Tag Archives: Rick Bundschuh

Youth Ministry Goes To The Movies

STORY 27 from 30 Years, 30 Stories in YLO100

061115_ylo100_30stories_blogsEditor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories  from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO. 

We have worked on over forty movies over the past thirty years, starting with ECHOES – a film that we produced, directed, and distributed in 1985. One that has reached as many teenagers as any faith-based film was Soul Surfer – The Bethany Hamilton Story. Rick Bundschuh, longtime Team interlínc Member, told interlinc’s Allen Weed, “There’s a 13-year-old surfer girl in our church who got her arm bit off by a shark. I believe that the Lord is going to do some amazing things through her life.” Allen totally missed how important what Rick was saying would be.

Several months later, Allen was eating lunch at Puckett’s Grocery — the local hamburger joint — and noticed on the television on top of the soft drink machine that the young teenager Rick mentioned was making a guest appearance on the Oprah show!

She was amazing as she shared her remarkable confidence in the Lord about the events surrounding the shark attack, how she had been dealing with it, and how she viewed her future. She quoted Jeremiah 29:11 as her rock-solid stance.

Allen immediately called Rick and asked him to get interlínc connected with Bethany’s family. From that association, The Heart of a Soul Surfer documentary was shot and sent out to all YLO members. Interlínc then worked with her family and her manager producer to coordinate the youth ministry outreach for the Soul Surfer theatrical release.

Soul Surfer Movie Guide
Soul Surfer Movie Guide

When most youth leaders think of interlínc, they rightfully think of music. We are, after all, heavily involved in the Christian music world, and most of our resources are created to use music as a hook to teach biblical truth. While teenagers are exposed to more music than any other media, we know that movies are very important and have a huge impact.

Your students are into movies—big time. Most of our young friends watch several movies a week. They watch them alone and with friends, on their phones, computers, televisions, and local theater screens. They quote lines and sing songs from favorite films, and adopt the fashions they see in the movies they like. Yep, movies are big time important to teenagers.

That means that YOU want to be able to take advantage of films that will help you reach young people for Jesus Christ, and help them to grow in their relationship with Him!

When we find movies that you would find useful, we create resources that help you use those films in your ministry to students. We review scripts and view screeners to find movies that can help you use the movie experience to impart Biblical truth to your students.

Some of the movies we've created youth ministry resources for
Some of the movies we have created youth ministry resources for

We have developed youth ministry resources for large blockbuster movies (like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and The Passion of The Christ), medium sized movies (such as Soul Surfer, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol) and smaller movies (like Alone Yet Not Alone and The Identical).

Movies can have a big impact on students. We want to help you to use that potential for Christ!

ROCK’N U – Rick’s Wild Hair (Hare) Idea

STORY 21 from 30 Years, 30 Stories in YLO100

061115_ylo100_30stories_blogsEditor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories  from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO. 

Wild hare ideas are my friends. They seemingly show up out of nowhere and beckon you to chase them down a rabbit hole. ROCK’N U was one of those wild hare ideas.

Get the complete ROCK’N U kit when you join YLO!

As the Pastor of a church that, from the start, embraced fully modern (think Rock-based) music as our worship medium, seeing young people slouching around our tiny stage amongst the litter of guitar cases, cords, pedals, and assorted sound gear was not unusual. But one day, surveying the wreckage, I realized a few undisputable facts:

  •  The medium of Rock Music had won the day. The “worship wars” of the early ’90’s were over—guitars and amps were now as ubiquitous on most every church stage as pianos and organs once were.
  • Everyone pretty much liked music built on simple chord progressions and the verse/chorus/verse of Rock music. Even the old guys—the Baby Boomers—were raised on Rock music. As far as music goes, it was our native language.
  • For someone who likes to play rock music, getting all the backline gear (amps, monitors, mics, etc.) was an expensive proposition, especially if you were young and poor. But low and behold, there on every church stage was all that equipment sitting idle most of the week.
  • Finding a place to practice is a pain in the neck for amplified music, but here at church was a big hall ready to use 24/7 with no set up—or tear down needed in order to get the car back in the garage.
  • Every band wants to play for an audience as much as they can and they want their audience to want them to play. If they create original music, they want that to be celebrated. Playing to a crowd on Sunday morning that responds to each song is the ultimate home team audience.
  • A ton of kids want to play music but don’t have the skill, the mentors, the gear, or the opportunity to hone their craft, especially playing with others.

With those facts rumbling around in my head, it became apparent that the church was a rock musician’s best friend and we somehow needed to became a patron of this new opportunity to touch people via music.


Thus, the idea of a weekend devoted to helping teens sharpen or discover their music skills, explore creativity, learn how to be part of a band, understand the sacredness of using the tool of music for Kingdom purposes ,and having fun was born and christened “ROCK’N U.”

That was over ten years ago. The idea has grown, mutated, replicated, spawned, and been a pipeline to send a whole bunch of young new musicians onto the stage on Sunday morning as well as being a terrific outreach tool in our community. (60% of those who come to our ROCK’N U weekend do not come from Christian families).

ROCK’N U has also animated our adult musical community, who quickly volunteer their services and mentoring skills for the weekend. In addition, our local music stores have been extremely generous in giving us gear to use for this event, knowing that it will produce future lifetime customers.

Probably the biggest joy that following this wild hare idea down the rabbit hole has produced, at least for me, is the reaction of the church seeing a stage full of young worship leaders banging out songs of worship on the Sunday morning that ROCK’N U wraps up. From their response, you would think that U2 was on the stage

ROCK’N U – Ten Years After

“JeMarketer” JeMarc Boliver
Volunteer @ gFREE Church, Philipsburg, Pennsylvania

ROCK’N U provides an outreach opportunity to invite people to church, and to hear about the love of God.


Max Crain was first introduced to ROCK’N U at a Creation concert event about five years ago. ROCK’N U is a teaching program (created by interlínc, who was at Creation) that is designed to help people learn the basics of playing in a band. If you’re not familiar with “Creation,” it is a GIANT, Christian music festival at Agape Farms in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania.

Get the complete ROCK’N U kit when you join YLO!

Starting with the ideas from ROCK’N U, Max tweaked the lessons to meet the needs of his church and the students who showed interest. Most of the students were “youth” (6th – 12th grade), and Max developed a 7-hour crash-course that he calls “1st Semester.” The students get to pick up an instrument for the first time ever (guitar, bass, or drums), and will actually perform a song on stage (as a band) by the end of the day. The “2nd Semester” builds on that foundation, and encourages further participation and consistent involvement with music.


Max saw a need within his church for a “culture of music” since sometimes musicians were there, but no musicians at other times. He wanted to create a training ground for musicians, to develop their God-given talents, and to have a steady stream of musicians cycling through at various levels.

Max never played an instrument, until he encountered ROCK’N U at the age of 35. He was trained to operate the sound equipment (mixing board) for the church, and he learned about music from behind the scenes. His son was learning Bass through the ROCK’N U curriculum, and Max sat through the practices to make sure his son could be there. Max then learned drums as well, through watching his son have drum lessons, and by listening to the instructor(s) teach his son. Max has even learned guitar, too! He set up a recording studio space in his home, and has played numerous band events. ROCK’N U gave Max a foundation to build on, and God has produced lots of fruit and growth as a result of his faithfulness and stewardship of the gift of music.


By now, Max has been involved with ministry for roughly ten years, and felt called to the music ministry (even before knowing how to play an instrument). He’s passionate about serving God through music and helping others develop their musical gifts.

The response and turnout for the ROCK’N U events has been awesome. Four different churches have gotten involved with he ROCK’N U ministry at gFREE Church (previously called the Gearhartville Free Methodist Church), and some students from ROCK’N U have started their own bands. The “Christ First” band, located in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, is one example—the ROCK’N U student in this band is only about ten years old! One ROCK’N U student is currently touring Europe with a band right now (2015).

The church has provided all of the ROCK’N U musical equipment—grants have been given for the instruments—but students can bring their own instrument if they want. All that’s required is to show up and be ready to learn. The youngest person to attend ROCK’N U has been about eight years old, and the oldest have been in their 50’s. The program is for anyone interested in learning music. ROCK’N U provides an outreach opportunity to invite people to church, and to hear about the love of God.

Get the complete ROCK’N U kit when you join YLO!

Max is excited about this year for ROCK’N U as he develops online music training videos to help students practice at home. He sees the internet as an opportunity to serve beyond the local area. Come join the online community of learning musicians, and post your questions or comments to let Max know what will help your journey into Christian music/worship.

The WriteGroup With The Right Stuff

STORY 10 from 30 Years, 30 Stories in YLO100

061115_ylo100_30stories_blogsEditor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories  from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO. 

WriteGroup Annual Retreat (2003)

For this one hundredth issue of YLO, we asked the WriteGroup to explain why they are involved, why they passionately pitch in their efforts, and what benefits they derive from their involvement.

Here’s how a few of them responded.

Todd Pearage

Calvary Church, Souderton, Pennsylvania

While sitting in a general session at the national youth workers convention, I heard a speaker say, “Now I feel know what a donkey feels like at the Kentucky Derby. I know I’m not the best, but it sure is fun to run with the best.” That’s exactly how I feel being a member of the WriteGroup. I have the privilege of writing Bible studies for thousands of youth ministries with the likes of Ken, Rick, Mary, Eric, Jeremy, Paul, and others.

In the last few years, I’ve been invited to join Team interlínc at music festivals and leadership conferences around the country. Countless times youth leaders have shared how much they appreciate and value the Bible studies in each YLO magazine. Their words are encouraging, humbling, and serve as a powerful reminder of the privilege of serving on the WriteGroup.

Eric Gargus

Marie Baptist Church, Dublin, Georgia

An eccentric old hermit told me the force was with my family and I, so I decided to join the rebellion. After all, who wouldn’t want to use a light saber? Actually, I have loved writing since my college days. I was looking for an outlet for my passion for writing that intersected with my passion for youth ministry. But wait, there’s more! I love music—especially great faith-based music. Writing for interlínc was a no-brainer, if given the opportunity.

Ken McCoy sent out the call for potential new interlínc writers and I submitted a study. It didn’t get published because the album didn’t make the cut for the box. I thought it was because I had not made the cut. A few weeks later during a challenging time in my ministry I got an email. It was Ken and he invited me to join the WriteGroup. I’ve been in the group ever since! From writing movie studies, song and video studies, and even a retreat based on Si Robertson’s first book, I know that my studies have the potential to help many youth leaders.

Having been a YLO member long before becoming a member of WriteGroup, I was truly humbled to join the top-notch folks in the WriteGroup. These people had unknowingly helped me in my ministry countless times through their studies. And now I had the honor of calling them my colleagues! I still haven’t met many of them face to face, but the camaraderie via internet definitely spurs me on in my ministry.

There’s something so much bigger than just being published in a tall stack of magazines (or are they “Resource Books”?) along with the other in-the-trenches youth workers of the WriteGroup. It’s about impacting youth ministry across the world by engaging students in the media that drives culture. Ultimately, it’s about proclaiming the blood of Jesus to the world. And what more fun way is there than music and media?

Rick Bundschuh

Kauai Christian Fellowship, Poipu, Hawaii

One thing that lunatics really dislike is to be alone. Lunacy is only fun when it is goaded along by other lunatics. What lured me to be part of the Write Group was the idea that someone actually was willing to host (with other similar smart aleck, witty, imaginative thinkers who all happened to be youth ministry veterans) unfettered out-of-the-box thinking about what interlínc might be able to do that would be innovative. The lunatics were invited to suggest how to run the asylum! How could you turn down an invitation like that!

WriteGroup at Hog Heaven (2006)

For a number of years we descended upon Nashville and, taking our role as the vanguard of youth ministry, created havoc in some of the fine dining and lodging establishments interlínc hosted us at—such as “Hog Heaven” and Montgomery Bell State Park. (We did get to stay at the Opryland Hotel once, but I think someone stole the towels—so that ended that.)

In the end, all the wild and wacky stuff aside, I think all of us ended up in the WriteGroup because it seemed as if we could be useful in helping connect kids with good stuff that points them to God.

Being a Parent In Music and Ministry


Editor’s Note: We were talking about the “Parents” theme of this issue of Youth Leaders Only, and the thought that youth leaders and musicians share some of the same, umm, “unique conditions” in which we ourselves are trying to be good parents. We wondered if we could get a conversation rolling between several of our Team interlínc youthworkers and Team interlínc artist-musicians about this subject, including:

  • Lecrae Artist Atlanta, GA
  • Steve Taylor Artist Nashville, TN
  • Rick Bundschuh Youthworker/Pastor Kauai Christian Fellowship, Poipu, HI
  • Jeremy White Youthworker/Pastor Valley Church, Vacaville, CA
  • Todd Pearage Youthworker Calvary Church, Souderton, PA
  • Doug Ranck Youthworker Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA

What you’re about to read is part of that virtual conversation. There are some deep insights here, and some smirks that are too good to miss. Read on!

interlinc: Youth leaders and musicians don’t have normal “9-to-5” schedules. How do you work around your schedule in order to be a good dad to your kids?

Lecrae It’s all about prioritizing and reverse-engineering. I treat my family as a priority over work and outside obligations, which then governs how my weeks and months are laid out on the calendar. I tour a lot less than I could simply because I value the health of my family over whatever I might gain from doing more concerts. Some practical things I do in planning my weeks include consistently giving my wife a day off every week. My wife and my team know that the kids are my responsibility for that entire day, no matter what. I also commit to doing breakfast with my kids every morning, and devotionals with them every night when I’m home.

Todd Pearage I believe that the flexibility in my schedule has allowed me to be a “good dad” over the years. I have been able to attend my kids’ performances and honor celebrations at school as well as coach them in every sport they played. One of the cool opportunities has been including my kids in some very unique experiences. They’ve attended summer camps, winter retreats, and concerts that other kids their age were not attending. They also got to meet some of their heroes in Christian music. I was not always able to buy them the latest video game system or extravagant vacations, but they got to have dinner with KJ-52 and hang out with Tobymac.

Rick Bundschuh I found that my weird schedule actually worked as an advantage when the kids were young. I was around a lot in the morning. And since my wife also worked, we juggled our schedule so that we seldom had daycare. When the kids got older, I would yank them out of school from time to time to go with me to a conference or speaking commitment. Oh, and I insisted that I would work from home rather than a church office.

Steve Taylor Early in the morning isn’t always my favorite time of day, but it’s the one time I know nothing else is going on. So I’ve always been the one to drive our now teenage daughter to school; for some reason it’s easier to talk when we’re both looking through the windshield than when we’re sitting across from each other having a “talk.” We also try to schedule weekly daddy/daughter nights that typically involve going out to eat—she’s more talkative when there’s food involved—and although I often work nights, there’s usually one or two free nights a week.

Doug Ranck When the kids were still at home my short answer was to “bend and flex.” If I had an evening away from home, then I had “down” time scheduled in the late afternoon or morning and tried my best to choose time when they were around too. Taking at least one day off a week is important too. Although the kids are out are of the home now, I still want to take care of my marriage in the same way.

Jeremy White I am blessed to work in a ministry culture where both hard work and adequate rest are highly valued. I’ve worked in environments where that has not been the case, so I think it’s important — whether you work for a ministry that sets your parameters, or you have more autonomy over your own schedule — to make sure you are diligent about time management. Time is the one resource you can never get back once it’s spent. Finances can be recovered. Things can be replaced. But time can’t. Through the school of hard knocks that almost took me out of ministry, by God’s grace I’ve learned to say the magic word “NO” without feeling guilty.

Get the complete “Being a Parent in Music and Ministry” Roundtable Discussion included in the new YLO96 when you join Youth Leaders Only.

Why All The Mess?

Guest post by Rick Bundschuh from Kauai Christian Fellowship

Editor’s Note: Rick is one of the coolest lunatics you’ll ever meet. We are proud to have him as a member of Team Interlínc, and as one of our WriteGroup contributors. His video of their recent Middle School retreat (you can see it here) is what prompted us to ask him to explain, “Why all the mess?” You’ll no doubt identify with his explanation!

I walked into the big room used by the Middle School every Wednesday night. There were feathers everywhere. There were feathers in the light fixtures, feathers on the shelves, feathers piled in the corners and feathers in the window screens. My first thought was, “It sure looks like someone (other than a goose or chicken) was having a load of fun!”

A certain part of youth ministry gets messy because messy means more fun.

Tie a donut on a string and have a contest to see who can eat it first. This could make a lot of crumbs, but it is really not all that messy. Take the same donut; dip it in chocolate syrup, and feed it to a partner lying on the floor and you now have “messy” with a capital M.

The messy factor is what turns an okay stunt or game into something that kids talk about for a long time and one that they tell their friends about.

Of course messy doesn’t attract prissy girls or too cool guys—but it sure works great with the average Middle School monkey.

  • Getting messy is what mom won’t let you do at home, which makes it even more fun.
  • Getting a girl messy is the way that a Middle School guy shows affection.
  • Getting your friend messy is the way that you show brotherly love—in Middle School terms that is.
  • Getting messy makes for great movies, photos, and publicity on social media.
  • Getting messy makes for lots of laughter and even more mess.

Messy is part of the message that says to kids, “Hey, this Christian thing is wild, fun, and exciting!” It wins us the right to talk about the “abundant life” with credibility because, for a Middle School kid, the more mess you make, the more abundant life truly is!

And yes, messy can have some downsides. Someone has to clean up all that mess. Shaving crème stings the eyes. The chocolate handprints your cleaning crew missed will come back to haunt you in the form of a scolding by the non-messy lady from the Women’s ministry. A few killjoys may make noise about bad stewardship in the waste of noodles, feathers, shaving crème, cooking oil, etc. Or, you may have to get out the vacuum and go after the feathers that your cleaning crew didn’t see in their hurry to suck up eight pillowcases worth of down.

But messy is one of those things that adults have generally grown out of. We have forgotten the pure joy of rolling in mud, being lathered in a bath of Jello, or getting a pie in the face. We would never think of bobbing for Baby Ruth bars in a toilet filled with Mountain Dew, or rediscover the missile launching pleasure of a good old fashion food fight.

And in a way, that’s too bad.

But, making a mess in the name of Jesus is what we in youth work are called to do. Many of us take great pride in our, mess, uh, err, work!

The Un-Mission Trip: Get More Kingdom Bang for your Fundraising Buck

© Swisshippo | Dreamstime.com

Guest post by Rick Bundschuh, Kauai Christian Fellowship, Kauai, Hawaii

Editor’s Note: This article appears in the YLO94 Resource Book featuring articles on the theme of Missions and Service. You can preview more of the book and the music in YLO94 here.

Let me assure you that taking students to third-world countries for exposure to missions is a very valuable idea on several levels.

The trips get them fired up about missions in general, and make them very appreciative (at least for awhile) of all the things they take for granted at home. A mission project infuses the kids with a sense of responsibility for the poor that they will never shake and often brings a wonder sense of purposefulness and comradeship.

There are lots and lots of great reasons for going on mission trips — which is why I take a group of kids to Tijuana every year.

But seldom — very, very, seldom — are mission trips truly effective in reaching those in far off lands for Christ. Yes, by our presence and efforts we may be supporting a ministry that is active in evangelism, but let’s get really honest with each other here; mission trips usually do far more good (in the short run) for our kids than they do for those in foreign countries we visit for a week or two.

Oh, I know that sometimes, after the skit or presentation (if you do that kind of thing), lots of hands went up or people came forward. But, most of the time we have no idea if the locals are just being nice to the Yankee kids, or if they have a culture that responds in this way to every invitation. (No, I am not denying that God can move, but as one who has lots of friends in foreign missions who host youth groups, lets just say I am aware that all is not always as it seems.)

And then, there is the money.

Usually, thousands of dollars per student are spent to go to a place — where the money spent by our youth group to get to this place could feed and fuel the economy of an entire village for a year.

Most of us are aware of the huge discrepancy between wages in poor countries and the USA. Many of us have, sitting in the midst of poverty, felt acute embarrassment at our own over-the-top wealth and careless spending habits when just a few less luxuries at home could put the village kid we were playing soccer with through school.

So here is an idea: this year, don’t go. Don’t have a mission trip at all; have an Un-mission Trip.

Do your fundraisers, get the bucks together, make a goal that is exactly the same as if your crew were jumping on a plane or doing the road trip to Mexico on the bus. And then send all the money to the mission that you were going to work with. The money can be used to hire a local evangelist, to feed a family, to buy Bibles, to pay bills, to send a hardworking local missionary couple on a surprise weekend trip to the big city and their first-ever stay in a hotel with some spending money in their pocket. Or, bring someone from the mission you visited last year to your town. Help them get their visitor visas, buy them Wal-Mart or even Macy’s gift cards and let them go nuts. Give them the vacation of their lifetime. Let them try to minister to your church this year.

True, some kids will not be motivated by this idea. (You may have better luck with kids who have already had their eyes opened in prior mission trips) Some are only willing to work hard if they benefit from it. But it won’t take much in the way of math or graphs to make the case that perhaps this year, unlike other years, the goal of your mission efforts is to get as much Kingdom bang for the buck; and that by staying home, working hard, and sending the cash (okay, okay, pick one kid who worked super hard and send him or her down with a staff person to present the gift), the good things that can be done are multiplied.

And we all can still have fun working toward that purpose.

How To Hang Out With Family and BLESS THEM This Thanksgiving

Guest post by Ken McCoy and Rick Bundschuh

Okay, we all know what the holiday will be like. Lots of food, football on television, odd ancient relatives with more hair coming out of their ears than on their head, and, between the kisses from over-perfumed aunties, lots of boredom.

But did you ever think that maybe this holiday YOU could make a difference on the enjoyment meter?

We know that the tendency is for you to disappear into your own world on your smartphone or portable computer thingy, or just hang with your dopy cousins and be bored together. So, these ideas will help make your Thanksgiving the best one you’ve ever experienced and endear you to your family members.

  • Ask older people to tell you stories about their life. What was living on a farm like? What was life like for you during the war? What was it like to use a pay phone? How was being a teenager in those days different than today? Did you really see the Beatles play live? etc. You might find hidden treasure sitting on your living room sofa!
  • Be the designated photographer. Shoot photos of family members – especially the ones you don’t see often. Get everyone’s e-mail address and email copies of your photos to everyone.
  • Clear the table, do the dishes, take out the trash – but do it intentionally. Recast yourself as the “Busboy” – you’re trying to BLESS the adults, so take the initiative and get things cleaned up before anyone can even ask to do it. You’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have doing these kinds of chores with a go-for-it attitude!
  • If someone beats you to the Busboy job, then you choose to be the “Waiter” or “Waitress.” Refill people’s drinks, bring out more appetizers, ask whether anyone needs anything… all the actions that good waiter or waitress would do to earn a tip – but you do it to bless everyone else!
  • If people will be watching football, volunteer to make things a little more interesting. Here’s an idea to try: take “bets” on the game (not just win/lose, but maybe point spread, or will this next play be a run or a pass, etc.) Figure out a way to track the standings of the participants. The grand winner gets his or her car washed by you!
  • Organize some Thanksgiving games for the little kids. The adults will think you’re a hero! Here are some ideas: Pin the Tail on the Turkey; Turkey Trivia (You can find Thanksgiving trivia or quizzes online); Create a flag-football game with the little kids that you play in the backyard.
  • Play “Marco-Turkey” – it’s like “Marco Polo” that you play in a swimming pool, but you play this in the garage or smaller roped off area. Blindfold one “Pilgrim” who has to tag the “turkeys” (the other kids who are crawling around on all fours.)

When you do some or all these ideas, you’ll transform your Thanksgiving experience. You’ll probably discover that the best part of the holiday has nothing to do with feasting, turkey, football, or cranberries. You’ll discover the joy of blessing others, of connecting with family, and of making lifetime memories.

Happy Thanksgiving!

NOTE TO YOUTH LEADERS: Use what you have here to encourage your students to turn their Thanksgiving experience into an opportunity to bless their families. You can copy/paste these ideas into a series of texts that you send your students or post this whole thing on your youth ministry website, or even use the text to create a cool flyer that you hand out to the group. Click here to download these ideas as a PDF.

Balancing Act

Written by Rick Bundschuh
Early in my youth ministry career, I used to get a little guilty as I drove off for a couple hours of surfing in the morning. On the way to the beach I would pass all the suited up businessmen, harried moms with school kids in the van, and everybody else who lived a “normal” life. I’d paddled out to sit in the line up with waiters, beach bums, retired old guys and a few guys supposedly on disability leave.

You see, my day started much later than most people’s and came to a fever pitch once the end-of-school bell rang. Dragging into the house at 10pm or later was common many days of the week. Most of the other guys on the church staff showed up to their desk around 8:30 in the morning. I stumbled in after lunch, maybe — unless I was running around with a pack of kids.

Going surfing in the morning was — and still is — a way that I balance my life. So, I don’t feel guilty anymore. The idea of sitting down to a nice relaxing family meal five or six nights a week was foreign to me. The more common scenario was to horse down something quick, kiss the kids goodnight (’cause I wasn’t going to tuck them into bed) and bolting for the door. And this was on the lucky nights when I wasn’t out on the road picking up kids.

But, I was there at lunch. Even when they went to school, I could show up and have lunch with my kids. Not too many other Dads could pull that one off.
I worked hard and put in lots of hours when students were available; I made up for all those hours when students were in seasons where they were busy. Even to this day, I barely work almost the whole month of December. My kids think this is normal. This is just the balance of family and ministry.

Doing youth work well is all about balancing the various things in life and ministry. In fact, I’ve found that, because of all the various elements that most youth workers must deal with, the ability to handle the spinning plate balancing act without loosing any of the fine china is often the difference between burning out of youth ministry and having a nice long run.

  • It is about balancing wife, kids, and ministry.
  • It is about balancing the need to have a private adult life with the public mania that comes with knowing every kid in the mall.
  • It is about going after the unwashed kids in the neighborhood without losing the church kids.
  • It is about loving and serving the geeks as well as the jocks.
  • It is about having the cutting edge renegade sassiness that brings fun to the church community and at the same time being able to carry on a meaningful conversation with Mrs. Methuselah.
  • It is about knowing when to control the kids and when to let them go nuts.
  • It about figuring out how much abuse one should expect the church van to suffer, and when to strap all the kids onto the roof rack.
  • It is about being able to have fun, and to have impact.
  • It is about knowing what about your ministry to tell the congregation and what to keep quiet about. (Wiping the four letter words written in shaving cream off the bathroom mirror would be one of those adventures not worth mentioning.)
  • It is about having to be tough and loving at the same time.
  • It is about having the trust of the kids, but being an advocate of the parents as well.

Balance is not always easy. We often let the demands of the squeaky wheel, the whims of our emotions, or unrealistic expectations tilt us. Balance means learning to say “No.” “No, I won’t take on the college-age class as well as the youth ministry.” “No, we won’t be coming to Saturday morning mens prayer breakfast because we will be playing paintball with a bunch of ruffians.”

Balance also means learning to say “Yes!” “Yes, I think we can find a night to be part of a small group even if it means I will be out five of seven nights most weeks.” “Yes, I will try to find some high school girls to babysit for the women’s ministry — and yes, I will ask them to ‘do it as unto the Lord’.” (But I hope the Lord is planning on at least tipping them).

Dig in your heels and refuse to meet in the middle. Go overboard on one thing or another while neglecting other vital areas of youth ministry and you won’t last long. But learn balance, negotiation, the art of win/win, and the skill of an ecclesiastical shortstop — and my guess is that your career in youth ministry will not only be long and fruitful, you will enjoy the heck out of it.

This article was written by Rick Bundschuh for a previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Book. As we reach the beginning of the end of another I-wasn’t-sure-I’d-survive-this-one summer and face the “normalcy” of the fall schedule, I thought we all could use the reminder about finding some balance in our lives.

Photo credit: © Dwphotos | Dreamstime.com