We’re Hiring!

Hey student ministry type people, my church is hiring two full-time positions.  Both of these positions are part of the student ministry team my friend Jon and I lead.    Here are the job posts:

Female Small Group Coordinator – High School Ministry

Kentwood Campus Middle School Coordinator


If you’re interested, here’s a little background on our church and student ministry…

Ada Bible Church has been around for about 30 years and our senior teaching pastor, Jeff Manion has been leading the church for most of them.  When he began, the church met in a living room and now we are a multi-site church of 10,000.  We are located in Ada, Michigan which is near Grand Rapids.  Feel free to live stream a service  or check out our video archives to get a feel for what we’re about.  Here’s a link.

Our student ministry team of 13 staff is built around collaboration.  We each have our separate areas of expertise and responsibility but whenever possible we work together to create great environments and experiences for our volunteers and students.  More than anything else, our student ministry is focused on small groups.  We believe that the conversations that happen between volunteer leaders and students are the magic sauce of student ministry.  If you’re looking for a strategy of ministry category to put us in, it would be Orange.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about our student ministry, here are two of our websites:

Lifeline Connect

Lifeline Vimeo

We’re looking for new team members who value collaboration, empowering others and excellence in student ministry.  Oh, and we only want people who are fun.  We love what we do and we have a lot of fun doing it together.  If you’re interested or know of someone who would fit well with our team please apply or have that person apply.  I’d also be happy to answer any questions you have through email.

My Favorite Volunteer Celebration Ever

A few weekends ago, our Family Ministry team threw down my favorite volunteer celebration ever.  I still have a perpetual fist pump going.  Look, maybe it’s not the best volunteer celebration in the history of the world but it’s the best one we’ve ever done.  If you’re interested, here’s what we did.



The first order of business in any great party is food.  Without good food the whole enterprise is in trouble.  I’m just saying.  Our volunteers came into the building and were treated to cheesecake and coffee.  In my book, that’s a win.



After tasty treats, we corralled everyone into one of our auditorium spaces and played a variety of mixers and stage games.  We pitted department against department because we’re competitive like that.  Here’s what we played:

  • Always start with a Raffle…because free stuff is awesome!
  • A mixer called In Room Scavenger Hunt.  Click here for a description.
  • Powerade Flip Out.  It’s the Minute to Win it Game called Stick the Landing except we play four people at once flinging bottles on the same table.  Essentially it turns into madness with players blocking each others shots and throwing each others Powerade across the room .  It’s a riot.  I’m pretty sure we stole the idea from Stuff You Can Use.
  • Head-to-Head Flappy Bird.  Somehow our tech geniuses figured out a way to put two iPads on the projector screen at the same time.  I don’t even know…but it’s amazing.
  • Clumps.  A great mixer with a weird name.  Here’s how to play.
  • Quiz Bowl Time with Andy LoveHandles.  Sorry, this isn’t really duplicate-able.  One of our team members plays a game show character who throws Little Debbie Ding-Dongs at contestants when they get an answer correct.  It’s a little dangerous and a lot hilarious.316814814_219c1f4ed3_q


For the next element, we brought in a local improv group called River City Improv.  They were a huge hit with our volunteers.



After the improv group, our Senior Pastor of Family Ministries, Brian VanderArk shared a few thoughts about “moments.”  I’ll send you his notes for $500.  Actually, he’ll probably just give them to me if you want them.  The key was, it was short and meaningful.  Volunteers heard, “What I do matters!”



To cap the night, we showed this thank-you video.

Volunteer Celebration: Thank You from LifeLine Student Ministries on Vimeo.


There you have it.  The best volunteer celebration ever.  Feel free to steal any or all of it…except the video.  That would be weird.

How to Get More Volunteers

Recruiting student ministry volunteers can be a little difficult.

“Hey, do you want to be a small group leader?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Because you want to give up every Sunday night for the next four years?

“I’m out.”

“Oh, and we’ll need you to give up a few vacation days for camps, retreats and a mission trip or two. Did I mention that you’ll need to have your students over for sleep overs, go to swim meets that last all day and then listen to them process their latest breakup for approximately 10,000 hours?”

“In that case, sign me up!”

The trouble is, we’re absolutely dependent on great leaders.  With great small group leaders we will have a great student ministry–almost guaranteed.  With sub-par leaders or not enough leaders we’ll have minimal impact–even with amazing programming.  So how exactly do we recruit enough great leaders?  Since our student ministry team is entering our recruiting season, I’m in the mood to talk about a few lessons we’ve learned.

Lesson #1 is the power of story.  Let’s talk numbers.  Last spring, our senior teaching pastor invited the people of our church to serve in our student ministry.  He did this from the stage.  Now, our senior pastor is fairly influential.  He has written a few books and is a great preacher.  Every week, around 10,000 people listen to his sermon.  Wanna know how many people signed up to serve?  Five.

Five people signed up to serve when our semi-famous pastor gave a well-crafted and impassioned plea to serve.  5 people.  Ouch.

This year, we adapted our strategy and filmed a video of one of our all-star volunteers–a volunteer who has led the same group of girls for 7 years.  Here’s the video we showed to our church a few weeks ago.  Go ahead and watch it.  I’m going to skip it because I don’t want to cry…again.

My Story: Molly Rayman from LifeLine Student Ministries on Vimeo.


This year, after showing this video, 65 people signed up to serve in our student ministry.  65! I’m not strong at math but that’s pretty close to a million percent increase from last year.  What did we learn?  Story wins.  People resonate with stories.  Everyone wants to be a part of something big and meaningful.  People want to join a cause but aren’t motivated to get up out of their seats until they see it, hear it or experience it through someone’s story.

So, how do you get more volunteers?  Tell stories.  Get your best volunteers on screen on or stage and let them tell the stories of what it’s like to journey with students.  Go ahead and try it but you better create enough positions to accommodate the million percent increase.

God Loves You Too Much To Leave You Where You Are

This past weekend we polished off our Selfie Series which is was all about identity.  I’ll post all the graphics, bumper video and teaching scripts soon if you feel like stealing them.


Here’s the video teaching we used in our houses during this series.  It ended up being one of my favorites of the year.

Selfie: Baby Habits from LifeLine Student Ministries on Vimeo.

What have you taught lately that has been awesome?  I’d love to hear about it.

The Best Youth Group Game Ever!

Recently, an all-star couple who serve in our student ministry discovered a great game and passed it on to us.  It’s called Kahoot.  Essentially, it’s the same type of trivia game that you play in restaurants like BW3s except that you can create your own quizzes and surveys with graphics and text.

The way that it works is you create a quiz beforehand and then students log into kahoot.it through their mobile devices.  All they have to do is create a username and enter the pin # Kahoot gives you when you create the game.  And, of course, you can instantly boot that annoying kid who creates an obscene username.  I see you Amandahugandkiss!

We’ve been experimenting with the game for a few weeks and love it.  Last week, we used it in our large group setting for the first time, we were able to explain the game, have students log in, and play the game in 5 minutes.


We are in a teaching series called Selfie where all the imagery is build around social media, so our Kahoot game was “Name that App.”  We showed the logo for 11 different apps and students had a few seconds to pick the correct answer out of four options.  Our students and volunteers loved it!  After each question, the game tells you what place you are in and on the main screen it lists the top five players.  It’s basically the best game ever.

If you are a teacher, youth worker, give presentations or have a ginormous family you should totally check it out.  According to Kahoot’s site, 500 people have played at once and it can accommodate many more.  You can use it for surveys or quizzes and anyone with a device that can connect to the internet can play.  It’s so much fun!  I can’t wait to try it as part of a presentation.

If you have a genius youth group game, I’d love to hear about it.  Let’s be real, finding great games is one of the most annoying parts of student ministry.  None of us have time to search the web for hours!  If you’re fresh out of game ideas, feel free to stop by my friend Jon’s game site:  youthgroupgames.org

What I Read in April

I hit the books hard this month.  I guess my mind needed a break because I did a lot of light reading.

51-hBT05g3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Yes. I got sucked into the series.  I admit, I’m no better than your 7th grade daughter.  STOP JUDGING ME!

allegiant-book-cover-high-resOK, but for real, I could not put down the first two books, but this last one was a snoozer for me.  I totally hit the wall on the steamy romance too.  I get it.  You like to snuggle.  Do I have to read about it…over and over?  And, aren’t you only 16?  Stop!

As much as I was bored in third book, the ending was fantastic.  I suppose it was worth the 50 shades of Tris and Four to get to the ending.


I’ll read anything by Bryson.  I wanted to learn a little more about Bill Shakespeare because I feel terribly uncultured and slightly barbaric.  I still don’t know anything about his plays but I did learn a thing or two about the man.  In the end, this was not my favorite Bryson book but you might enjoy it if you’re a Shakespeare fan.



Overall this was a great book.  My student ministry team and I read it together.  It only took us about 4 months.  Hey, we were busy.  Anyway, I didn’t always love the author’s tone but the content was great for leaders and organizations aspiring toward greatness.  I highly recommend it as a leadership book for a team.


9780310329305_p0_v3_s260x420816QopNLW0LI will review both of these books together because they are by the same author and also because they evoked the same reaction in me.  I’ll be honest, I felt a little like a creeper with his ear pressed to the door of some women’s club.  These books were written for women and I’m not a woman.  The truth is that I read these books because everyone kept telling me how good of a storyteller Shauna is.  I want to become a great writer and storyteller so I went ahead and pressed my ear up to the women’s club and listened in.  She does tell good stories.  Bittersweet, in particular was great because it is raw and emotional.  In my opinion, this is what makes for great books.  Sadly, Shauna and her husband have been through a few difficult years.  I deeply appreciated her willingness to delve into the darkness and tell much needed stories.

On a side note, I loved that many of the stories took place in Grand Rapids, even if she sort of hates the place.  I can’t say I blame her for all she went through in our town.  I’ll admit, I did get a bit defensive about my beloved city, but I’m over it.



This book is extremely short but it still counts because I want to reach my reading goal for this year and because it propelled me forward.  This book is powerfully motivating.  The central message is this:  “Get up early and do stuff you care about.”  It’s an incredibly simple concept, almost like, “duh.”  Mornings are when you can focus.  Mornings are when you won’t be interrupted.  Mornings are when your willpower is the strongest.  So basically, get up and start working on your dreams!  For me, it’s writing.  I wake up early, grab a cup of coffee and write.  Unless I’m tired, then I grab a cup of coffee and play Clash of Clans.  Maybe I should reread the book.

Why You Need to Go to the Orange Conference

Last week, I traveled to Atlanta with a few members of our Family Ministries team to join 6000 others for the Orange Conference.  As a student pastor, I’ve been to a lot of student ministry and family ministry conferences.  In my opinion, this was the best.  If you serve students or children, you need to go next year.  Here’s why.


1.  Food Trucks

Everyone knows that the most important thing about conferences, or life for that matter is food.  Maybe I’m a little obsessed but I love great food.    Spice, flavor, combinations and ethnic touches dazzle my palate.  One of the things I love about Orange is that they bring in food trucks–seriously, one of the smartest inventions of all time.  Also, I love sitting around the table with people I care about or want to learn from, sharing a meal and talking about ministry and strategy.


2.  Laughter

Ministry is a sloppy bucket of stress.  Particularly at this time of year, we’re all slightly to moderately frazzled.


“Did you just stick your finger in an electric socket or maybe hug a nuclear warhead?”

“Nope.  Just finished small group.”


Orange brought an insane amount of comedy this year.  At times, I was crying because I was laughing so hard.  I woke in the morning with sore abs.  This may have more to do with sloth than comedy…Either way, thanks for the ab workout.


3.  Value

Sadly, not every work environment or church values creativity and artistic expression.  One of the things I love about reThink and the Orange Conference is a high value on creativity and art.  They understand the work it takes to write good curriculum, produce quality videos and create engaging programs.  It’s more art than science for sure.  It’s a lovely feeling to be told over and over again that the work we do matters.  Also, I saw a bunch of ideas that I’ve already begun stealing.  Don’t tell anyone.


4.  Collaboration

The thing I love the most about reThink is that they elevate the local church.  They are constantly looking for ways to connect people like me with other youth workers who serve in similar contexts or think about ministry in the same ways.  Through my new friend Jeremy at reThink, I met a bunch of youth workers at Orange.  I’m pumped to engage these men and women in conversation about how exactly we do this work God has called us to.  I love collaboration.


5.  Shared Wisdom

For me, the best moment of Orange was Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner demonstrating how to talk to middle school students about same sex attraction.  This is obviously a conversation in which many churches have dropped the ball.  The mantra I walked away with is this:  “We believe the church should be the safest place for students experiencing same sex attraction.”  I’m in for struggling toward this goal.


6.  Strategy

I could talk strategy all night.  Specifically, I love to sit around with student ministry workers and discuss how to do what we do better.  I love to dream, evaluate, fret, deconstruct, and tinker with concepts and practices.  The Orange Conference is an excellent place to do this.


7.  Restoration

I’ll be honest, I limped into the Orange Conference this year.  It’s been a beast of a year.  I’m in a new and challenging role, we opened high school ministry on a new campus, hired 4 new staff, battled through the worst winter in recent history (which translated into numerous cancellations and a momentum free fall).  A week ago, a ll I really wanted was June because June means the ministry regular season is over.  And yet, somehow, someway, through food trucks, laughter, imparted value, collaboration, shared wisdom, and strategery sessions, I’m back in the ring itching for a fight.  I’ve fallen back in love with my work, my team and the struggle of passing on faith to the next generation.

Here’s to you reThink for an “eptastic” week.  And for the rest of you, let’s meet up in Atlanta next April.



static hair photo credited to Jeff Latimer via Flickr

New Lifeline Video: Social Media in Real Life

Our student ministry is currently in a teaching series called Selfie.

Selfie_TitleIt’s all about identity–who we are and how we think about ourselves.  For imagery, we’ve focused on social media.  It’s been fun and at times hilarious.  Here’s a video our team made about how we would look if we acted like we do on social media in real life.  I love the Facebook feed part…gets me every time.  Enjoy!


Social Media In Real Life from LifeLine Student Ministries on Vimeo.

Make Some Art!

My kids love to make art.  They are forever coloring pictures, writings stories, and drawing on walls and floors.  Any attempt at a formal dinner on my kitchen table feel laughable because of the many marker lines covering the surface.  It’s one thing to color outside the lines but outside the paper?  Come on!

One time, I came home from work and my oldest daughter had tatted herself and her little brother from head to toe with non-washable markers.  It was a good lesson on permanence.  “When you get old, that nonsense you drew on your forehead will be droopy, discolored nonsense.   Oh, and you’ll never get a job looking like that.”

I wish I could be as fearlessly creative as my kids.  They are so proud of their scribbling and plot-less stories.  Let’s be honest, in terms of actual art, their stuff is terrible.  No one is going to buy it.  It’s not going to win any awards.  Most people would just throw it in the trash–but not me.

To me, my kids’ art is priceless.  My children made this stuff.  One way or another, an idea crept into their heads and they put it to paper.  I think it’s beautiful.  I have it pinned up in my office.  I save them to my phone.  I put them on the walls of my house.  I’ve literally framed a drawing or two.

I also make other people look at my kids’ art all the time.  Maybe some of your friends do this to you.

“Hey check out what my kid drew.”

“You already showed me 9 times.”

“Did I?  OK, I’ll show you again in an hour.”

The thing is, there is immense confidence in this artwork.  My kids feel free to make art and shamelessly show it off because they feel safe in their relationship with their mom and dad.  They don’t have to prove anything.  They never say, “I should probably tear this up because it’s terrible.”  “This portrait of me doesn’t have a torso.  I should probably postpone drawing until I learn proper proportions.”  No way!  They just plow ahead, pinning their stuff up on every available wall space, sometimes by-passing the pinning and drawing directly on the walls themselves.

So what changes?  Why aren’t adults like this? There is no way in heck you’ll find one of my drawings up on the wall of my office.  I mean, some people do this sort of thing but they are called artists.  The rest of us are convinced that we aren’t good enough.  And, this is exactly how we live our lives.  We aren’t confident enough in our abilities, talents, passions and dreams to really step out and speak or draw, or jump, or even move.  We are too afraid that who we are isn’t good enough.  What will people say?  What will they think about me?

We are paralyzed by fear.  I think we all function more like children than we realize.  We don’t feel secure, therefore we don’t live out our true identities.  I would argue that what the world needs is exactly what we don’t seem to be capable of doing.  The world needs people who fearlessly live out who they are created to be.

The truth is that if I am a follower of Jesus, I already possess all the security and love I need.  I am a son of the King.  I have nothing to prove.  There is no reason to fear.  If I already have the approval of the One who made everything, why do I care so much about what the people around me think?  He’s already proud of me.

Maybe God is like a parent who adores his child’s artwork.  Maybe he isn’t concerned about the proportions, details and stray marker trails all over the kitchen table.  Maybe He’s more concerned about fearlessly expressing the talents He’s entrusted to us.

What the world needs is for me and for you to start making some art.  What if we stepped out in confidence and began speaking, acting, loving, creating, singing, and building with fearless confidence?  What does God want to do through your life that you’re simply too afraid to start?  Maybe He’s asking you to be brave and make some art.


photo credited to Kate Ter Haar via Flickr