Get my new book for 85% off!!!

book banner 2

 This weekend Simply Youth Ministry is doing a massive sale on their digital books … including MINE! If you act fast you can get it for less than two bucks. That’s crazy. It’s a youth ministry book, but honestly, I wrote it for everyone with some specific illustrations that relate to ministry workers. Here’s the description the marketing people came up with for my labor of love …

When it comes to your health, God wants you to be selfish.

Crazy idea, right? But it’s totally true.

Far too many of us in church ministry choose to sacrifice our personal health because we’re deeply dedicated to our family, our ministry, or other people’s needs. But if we don’t make our health a priority, no one else will.

Veteran youth pastor Matthew McNutt knows what it’s like to be “too busy” for a healthy lifestyle—but he also knows the rewards of changing course and practicing this good kind of selfishness. A former contestant on The Biggest Loser, he’s ready to help you discover some powerful lessons about spiritual and physical health—and what it all means for those of us called to student ministry.

Scripture speaks of our bodies as the holy and sacred dwelling place of God—the temple of the Holy Spirit. That’s why a healthy you honors God. Plus, a healthy you benefits your family and close friends. And a healthy you guides teenagers toward a God-honoring perspective on food and exercise.

Your ministry will survive if you give time to yourself—in fact, over time it’ll be stronger because of it. And you will have modeled something powerful to the people you’re leading.

You can buy it here – but act fast, the price goes back up after the weekend!


Thoughts on writing

I love to write. I’ve written dozens of articles, had a column, contributed to two books, and blogged somewhat regularly for years. Even as child I would compose stories. As a teenager I kept a journal and was known for my short stories. In college I wrote scripts that were always well received. I am a writer.

My lifelong dream? To have a book of my own.

Which is probably why I always put it off. Dreams are sometimes easier unachieved. Not because it’s enjoyable, but because it’s safe. Without risking, the safety of never knowing failure is there.

Which explains why it has been somewhat challenging to finally start penning my first book. Is it inaccurate to say penning? Technically there are no pens involved … gotta love the digital age.

Either way, it’s finally starting to flow. I spent a couple days psyching myself out, having writer’s block before I even started. Which is amusing because it’s based on material I’ve already written, just finally being collected, rewritten, and connected in a way I’ve intended to do for a long time.

Anyway, I’m excited about it and looking forward to sharing it with everyone in the months to come. The goal is to have the manuscript completed in the next few weeks in time for a spring release.

Incarcerated Teens (my latest article)

The final entry in my three part series on ministering to adolescents facing court and/or incarceration went live today over at! It was a challenging series for me to write; the first one dealt with ministry to young people facing a judge from the perspective of the youth worker, the second from the perspective of the family in the midst of it all (probably the most difficult article I’ve ever written due to the personal nature of it), and the third one is more of a practical how-to guide to visiting and ministering to teens who are incarcerated. Anyway, here’s the opening (you can find the full article here):

Incarcerated adolescents. Easily one of the more forgotten segments of our population. Without access to cell phones, texting, Facebook, or Skype, they feel truly cut off, whether they’re in jail, juvenile detention center, group home, or whatever else the terms of their sentencing require. They are cut off from the world and the reality is, as much as their friends and even family may promise otherwise, they oftentimes find themselves alone with an empty mailbox and no visitors. It is brutal.

It’s amazing. That same kid that ignored your talks, caused problems on retreats, and generally behaved like someone who would eventually end up where he is, will be an entirely different person when you show up to spend an hour with him. He’ll listen, open up, be excited to see you and reluctant to say goodbye. He’ll write letters to you, ask you to pray, and want to know when you can make it again.

We are wired for community and connection, and our correctional system starves young people of both. To me, it seems like a non-negotiable that we be present for these young people, whether that means finding someone to connect with them and is willing to view that connection as an ongoing ministry, or being that person ourselves.

Find the rest of the article here, and let me know what you think!

Guilty! (my latest article)

The second in my three part series on ministering to students facing court and/or incarceration went live today over at It was by far the hardest of the three to write, mostly because of how personal it is. I hope it can be a benefit to others. You can read the whole thing here.

My brother agreed to plead guilty in exchange for lessening and dropping some of the charges. We were naively hopeful. What we thought would be a quick appearance before a federal judge, most likely some sort of suspended sentence and a celebration afterwards turned into something else as the prosecutor unexpectedly started ripping into my brother, demanding a harsher sentence than what they had alluded to. This hadn’t been part of the deal.

It was our worst nightmare. And my brother had already pled guilty.

Those moments will be seared into my memory for ever. The judge sentencing my baby brother to two years in federal prison. The gasps of shock from others present. My mother sobbing, my dad sitting there in helpless shock. My brother looking numb, choked up. He had been a top athlete, class president, school president, active in our state politics before things fell apart in college. The kid I used to wrestle with, play in our fort together, and babysit when our parents went out was going to be locked up with who knows what kind of criminals, the worst our society has to offer, in a prison that wouldn’t be disclosed to us until later.

Read the rest of the article here.

Order in the Court (my latest article)

My latest article just went live over at Simply Youth Ministry. It’s actually the first in a three part series that will trickle out over the next couple months. It’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while simply because of my own experiences with ministering to teens facing trials and convictions, as well as being on the other side of the issue with family members who have found themselves facing the judge. Anyway, here’s the intro … you can click through to read the rest and leave a comment so I know what you think!

It probably happens more often than you realize. A student you are connected to is arrested for some offense—or multiple offenses—and faces a court appearance. The odds are, they and their family are trying to keep it quiet.  Maybe you hear through the grapevine, maybe they actually tell you. Either way, it’s time to be assertive. Don’t wait to be asked, instead offer, repeatedly if needed, to be present, to come to the trial, to write a letter to the judge asking for leniency, to help in any way they need. If they weren’t the ones to tell you directly, let them know you heard about it and want to be available in any or all those ways.

For the student and their family, this is a months long process of fearful waiting interspersed with moments of terrifying court appearances. They will have meetings with lawyers who paint hopeful outcomes and worst possible scenarios. It literally consumes all their thoughts and will keep them awake at night. There is shame, embarrassment, anxiety, anger—a whole mix of emotions boiling throughout the entire family, not just the student being charged. And for the most part, during this time when they most desperately need others, they are probably going it alone. Read the rest here.

A Beautiful Mess | Mark Oestricher

I finished reading Mark Oestricher’s new book, ‘A Beautiful Mess,’ this afternoon. It’s not huge, so it really only took an hour or so to read, but I really love it. In a lot of ways, it felt like a natural progression from his book ‘Youth Ministry 3.0’, which I also love.

I found myself highlighting my way through the book, saving quotes to use for later.

I appreciated his affirmation of smaller, under resourced church youth groups. I agree with his observation that too many fall into the trap of thinking a showy program with expensive toys is somehow better. The reality is – we’ll never be able to compete with the glitzy stuff the rest of the world is putting together. It will always be cooler, hipper, and more incredibly cool to young people than what we can pull off, no matter the budget. Relationships truly are where it’s at. Being those loving adults in a young person’s life that they hunger for.

I think one of the strengths of the book, as opposed to so many books that identify the problems in youth ministry and come up with fixes, Oesstricher instead focuses on what he sees working throughout the country. It’s simple. It’s solid. And it’s affirming, both to the calling of youth ministry and that there are great things happening all over the place whether we realize it or not.

One quote that I am grabbing and using in my youth leader training was this:

Let me be clear about the thre three things that are necessary for great youth ministry:

  • You like teenagers.
  • You are a growing follower of Jesus.
  • You are willing to live honestly in the presence of those teenagers you like.

I love it. It sums it all up so eloquently and simply. It’s easy to remember, easy to pass on, and opens the door to a lot of great training conversations. You can find the book in both digital and physical formats here; and for a limited time, the digital versions are FREE. Grab it!

Status Drama (my latest article)

My latest article just went live over at Simply Youth Ministry; you can find it here. Kind of a fun memory (after the fact!) from our 2011 middle school winter retreat. Read it and let me know what you think!

We loaded up several 15-passenger vans and hit the road for what should have been a 20-minute drive from our middle school winter retreat to the snow tubing mountain. Halfway there it started to rain, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. I didn’t know at the time just how bad it would get.

We were within a mile of the snow tubing entrance when I began to realize we were in trouble. The car in front of us slid off the road into the snow bank, effectively blocking everyone. What I thought was just a wet road was actually a quarter inch of ice!  As traffic backed up, my leaders and I hopped out to help—and that’s when my heart started to beat fast. These mountainous back roads were like ice skating rinks. With the rest of the way being uphill, even after we pushed the car out of the way, our vans couldn’t go any farther. I didn’t have a choice, we had to head back.

Unfortunately, it kept raining. And freezing. And five minutes later the first of our vans slid off the road. Then another one.  Read the rest of the article here.

Living out God’s purposes: Worship (11/6/11)

We were in week five of a five week series entitled ‘Living out God’s purposes’ in Student Quest this week. It’s actually centered around our student ministry purpose statement, ‘We are real people, in love with a real God, making a real difference in the world.’ That statement contains five values, or purposes:

  • Real People: Fellowship
  • Real God: Worship, Discipleship
  • Real Difference: Evangelism, Service

We’re using a study called ‘Living out God’s purposes’ from the Live Curriculum as our launching point. However, we changed it up significantly this week – we had our student worship team plan the whole hour, invited parents and families to attend, and let the teens that are a part of our worship group lead the music and do the teaching. Four students, Zach H, Jack S, Kiley A, and Rachael G, each taught on a way of giving worship to God. You can listen to them on our podcast feed; I just updated it.

Parents, consider using the following for a followup discussion on worship this week at home:

We’ve been looking at the story of Mary and how she lived out God’s purposes in her life. Mary understood that worship is a lifestyle, and she worshiped when she obeyed God, when she revealed her servant’s heart, when she studied and lived out Scripture, and when she sang songs of praise. She turned each activity in her life into an opportunity to bring honor to God. Mary encountered a living God, and she knew her only response could be worship. Similarly, as we encounter and draw closer to God, we find that our natural response is to pursue a lifestyle of worship.

  • How do you think Mary might have defined the word “worship”? How do you define it? How has your definition changed through your high school years?
  • Why do many Christians see “worship” as just something that’s expressed through music? Is that a reflection of problems in how churches talk about worship, or are there other factors that contribute to this misunderstanding? Explain.
  • Where are you already living a lifestyle of worship? What’s one area of your life you’ve never really thought of as an opportunity to worship God, but now do? Explain.

I pray this has been a helpful, insightful, challenging series for your student. Thanks for your continued prayers for our small group ministry!


Living out God’s purposes: Discover your shape for serving (10/30/11)

We were in week four of a five week series entitled ‘Living out God’s purposes’ in Student Quest this week. It’s actually centered around our student ministry purpose statement, ‘We are real people, in love with a real God, making a real difference in the world.’ That statement contains five values, or purposes:

  • Real People: Fellowship
  • Real God: Worship, Discipleship
  • Real Difference: Evangelism, Service

We’re using a study called ‘Living out God’s purposes’ from the Live Curriculum as our launching point. This week I taught the high school students while Jennifer B taught the middle school students. The series is actually looking at the story of Mary and how she lived out God’s purposes in her life.

After Mary learned about her “calling,” we see in Luke 1:38 that she willingly submitted to what God had chosen her to do. Mary realized that she had been selected for a unique purpose, and she was willing to obey God and fulfill this plan. She is a great example to us of the value of discovering our place in service and ministry.

We challenged our students this week to work through their S.H.A.P.E. for ministry: their spiritual gifts, their heart (passions), their abilities, their personality, and their experiences. God has created each of us uniquely and calls every Christian to find a place of service.

I’d encourage you to find time this week to talk with your child. Here are some questions that you might want to include in your chat:

  • What words would you use to describe Mary’s attitude and response to God’s calling?
  • When someone asks you to help or serve, what’s usually your immediate reaction? Why do you respond that way?
  • What are some examples of ways you’ve served God and others? Through those experiences, what did you learn about yourself and the way God created you?

Maybe take a little time to talk as a family about the importance of contributing to the body of Christ through ministry. Just as each member in your family has a specific place within your home, every member of the church family plays a unique and specific role to the life of the body. Have an awesome day!