically to student pastors as encouragement to not just lead, but to lead strong.  In order to do this, there are some things we have to overcome.

FIGHT THE URGE: To Tippy-Toe Around Certain Topics In Order to Not Upset Students or Parents.

I think it’s important for to remember what we have been called to do.  The world of a student is complicated and we are supposed to partner with parents and lean into the lives of their student(s) with the love of Christ.  But for some reason, we have equated leaning into the lives of students with encouraging, but not challenging.

The last thing we want to do is upset someone.  We don’t want them to be mad at us, and to some degree, we don’t want them mad at God; so we speak to them and craft messages that may be excellent and biblical, but we avoid topics that may challenge a lifestyle and/or decisions they are making.  We avoid topics like homosexuality and abortion with students because we think they can hear that on Sundays from the pulpit. We would rather speak on topics like missions and how to live a radical life, and avoid topics that may cause heartburn.  If this is your mentality you are mis-understanding the task at hand, because avoiding (or ignoring) hard topics could very well lead to tolerance and acceptance of sin.  Let’s be transparent for a second, how many of you have students who have friends who struggle with Same Sex Attraction (SSA) and instead of speaking truth into their lives with love and truth, they avoid the topic and show acceptance of both the sin and the lifestyle?

How will students know how to lovingly lean into the lives of those struggling with SSA, or even someone who is thinking about having an abortion, if you haven’t been speaking the truth of the Scripture into their lives.  It’s not an “every-once-in-a-while” conversation, because these topics are shaping culture.  We must speak truth while encouraging students to reshape the culture they live in by that same truth which has so radically changed our own lives.  This is the truth that breathes life into the dead.

It’s not a bad thing to be bold.  It’s not a bad thing to speak truth.  It’s not a bad thing to speak truth into a culture that is confused as to what truth really is.

Some topics aren’t as controversial: Sports, time management, the stuff we listen to, the things we tweet. Challenge students on some of these topics and see what happens. I promise you’ll get some huffing and puffing and maybe even an unfollow or two on Twitter. But if you don’t challenge them, who will?

Dear Student Pastor, don’t tippy-toe…walk normal and speak loudly!


What are some topics we avoid as to not offend students and parents?

It’s a map, not a menu…


At Wallace, we’ve adopted this statement as our approach to being intentional to discipleship…and I love it.  Often times, we offer a HUGE selection of classes for people to choose from, but to what end?  Is it discipleship in order to say we “do discipleship,” or is it an opportunity for people to jump on board and be encouraged as they travel on this journey towards Jesus.

Intentionality is key! There has to be a purpose for what we are doing.  For far too long we have simply been “doing,” but we haven’t been going anywhere, and we haven’t been helping people go with us.  With our new Map Not a Menu structure, our goal is to provide a way for people to walk together with a purpose of growing and helping others grow.  If we continue to do what we’ve been doing, we will continue to spin the wheels of our stationary bike.

Hopefully, starting this fall, Wallace will be offering opportunities to GO and GROW with an end in mind!  I’m looking forward to what God has in store!


Staying Creative in Student Ministry

If I am completely honest with you, ministry can be monotonous at some times.  The same can be said for weekly message preparation, but I don’t believe it always has to be.  I’m of the mind being created in the image of God means He shares certain attributes with us, and one of my favorite attributes of God is His creativity.  In essence we were created to be creative for His glory…I like that.

I have to keep this in mind when studying, preparing, and dreaming for messages or message series.  There’s a lot involved in prepping for these things but I love the fact that I can dream big dreams because that’s how we are designed.  My encouragement for student pastors would be to dream big when studying and developing a message or series.

Here are just a few helpful thoughts that have helped me along the way:

DON’T BE AFRAID TO GAIN INSPIRATION FROM OTHERS – There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being inspired by the works of others.  There is; however, everything wrong with stealing from others.  Some give full freedom to use whatever you want to, but that’s not a universal rule for everything you find online; but I do believe you can be inspired by someone else’s creativity.  Let’s be honest, Pinterest is a great resource.  If you’ve been avoiding Pinterest like the plague for fear of what men with mustaches might think of you, then it’s time to grow yourself a beard and join the movement.  Go take a gander at my boards if you feel the urge.

READ SOMETHING THAT STIRS YOUR IMAGINATION – History, a biography, fiction…what stirs your imagination?  I like to sit down next to a fire and read some good fiction.  Right now I’m reading The Fiddler’s Gun by A.S. Peterson, but I also enjoy anything by Ted Dekker.  It’s fun to get lost in a world that is not your own while living the life of another, even if it is only for a glimmer of time.  The sole purpose of this is to remain creative.  I’m good with reading books that are helpful for your line of work, but that can sometimes get stale and stunt creativity.  It’s when I’m imagining that I find myself being more creative, so enjoy some books that bring about something new.

LISTEN TO NEW MUSIC – Sometimes it’s a good thing to try something new.  I for one get a little tired of listening to the same thing all the time…unless it’s overwhelmingly good.  I’m just saying try it, if you don’t like it move on, but sooner or later you will find someone else to add to your playlist.  I really like listening to strong song writers like Ben Rector, Andrew Peterson, Aaron Ivey, and NEEDTOBREATHE, but sometimes I branch out and find something different that I don’t normally listen to like Justin Timberlake (I’m late to the party) or Bruno Mars (amazing voice, lyrics need a little toning down).  I would also suggest getting Spotify and listening to some of their suggestions (then going out and buying some of that artists music).  Spotify can be a great resource for trying something new.

HAVE A CHANGE OF SCENERY – Get up and get out of the office!!  If you’re always looking at the same wall, same art, same desk, same books, it’s no wonder you’re creative genius is stumped!  Get up and go somewhere.  A park, a local coffee shop, your back yard, a movie (this serves two purposes); I don’t care where, but get up and go!  You’re office can be a lonely, boring place sometimes…make it interesting!

CARRY AN “IDEA” NOTEBOOK WITH YOU – You never know when you’re going to be hit with the greatest idea ever!  We all have one of those ideas that would be revolutionary, but we forget it within 10 minutes never to be thought of again.  Sooner or later I’ll have one too, but I’m gonna write it down.  I also like to draw out designs and write down quotes that would go great in a message or a series.  I never know when I’m going to be inspired, so it’s good to have something to record that inspiration in.

KEEP THE GOSPEL AT THE CENTER – Don’t lose sight of this one.  You can be the most creative person in the world (and you may even see fruit from your creativity), but it’s in vein if you forget the Gospel.  Are you trying to show others how creative you are or are you showing others how creative God is!  Let’s face it, there’s nothing more out of the box then God becoming flesh to save His creation and bring them back to Him.  That’s the story we are telling…nothing more, nothing less, so do not believe the lie that you can make it more creative and pretty!

Stop saying you’re not creative!  You’re the most creative person I know, so use it for God’s glory!  Maybe these will help you…maybe they won’t…but at least give it a try!  You have been created in the image of God…be creative!


What helps you be creative?

4 Thoughts on Preparing a Message for Students…

As a student pastor, there are a few things I run through when prepping for Wednesday nights or the occasional Sunday morning.  I’m sure every student pastor has a list of some kind, but I would like to share a few thoughts that help me when I’m preparing a message for students…so here goes.


I want you to feel the weight of that statement.  I think we might have the tendency to read that and think, but I want them to hear from Jesus.  Well that’s extremely super Christian of you and point well taken, but a majority of your students are not showing up on Wednesdays and Sundays to hear from Jesus…they simply don’t think that way.  They’re there to hear the music, play the games, hear what you have to say, socialize with their “bros in bro tanks,” or hear about what’s coming up on the calendar.

I’m reminded of what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth…”follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  Your students are coming to hear you…your students care about what you have to say…therefore, you must follow the example of Christ and speak the words of Christ so they can follow you as you follow Him.  If you are with Christ, then your students will hear from Christ…


Allow me to preface this by saying this is probably my favorite part of preparing messages or a message series.  I love designing logos and setting up rooms to match, but I also love finding scripture and allowing that to fuel my creativity.  We can spend an unnecessary amount of time discussing the pros and cons of topical or expository preaching, but here’s what I believe…the Gospel knows no bounds.  Whichever way you decide to go with a message or series, pick a direction and go with it.  Stage design, lighting, logos, handouts, worship set…you can be as creative as you want with these things, or you can let someone else be creative for you.

Warning…you can be uber creative and still miss the importance of the Gospel.  Be creative, but keep Christ at the center.


Fight the urge to be someone you are not in order to gain the ear of the listener.  BE AUTHENTIC.  Students can spot a fake, so while you’re preparing your message, make sure it is factual and make sure it is coming from an authentic heart.

Refer to my first point…they want to hear you!  So if they are hearing someone who is trying to be someone they are not, they will either become fake with you or they will right you off.


Evernote, Penulitmate, or a journal, it makes no difference, but you should write out what it is you are trying to say.  I understand this isn’t for everyone, but I believe this allows you to flesh out ideas as you find the single point you want your students to walk away with (FYI…if your students aren’t walking away with a single point, then you are missing it).  I encourage you to write out what you want to say word-for-word.

Once you’ve done this…review…outline…teach!

Yes…it takes time to write or type it all out, but the rewards are great.


* Again, these are just thoughts that help me as I prepare.  I don’t always get them right and sometimes I ignore them (to my own detriment), but hopefully you can find some use for these as I have.




Stop saying “Jesus Loves You”…


…before you label me a heretic or burn my likeness in effigy (you’re gonna need a XXL dummy for that so it’s not really worth your time or money), allow me to explain myself. There is truth in the statement, “Jesus loves you.”  We can’t argue Jesus proved his dedication to our salvation on a cross 2,000 years ago, and I for one am extremely grateful for his sacrifice and atonement.  I understand what he did for me, but a world in which the majority doesn’t really believe in the truth found in Jesus, it’s hard for them to grasp the concept, “Jesus loves you.”  Why would they want to grasp it in the first place?

I can’t really blame them.  Many in our westernized culture only see Christians as biggots, racists, and anti-Obama.  The faces and voices of the Christian faith are those who scream the loudest; and for many, they don’t want to hear our screams followed by our soft and often scripted proclamation, “Jesus loves you.”

“Does he love us, because it sure doesn’t seem like you do.”

Re-worded and used in the right context, this could be a very effective “Jesus-Juke.”  But let’s imagine for just a moment this truly might be the the thoughts of those who don’t believe (or don’t care to believe) in Jesus.  It’s very possible.

But to not say “Jesus loves you” goes against every fiber of the Southern Gospel singin’ womb I was created in.  Let’s face it, it was a solid way to end your answering machine message for those who missed catching you on the phone.

“Hello, I’m sorry I missed your call.  I was either away from the phone or I saw your number on the caller ID and avoided your call.  Please leave your name and number and I may or may not call you back ASAP…and don’t forget…JESUS LOVES YOU.” 

It has a ring of nostalgia to it, doesn’t it?  I think at some point or time, you or your family probably had some form of this message on your answering machine.

I don’t really ever remember Jesus telling his followers to go out and tell everyone, “JESUS LOVES YOU…go ahead Peter, say it…tell ’em I love ’em.”  However, He did tell them how others would know they were followers of Jesus…by their love for one another.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

They will know you are a follower of Jesus by the way you love.  What a novel idea…genuinely love people.  Now does this mean we are to trash our theology and run with love and acceptance of the world around us…no, it simply means, people need to know that you love them before they will even care about whether or not someone who lived 2,000 years ago loved them.  How is anyone going to understand Jesus’ love, if we who follow him don’t love like he has loved us.

Do we abandon the phrase “Jesus loves you?”  No, I don’t think so…but in many instances, they want to know that you love them, then they may sit and listen as you tell them how Jesus loved them first.

What if you went out today and told others that you loved them?  What would happen?  You may get some weird looks, but it’s a very disarming phrase.  In verse 34 Jesus says that we are to love others because He loved us first…and he followed that up with telling the disciples to love each other.  Jesus taught us how to love others so they can see him in our love for them.

If we love like Jesus loves, we don’t even have to say “Jesus loves you,” because they would’ve already seen it in the way we love.

By the way…I love you!!


How can we love others like Christ loves us?

making a name…(a post from the cutting room floor)

…for myself.  As I sat in a room filled with over 1400 youth pastors, youth workers, and students, the guilt and need of confession was overwhelming.  My life in ministry has been clearly focused on the wrong thing…making a name for myself.  We all have fashioned for ourselves our own gods, and we have spent a lifetime wrestling with God as to who/what is more important in our life.  I know it’s a continuous struggle of which no one is exempt and that struggle came to the forefront of my soul tonight.  As God was bringing to mind the things I’ve tried to hide from Him, and bring me to confession, and overarching reality became clear…I’ve spent a lifetime forming myself into my own god.  All my sins are selfish…they are a vain attempt at deifying myself in order for others to notice me and with hopes of the adoration of others.

Wow…that may have been too transparent!  But let’s go on and lay it out…I am simply tired of trying to gain the focus.  Does that make sense?  I feel like I’m stepping in front of the spotlight which is rightfully positioned on God.

The conviction of the Holy Spirit was abundantly clear…rid me of myself.  And as the confession arose in my heart, I could feel the guilt being washed off like suds rinsed from a pair of recently lathered hands…and it felt good.

I was once told, “the throne in your heart is not made to fit your butt.”  So true!


loving the disgruntled…

…parent.  If you’ve been in student ministry for a week you know what I’m talking about!  You know…the mom who believes her child is the most important child in your ministry, or the father who believes his child should be asked their schedule before we plan any student activity.  Inevitably you will have a close encounter with these parents, and more than likely you will have multiple encounters with these parents.  I’m extremely lucky, because this is a rarity at Wallace.

How are we supposed to handle these situations?  How are we to respond to a parent who criticizes your ministry (which, of course, we take personally)?

I’ve come to the conclusion that catching a greased pig is sometimes easier, but I would like to try and help a little by giving 4 insights I’ve learned from mentors & experience.

1. Pray for God’s help.  Ultimately, this is number one because it’s probably the most important.  Jesus was always dealing with religious people who felt as if they had all the answers.  I’m not sure any idea I dish out could really compare to any of Jesus’ ministry ideas; however, one thing you will notice about Jesus…He was always praying.  He was always removing himself from the noise and retreating into an intimate conversation with His Father.  The beginning of loving disgruntled parents is praying for the them and for your relationship with them.

2. Make it about Christ rather than their children.  As a father, this one is a tough pill to swallow simply because I can easily be blinded by my love for my children.  Our world, can not center around our children.  Yes, they are a gift from God, but we must remember they are “from God.”  Everything we do in ministry should continually point families to Christ.  Anything we do should have Christ at its core.  We don’t do things to appease parents or students, we do everything to encourage students to love and know God deeply.  We must lovingly help parents see and teach this truth.

3. Respond in a loving manner.  My mom always told me, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  There is so much truth in that statement.  And sometimes it takes a while before you can say something nice.  When you receive a negative text or email (this  is the norm, rather than the exception…modern technology it makes it easier to not do this face to face), I would encourage you not to respond immediately.  When we do, I’ve learned that you say things you shouldn’t have said and then you spend more time fixing an altered relationship.  We’re hurt and discouraged and all we want to do make them feel the same way we feel.  Let’s be honest,  that will not accomplish our goal of pointing them to Christ.  So when you get one of these jewels, take a step back and go over insights 1 and 2 again (spending most of your time in insight 1).  When you finally do respond…do it lovingly pointing them to a loving Jesus.

4. Evaluate what is said.  Even if some of what is said comes out of bitterness, I’m not too naive to simply dismiss the idea there may actually be some truth in what was said.  Don’t get me wrong, I know your ideas are without flaw, but it wouldn’t hurt to sit back and evaluate your event/ministry in light of this plethora of parental insight.  There simply may be some truth to the criticism.  Sometimes we need to put aside the method through which we are told (or even forget about the person who told you) and determine whether or not there is something you can take from this in order to minister to your students and parents better.

We love our students and we love our student’s parents.  When the time comes that you need to love a disgruntled parent, I hope these insights help and encourage you.

A student, a mentor,…

…and an ongoing influence. There are a handful of people who I can say have influenced my life to the point that it had a major impact on my journey. Charlie Musick is one of those guys and today he is celebrating his birthday. I remember when he turned 27…the only reason I remember that is because it seemed like he turned 27 every year following that year. To this day Charlie looks like he is 27. I’m not sure why, but I will always think he’s the same age he was when I was in high school.

Here’s the thing you need to know about Charlie…he’s one of the best mentors I’ve ever known because he invested in me. He spent time insuring that I would follow Christ. We didn’t sit in a church classroom and talk about Jesus, we just hung out and he modeled Jesus. That doesn’t mean we never talked about Jesus, it just means we didn’t have to all the time, because Jesus spoke through Charlie’s life. On a shelf in my office stands a Ryne Sandberg card that he gave me when I graduated from High School…he knew Ryne was my favorite player of all time (so much so I would name my dog after him later in life) and in an act of sacrifice he took it out of his safe deposit box in order to give it to me (it was valuable to him and me).

Whatever practical joke I’ve ever used, I learned it from this man. We were punking people before MTV made a show about it…I’m pretty sure MTV stole it from us. Charlie’s masterful teaching is also the reason why I don’t allow pranks on student trips to this day.

If every student ministry had a Charlie, the church would simply be better. I’m eternally grateful for this man. With that said…HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHARLIE!!!