A bunch of weeks ago, I finally had the chance to hear Bob Goff speak live and in person. I usually only get to stalk him on the internet, so this was an exciting day.
He threatened Kenny’s life a little bit. (Did you know he has diplomatic immunity?)
He made a super cute video for my small group.read more
It has been a crazy month. A happy-sad month.
The happy part? Kenny and I are about to begin a brand new adventure. And we are so excited about it. Like… super excited. But the sad part? Our current adventure is almost over. And we are really, really, going to miss it.
Okay, here we go. The news.
Kenny and I are leaving our amazing-wonderful-best-ever church in Buffalo, NY. Then we’re going to move a couple of miles south to Atlanta, GA. And then we’re going to join the amazing-wonderful-love-them-so-much team at Orange.read more
I wouldn’t consider myself to be a person particularly prone to taking risks.
Well, okay… I like roller coasters. And I want to go sky-diving someday. And one time I painted my bedroom lime green. But that’s about the extent of my riskiness. For example, when thirty of my friends decide it’s a good idea to rent really-super-broken mopeds and dented helmets from some guy on a street corner of the Bahamas, I’m always going to be the person in the group pointing to the sign that says CAUTION! DO NOT RENT MOPEDS and listing all the reasons we’re about to die horrible gruesome deaths.
This year at The Orange Conference, and the following week at The Youth Ministry Summit Canada, Kenny and I taught a breakout session about creating fun games for students. I’ve had a lot of requests for the notes from that breakout, so… um… here they are!read more
Check it out! Isn’t it adorable?read more
Last week at The Orange Conference, I got the chance to co-lead a breakout with my friend Kenny Conley! Kenny is the NextGen Pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, TX and he’s really great and super smart. Also tall.
Together we taught a breakout called Concert, Classroom or Circle: The Practical Steps for Transitioning to a Lead Small Culture. Here’s a brief summary and an outline of what we talked about.read more
Friends, I have something to tell you.
I recently got the chance to co-author a book with two of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
And, last week, I held it in my hands for the very first time.
It’s about small groups, which is pretty much my favorite topic.
And it’s available really soon.
And I’m so excited about it.
Last week, I went to The Orange Conference. It was my sixth Orange Conference. And I’m pretty positive it was the best one yet. I’ve got pages and pages of notes, with still more to come after I compare notes with my team.
But I’m not writing this post to share all 837239472934735 of those words.
I’m writing this post to share just a few of the words that were said at OC14 – words I wrote down, but probably didn’t have to write down, because they’ve been rattling around in my brain ever since I heard them.read more
I’ve got to show you something Our New Guy Erik has been working on. (Erik joined our Middle School Ministry team back in January. He’s really cool. I’ll introduce you sometime.)
So we really like it when small group leaders have parties with their small groups. Because we know, if a small group leader expects to make an impact in the lives of kids, they need to spend time with their few outside of church.
And because we know small group hangouts are so important to those relationships, we try to make it AS EASY AS POSSIBLE for small group leaders to make them happen.
Maybe I’ll tell you about all of those ways sometime. But for now, I just want to tell you about one of them – the thing New Guy Erik has been working on.read more
The Orange Conference in Atlanta, GA is next week, and I can’t wait.
I love using social media to network with cool ministry leaders (like you), but there’s just something special about real-life interactions. You can’t exchange warm hugs via the Internet, for example.
I’d love to say hi and give high-fives and eat popsicles and swap ideas with as many of you as possible at this year’s Orange Conference, so let’s try to make that happen, ok?
Now, there are going to be a lot of people there (like 6,000), so it might be a little tricky for us to find each other. So to make this process a little simpler, here are a few places you can be sure to find me…read more
You know about the annual Orange Conference in Atlanta, right?
Well, for as many years as I can remember, Orange has done a handful of Pre-Conference Workshops in the hours before the opening of the actual conference.
Every year, I heard incredible things about The Orange Pre-Conference (“It’s so personal! You meet so many people! It’s really practical! You get to connect with all the speakers!”)
But… I never actually got around to attending.
This year, however, that’s changing.
I am so excited about this year’s Pre-Conference that I can’t even stand it.
Here’s why.read more
It’s Orange Blogger Week!
What the heck does that mean, you ask?
Well, it means that all week long, ministry leaders around the world will be sharing their thoughts, experiences, and successes with “thinking Orange.” Collectively, we’ll talk about what Orange is, why we believe in it, and how it’s transformed our ministries.
And, most importantly, we’re going to be talking about The Orange Conference! Because it is coming up quick and, seriously, it’s going to be the best year ever. Check it out.read more
Last week, we stumbled on this little gem of a video (God bless the Internet).
So, of course…
We had to do it with our favorite middle schooler friends.
Now that we’re into the first full work week of 2014, I thought it would be fun to talk about our favorite tools for getting stuff done in the new year. I’ve got a few that I absolutely love, but I’d love to hear some of your favorites, too.
So how about this. I’ll share my three favorites. Then it’s your turn. Sound good? Together, we will make the ultimate list of awesome apps.
I really only use three productivity apps in all. I’ve got one for to-do lists, one for notes, and for building good habits.
And here they are…read more
It’s the first full week of 2014! I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about this coming year. I think it’s going to be a good one.
But, really, 2013 was pretty great too.
I launched this blog in 2013, for one thing. And it’s been a really fun little adventure so far. In the last year, we’ve talked about all sorts of stuff. Social media… having fun… partnering with parents… women in ministry… recycling your five million youth group t-shirts… and lots more.
I’ve had a blast so far.read more
Hi friends! Happy 2014!
Today is New Year’s Day. Which means yesterday was New Year’s Eve. And yesterday, like most of you, I spent some time thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions.
Yesterday morning, I grabbed my laptop, opened my to-do list, and started listing the things I wanted to accomplish in the new year.
I had goals for our ministry.
For my job.
For this blog.
For my health.
For my house.
For my bookshelf.
Turns out there are a ton of things I wanted to accomplish in 2014.
But as I looked over my list of resolutions, I realized I wasn’t very excited about them. It was a good list, full of really cool things I really did want to accomplish. But something about it felt empty.read more
So I’ve been a terrible blogger this month. I know. I hope you don’t hate me.
Life has been a little crazy. So, so, great. Just a little crazy.
Here’s what’s up with me lately…
I’m transitioning to part-time at my church.
For the three years I’ve been on staff with our Middle School Ministry, I’ve worked on our small groups, our volunteer teams, and a ton of other random stuff. It’s been super awesome. But for reasons I’ll explain in just a second, I’ve decided to drop down to part-time and focus my attention solely on our small groups and Small Group Leaders. And I’m really excited about it because, well, that’s kind of always been my favorite part. So starting sometime in January or February, my church job is going to look a little different. And because of this shift…read more
We’re finishing up the last week of our Lead Small book study today!
And to make things easy for you (because I like making things easy for you), I’ve condensed all four weeks of this study into one PDF document. So now you can download it, print it, stick it in your book, and study away. Want it? Here you go!
So to finish up this study, let’s get into Chapters 4 and 5…
Hello and welcome to the final week of our Lead Small book study! We’ve only got two chapters left to discuss. So, open those books to the beginning of Chapter 4, and let’s check it out!
Hey friends! Today we’re continuing our Lead Small book study with CHAPTER 3: Partner with Parents.
If you haven’t been keeping up with us, no worries. You can read the entire book in about 2 hours, and we’re only about halfway through. So grab yourself an hour, a cup of coffee, and comfy place to read, and follow along. Week 1 of the Book Study is right here, and Week 2 is here.
Today we’ll be talking about how to help Small Group Leaders partner with parents. This is a really big deal for us, so not only will we talk about the idea of partnering with parents, but I’ll also share with you some practical ideas on how our Small Group Leaders are making it happen. And I’d love to hear from you. Let’s swap some ideas and share what’s working!
So here we go! Week 3 of Lead Small.read more
Yesterday I gave you some of my favorite snippets and takeaways from the 2013 Middle School Ministry Campference. I hope you checked it out because, seriously, there was a heck of a lot of goodness in those notes.
Now, to keep the Campference conversation going, I want to tell you about a little Campference tradition that I got to be a part of this year: the Soapbox Sessions. Apparently, every year, Marko asks a handful of Campference people to give quick little 5-minute “soapbox rants” in response to this question:
“What is one thing you wish every middle school youth worker would stop doing, or start doing, or understand?”
And, this year, he asked me to get in on it.
So here’s my response, inspired by my 5-minute Campference Soapbox Rant.read more
This weekend, Kenny and I got the chance to hang out at The Middle School Ministry Campference. And it… was… awesome.
Let me tell you some of the cool things I learned.
Oh, but first, if you don’t know anything about The Campference, here’s what you need to know:
Kenny and I got to lead a couple of sessions about games and environments and marriage, which was really fun. And I got to do a little “Soapbox Rant,” which I’ll talk more about tomorrow.
But today let’s talk about the cool stuff we learned in sessions. Want to hear some of my favorite takeaways?read more
Hello and welcome back to my little Lead Small book study! Like I said last week, I’m kind of obsessed with this book, so I’m really excited you’re reading it with me.
Today we’re going to be talking about Chapters 1 and 2 of Lead Small: the first two tasks of a great Small Group Leader. What are they, you ask? “Be Present”and “Create a Safe Place.”
You’ve probably noticed that I’m taking you off-site to read these entries. That’s because they’re being guest posts for Orange Leaders. You might also notice that I’ve got some questions at the end of the post to spark some discussion. Feel free to post your responses to said questions right here in the comment section of my blog, or in the comment section of the Orange Leaders blog, or both if you’re feeling like an overachiever. Wherever you decide to post your thoughts is cool, as long as we get to talk and discuss and swap ideas. Because that’s fun.
Ok, here we go! Week 2 of Lead Small.read more
Hello friends! I have a fun little idea.
Let’s do a book study together!
Lead Small is a book written for Small Group Leaders, about… well, how to be an awesome Small Group Leader.
We love this book. So much, in fact, that our Middle School and High School Ministries went ahead and bought a copy for every single one of our Small Group Leaders. That’s how much we love it.
Right now, I’m re-reading this book for, like, the millionth time, in preparation for a new year of ministry with my Small Group Leaders.
And so… I’m thinking… maybe you’d like to read it with me?read more
You may or may not know this about me, but I spend some of my time working with a really cool group of folks on a really fun project called Uthmin.
What is Uthmin?
It’s a little something for the Middle School Ministry tribe.
Uthmin is about helping Middle School Ministers do ministry better, and it’s about bringing Middle School Ministers together… to help each other!read more
I’m often asked to recommend tools and resources for discipling teenagers. And, well, there are three resources I find myself recommending over and over again.
So today, I want to take a second to give you a look at those three resources (a method for sharing the Gospel, a Bible, and a 30-day devotional) and tell you why I like them so much.
Here they are…read more
Every month, I write a post for Lead Small, a blog that’s written for Small Group Leaders, by actual Small Group Leaders. In honor of September and the beginning of a brand new school year, I recently shared some thoughts on how to get off to a great start with your small group in the new year.
These are things that have really helped me be a better Small Group Leader for my girls. So if you think it’s helpful, I’d love it if you’d share it with your Small Group Leaders, too!read more
Kenny and I had the chance to attend The Orange Tour in Tampa last week…
And I loved it.
Some cool things to note about The Orange Tour:
While I’d love to share every last bit of my notes with you, that would make for a pretty long blog post. So, instead, I’m thinking I’ll start with my favorite thoughts, quotes, and little tweetable gems. So let’s get to it.read more
Hello reader-friends! I’m back after two weeks away, and I’ve missed you! Before I get into today’s post, a quick update: yes, I am still writing my book! No, it’s not finished yet. But yes, it will be available soon. I’ll have more juicy details for you next week, so hang tight.
For now, let’s talk about this week.
This week is exciting.
Why is it exciting? Well, for two reasons. Wait. Three reasons.read more
Hey friends! Just wanted to get you in the loop on something…
I’m not going to be blogging this week.
Not because I don’t like you, but because…
I’m writing a book! WOOHOO!
More details will be coming soon, but for now I’ll just tell you a few things about it…read more
So, friends, we’ve come to an end of this series of posts on how to make your office more awesome. In case you missed it, we’ve already talked about de-cluttering your workspace, wooden pallet walls, custom dry erase boards, t-shirt walls, and a magnetic chalkboard wall.
To wrap things up, I want to leave you with just a few more sources of inspiration for the design of your office. You’ve already seen some small snippets of our offices this week, but I heard a rumor that some of you might want to see the rest of our spaces. So… here you go! Hope it helps.read more
Ok reader friends, we’re back with just two more installments in this “How to Make Your Office Awesome” series. So far, I’ve shared some tips for de-cluttering your workspace, a tutorial on how to make a wooden pallet wall, a tutorial on how to make yourself some custom dry erase boards, and a tutorial on how to make a t-shirt wall.
And today, I want to give you a peek at my favorite part of my whole office, because it’s super functional and it looks pretty cool, too.
MY VOLUNTEER WALL.
I oversee all the volunteer development, training, and care for our Middle School Ministry, so it was really important to me to have a big statement piece in my office that was all about them. I wanted something that would help me remember practical things, like who was serving where, but I also wanted something that would help me remember why I do what I do.
So I decided to put all of my volunteers’ pretty little faces up on my wall. (Aren’t they so cute?)
Let me tell you what you’re looking at, and then I’ll tell you how to make it.read more
Hey friends! I need to interrupt this Awesome Office series real quick because… we have new treats for you in the Stuff You Can Use shop!
A BUNDLE OF 19 EDITABLE SERIES GRAPHICS!
Each graphic comes with an editable .psd file (editable in Photoshop), plus finished .jpgs (if you’d like to skip the editing and use the designs as-is).read more
We’re still going strong with this little “How to Make Your Office Awesome” series. So far, I’ve shared some tips for de-cluttering your workspace, a tutorial on how to make a wooden pallet wall, and a tutorial on how to make yourself some custom dry erase boards. I’ve got a few more ideas coming this week, starting with this gem from my favorite boy Kenny’s office…
A T-SHIRT WALL.
Being a youth pastor is pretty much synonymous with having an epic collection of t-shirts. So, if you’re looking for a cool (and affordable) way to decorate your office, take a few minutes, dig out your old youth ministry t-shirts, and you’ve got the raw materials for some pretty incredible office decor.read more
In case you missed it, I’m in the middle of a little series about how to make your office awesome. Because having a cool office is fun, of course, but also because the condition of your office can actually help you be better at your job.
In my last post, you got a peek at my friend Austin’s wooden pallet wall and, today, I want to keep this trend going with a feature in my office that I absolutely love: custom dry erase boards.
I’ll tell you how to make them and I’ll give you a free download with the templates to make them yourself.read more
Yesterday I shared a list of tips and thoughts on how to make your office super awesome. And, in case you forgot, Tip #4 on that list was…
DO ONE SUPER COOL THING.
If you recall, I mentioned that our youth ministry offices are pretty awesome. But it’s not because we’ve spent a ton of money on them. It’s because we’ve tried to come up with a few really cool and functional things to do with the space we have.read more
Today, I want to talk about making our offices freaking awesome. Why? Two reasons.
#1 Having a sweet office is fun.
I mean, think about all the time you spend sitting at your desk. Don’t you want to enjoy being there?
#2 The condition of your office can actually help you be better at your job.
Seriously. Plenty of research shows that the condition of our workspaces can significantly help, or hinder, our ability to be efficient and creative. And that’s a big deal because… well, we’ve got work to do! Like, really important work. If we want to be the best youth ministers we can possibly be, we’ve got to get stuff done, think creatively, and be motivated. So let’s create workspaces that encourage us to be our best and get more done.
So here’s what I want to do. Whether you’re in an office, cubicle, or a broom closet (been there, by the way), I want to share some tips for making your workspace freaking awesome.
These are tips for getting your office more organized (because I’ve seen some of your offices, and they are scary places), and tips for making it look sweet, too.
So let’s do it. Here are 4 simple tips for making your workspace more awesome.read more
Recently, our youth space needed a little makeover.
I guess it’s just what happens when you’ve got hundreds of teenagers running around multiple times a week: stuff starts to fall apart, decorative items get broken or go missing, and things just start to feel… a little run down. Our space needed some revamping. So I started brainstorming some solutions and updates.
The easiest way to bring some new life and coziness to our space, I decided, would be to invest in some cool wall art.
Two complications, though:
So I made my own! And it was so easy. Even if you don’t have a single artistic bone in your body, you can do this. I promise.read more
I got my start in ministry by volunteering as a Small Group Leader. And, to this day, the things I love most about ministry are small groups and leading, equipping, and caring for my Small Group Leaders. So when the folks at Orange asked me to be a contributor for their Lead Small blog, I was all over it. Lead Small is a book, and now it’s a blog, too – written for Small Group Leaders, by Small Group Leaders. It’s an incredible resource, and I am so excited that I get to contribute. Because leading a small group is one of my favorite things ever.
So… you should check it out. And you should tell your Small Group Leaders about it. And, to get you started, here’s my latest post. It’s a story (and some tips) about the power of celebrating traditions as a small group…read more
Last month, Jen Bradbury over at YMjen.com asked me to contribute to a series she was doing on her blog. She had asked a handful of women in youth ministry to share a transformative moment in their faith and ministry. I loved this series. And I was really excited to be a part of it. And I think you should read it.
Here’s the post I contributed. It’s the story of a moment that changed the way I view women in ministry…
The summer after I graduated high school, our youth pastor took a group of high school students and recent graduates to a student leadership conference. For five days, we were challenged to make a difference, set big goals, have a vision, and change the world for Jesus. I loved it.
Toward the end of the conference, one communicator in particular caught my attention. Because we all have unique gifts and passions, he said, the way each of us serves God should be unique too. Some of us would go on to serve God in the “world,” as doctors or lawyers or politicians or whatever else we wanted to do. And some of us, he said, would serve God in vocational ministry – maybe in a church or missions organization.
As a recent high school graduate who was still unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, I paid close attention. I had a ton of interests and talents and passion, but little eighteen-year-old Elle hadn’t figured out how to pull all of those things together for a future career yet.
I did know, though, that I loved leading and helping and serving in my church and my youth group. So when the communicator mentioned “vocational ministry,” I started to wonder…read more
Earlier this week I shared 9 things that I do every single summer in preparation for the new school year.
Those 9 things are keeping me pretty busy. But (like you, I’m sure) we also have the challenge of juggling all of the new things we want to launch in the new school year.
You know. New projects, new ideas, new systems…
So today, I wanted to give you a look at 7 brand new ideas and projects we’re trying to pull together in preparation for the new school year. And, like my last post, I’ll let you in on how we’re doing with each of them.read more
I was just talking to my friend Jeremy Lee about how ridiculously busy summers are in youth ministry. (And when I say we were “talking,” I actually mean he was laughing at me and my absurdly long Summer To-Do List.)
Summers in youth ministry are crazy. Now that August is almost here, I’m guessing you’re swamped with planning the calendar for a new school year, recruiting volunteers, reworking all the stuff that flopped last year, planning a sweet kick-off event, and about a million other things.
Or maybe you’re reading this post right now and thinking, “Shoot… I should probably start thinking about the new school year, huh?”
If that’s you, I will pray for you.
Anyway. I thought it would be fun to share with you a little checklist of the 9 things I do every single summer in preparation for the new school year… and let you know how I’m doing with each of them so far.read more
Ok friends, I’m wondering if you can help me with something…
I’m working on a few new series of posts for this blog. I’m really excited about them, and I think they’ll be pretty cool and helpful.
But… I need your help to pull them off!
So here’s what I’m wondering…read more
Earlier this week, I was gushing about the 7 reasons I’m obsessed with Never the Same Summer Camp. And I kind of left you hanging on Reason #7, where I said that I love them because of “their post-camp discipleship resources.” I had to hold off on telling you more about it because their brand new resource is so stinking good that it deserved its own post.
So, today, I’d like to introduce you to a new tool from our friends at Never the Same. It’s called Don’t Climb Alone.read more
Kenny and I are home after a week of summer camp with some of our little middle school friends!
We take students to NTS Camp (short for “Never the Same” Camp) every single summer. And, every single summer, the NTS team consistently blows us away with their vision, their hearts, their creativity, and their execution.
Is NTS Camp the best summer camp in the world? Yeah probably.
Should you take your students next summer? Um yes.
Let me tell you why.read more
Guys. GUESS WHAT.
Fun Ninja is a growing archive of our favorite youth group games and Kenny’s thoughts about creating super fun environments for students. I love what he’s put together so far, and there is tons more content on the way. Check it out!read more
Kenny and I are super excited about today’s news.
We’re almost ready to release a brand new resource under the umbrella of Stuff You Can Use.
And it’s all about FUN & GAMES! (One of our favorite things, if you recall.)
This almost-ready-to-be-announced resource is going to be an archive of our favorite youth group games. Expect lots of photos, videos, how-to’s, and blog posts from Kenny about how to create super fun environments at church.
Here’s a little sneak peek…read more
We’ve all but wrapped up this Cabin in the Woods series, but I wanted to leave you with one last takeaway from the 2013 Middle School Summit. At the very end of our time together, the nine of us spent some time answering the question “What are the best books you’ve read this year?”
Some of our suggestions are about ministry. A ton are about leadership. Some stretched our brains. And some were just good for our hearts.
Here’s the list of our favorites…
Well, friends, we’ve just about reached the end of this Cabin in the Woods series. I’ll be posting one final little bonus session tomorrow, but today is the last major topic of conversation from the 2013 Middle School Summit.
I’m pretty excited about this one.
Because Kenny and I are a little bit obsessed with the idea of partnership in the Body of Christ. Thanks, in large part, to the influence of our pastor, we’re big believers that the Church must work together if we want to be effective for the Gospel. As church leaders, we need to collaborate. We need to help each other. We need to swap ideas, compare notes, brainstorm, and troubleshoot together. We need each other.read more
Hello and welcome back to this little Cabin in the Woods series! If you’ve stumbled on this post mid-series, you probably want to check out this introduction from last week so you know what’s happening around here.
In the last week, you’ve been eavesdropping on the conversations that happened at this year’s Middle School Summit in Forest Falls, CA. We’ve already recapped our conversations about parent ministry, rites of passage, and developing “mission-minded” teenagers. And each topic has been packed with wisdom, insightful questions, and super practical ideas from a handful of insanely talented and innovative Youth Pastors.
So let’s keep it going with a look at our next topic of conversation:
Ok! Today marks the halfway point of this Cabin in the Woods series. Since last Monday, you’ve been eavesdropping on some of our conversations from the 2013 Middle School Summit – a small annual gathering of Middle School Pastors that’s been in existence for a little over 10 years. This year, Kenny and I got to attend for the first time and it… was… awesome.
Like I mentioned at the start of this series, the beautiful thing about the Middle School Summit is that it wasn’t a conference – it was a conversation. For three days (in a cabin in the woods), we got to talk ministry with some of the most incredible Middle School Pastors we’ve ever met.
We swapped ideas, talked about what’s working, shared what we’re wrestling with, and dreamed about what we’d like to try next.
We’ve already covered our talks about parent ministry and rites of passage. Today, we’ll keep it going with our conversation about seeing students live “on mission.”read more