SYMC 2016 – Real World Family Ministry


This weekend I have been at The Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago, IL. It’s been a great weekend so far and I have been so encouraged by the conversations, new connections, and inspiring worship and teaching.

In addition, I have had the privilege to invest in and encourage youth and family ministry workers as they seek to partner with the family to reach the next generation.

As promised, here are two links to .pdf documents I covered in my two sessions as part of the Real World Youth Ministry Half Track. 

They are available only until October 15th 2016. Contact Phil Bell if you are attempting to download after this date.


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5 New Year Resolutions For Youth Workers…

New Year Youth Ministry ResolutionsSo, this is the time of year when many are creating resolutions and reassessing what the next year should like. To be honest, I am not a big fan of resolutions since many of them are made quickly and without an action plan. However, if we can be intentional and specific and plan ahead, it is good to create some goals and standards for the coming year.

Here are 5 areas that I have taken and adapted from by Tim Elmore. I ordered my areas in priority and  have also given some specifics of what I am doing personally.

1. Personal / Spiritual: For me I am planning on getting up 30 minutes earlier to ensure that my devotional time uninterrupted by my early riser 3 year old.

2. Family: We just had our third child and it’s been challenging balancing family time with a newborn in the house. However, we are committed to getting back to a regular date night for myself and my wife, mommy daughter dates, daddy daughter dates, and family nights. We schedule these about once a month. We would like to do them more, (and sometimes we do), but we are in a busy season. I have found that if I do not schedule my family time, it is likely that every last minute ministry ’emergency’ will take over my schedule. Read more

Keys To Youth Ministry Longevity: 5 Essential Boundaries

How can you hang in the long haul and be successful in your church ministry situation? If you have been in youth ministry even for a short time, you have likely heard the statistics for ‘youth ministry burnout’ or know someone who has lost their passion for ministry.

Even though youth workers are passionate and committed to their ministries, it’s equally as important that they are committed to healthy boundaries.

While boundaries might sound defensive and rigid, they actually benefit your church greatly, since you will be healthier for your students… And you might just stay at that church longer too…

5 Essential Boundaries

ONE: ‘Devotional’ Boundaries: When it gets busy it’s easy to allow our devotional time to get edged or become a lesson plan. Staying fresh spiritually requires us to have a committed regular time to fill the tank personally. I think this should be a given, but how are we really doing in this area?

TWO: ‘Family’ Boundaries: If you can’t take care of your family first, how can you know how to take care of the family of God? (1 Timothy 3:5). At times I confess I have put ministry ahead of my marriage and family. Of course, there are certain seasons of craziness, but they must only be seasons. Your children (if you have kids), need you to invest in their life and faith. There are many people who can invest in the students you work with, but there is only one person in the whole world who is called to “mommy” or “daddy” to our kids… In the same way, your spouse (if you are married), needs your best, not your left-overs… Read more

Introducing Two New Contributors!

Today I am excited to announce two new contributors to this youth ministry blog! Here’s some info about them:

John and Leneita Fix have been in some form of youth ministry for almost 20 years. In the early years John volunteered and spent his days as a High School science teacher,  while Leneita was the one considered “full time.”  That all changed about 16 years ago when they both came on staff with an urban youth ministry.  They have always approached ministry with a shared vision to see the next generation grow from survival to thriving in Christ.  With the changing landscape of “urban” ministry their heart is for unchurched families.  Together they bring a unique perspective of ministering in  a variety of  settings   from running ministries,  to programming,  teaching,  speaking and simply enjoying their marriage while raising 4  children.  All the while they do this by living in the inner city learning to be a neighbor to those who are there with them.

Too Busy To Breathe?

Have you had those seasons in ministry and life where you just don’t seem to get a time to breathe? The last few months for me have felt that way. Between a constant barrage of family sickness, more ministry “emergencies” than normal, as well as over extending myself in some areas, it has been a challenging couple of months. Maybe you can relate?

In seasons like this it’s time to breathe, time to learn, and time to look forward. 

TIME TO BREATHE: The last couple of months have been very busy, but it means everything to stop and be filled up instead of running on empty. The last two weeks I have had to be very intentional to calve out time to be alone, read God’s Word, and be silent. It’s not easy, but it’s essential. It’s challenging to slow down when there are so many things to get done and so many people to keep happy. However, hanging in the long-haul and being effective in the short-term depends on our dependence on God. We must be ruthless with our schedules and intentional about taking time to breathe with our Father.  Read more

Balancing Family and Ministry Part 3: Boundaries

In my previous post I looked at the importance of creating a family friendly schedule that is a win for our families and our churches too. Today I want to talk about the importance of healthy boundaries in ministry.

Check out my first post in this series to see how you can enter to win a FREE registration for The Simply Youth Ministry Conference…

When I started out in ministry I wanted to change the world and see students lives radically changed by God. I was younger, single, and I wanted to do whatever I could to make a difference! Today, I am older, I am married, but my passion has not changed. In fact, I feel a greater urgency and passion these days than ever before… And here’s the struggle: Our passion to make a difference in ministry can often create unhealthy boundaries for our families. It’s imperative we set up healthy boundaries that allow us to be effective in ministry and work hard for our church or organization, but also healthy for our family. 

I have made many mistakes with boundaries, but I have learned a great deal too. Here are the boundaries that truly make a difference for me and my family: 

1) The Hours I Work: My church has called me to minister to students and I take my role very seriously. My church trusts me to work the hours in my job description and expect and be a wise steward of my time. But, I find there is always more to do than my hours allow. If I am not careful I could be working unhealthy hours and miss out valuable times with my family. It’s up to me to set up a healthy schedule.

For me, I usually schedule ten hours below what is expected, knowing that emergencies, extra phone calls, and last minute meetings will add another ten hours. It’s also important to realize that there are certain seasons when we work longer hours, but it’s also important to “buy back” family time sometime later. As a steward of my time, it’s imperative that I work smart to accomplish the most important tasks.

2) My Day Off: I work really hard to not answer my phone, check email, or talk ministry on my day off. My voicemail even states that Friday is my day off and “I will return your message on Saturday”. I have come to realize that being available every day is not healthy for me and my family and in the long run will not benefit my church. A day off is imperative. How are you keeping your day off protected?

3) Cell Phone: There was a time when I took every phone call and often missed out on crucial conversations and times with my family. The outcome was not healthy… Therefore, these days my phone gets switched off at family dinner times and usually doesn’t get switched back on until the kids are in bed. It’s then that I return any messages I have. I also avoid taking phone calls while we are driving somewhere as a family. I do this to be “fully present” with my wife and kids. It’s important that I communicate that they are my priority while I am with them.  It might seem that I am making others wait to get to me… you would be right in thinking so! I work hard to return messages quickly, I always communicate that I was with my family when I return a call since it’s important for others to see the priorities I place on family time.

4) Date Night and Family Night. As I discussed in a previous post, I schedule these crucial dates 1-2 months in advance to ensure my calendar is family friendly first. It’s then that I schedule meetings, sports events, and additional events on my calendar…

Well, those are my top four healthy boundaries for my family. What about you? What helps you do great ministry, yet keep healthy boundaries around your family? What have you been learning in all of this? 

Balancing Family and Ministry Part 2: Scheduling Priorities

Yesterday we began a series focused on balancing family and ministry by taking a look at the life of a young youth worker called David! I was blown away by the responses and comments. Check out the post by clicking here. You can also enter to win a FREE registration to The Simply Youth Ministry Conference by following the instructions at the bottom of this post…

Today, I want to share with you some things I do to ensure that I invest in my family and strive for healthy balance while doing ministry. I have a story similar to David who we read about in the previous post. There was a time when I felt like quitting ministry altogether! However, God has kept me in ministry and helped me to learn life-changing lessons and learn how to find balance for my family. For me, like many of us, it is a question of good boundaries and scheduling. In my next post I will look at boundaries, but for today I will focus on my schedule.

The biggest schedule lesson I have learned is this: Schedule the most important family commitments before anything else. Now, obviously days like Sunday and maybe a Wednesday midweek program are always on our schedules, but apart from those kind of regular activities, there is a lot of flexibility in our scheduling. Therefore, before everything else gets added in, I ensure that the following priorities get added into my schedule.

1) Family Meal Times: Believe it or not, it’s easy to miss these simple family times. It’s also very easy to be late to dinner regularly if we are not careful. Constant lateness home for dinner is a big deal since it communicates the wrong message to our spouse and kids. Therefore, I actually write dinner and lunches into my schedule, otherwise they can get overlooked. It also helps my wife know what to plan on a weekly basis if she knows I am going to be home for certain meals.

2) Date Nights: We used to be able to have a weekly date night before we had kids! Now it is twice a month! We usually plan these nights out 1-2 months in advance. When I take time to make these date nights a priority, it communicates that my spouse is more important than anything else. It also ensures that we always have something to look forward to when life is busy and challenging.

3) Family Nights: Now that we have two kids, we have an intentional family night where we do something “out of the normal”. It could be a family bike ride and picnic on a summer evening, or a family game / movie night on a cold winter evening. Again, we do these family nights every two weeks and schedule them in 1-2 months in advance.

4) Traditions: For us family traditions are so important! Throughout the year we have these small events / getaways planned that we all look forward to. These range from overnight getaways to a hotel with water-park, to our yearly trip to the apple orchard. As adults it’s easy to lose the excitement and anticipation of these simple events and trips. But I know how important these memory makers are for my kids! If you were to talk to my kids, they would tell you that the yearly trip to a German style town called Frankenmuth in Michigan is there highlight! Most importantly, it’s one of many yearly traditions we have established that always give us something positive to look forward to and memories to look back on…

Now, let’s be honest for a minute. There is nothing I have said that is a new thought for most of us is there? However, if you are like me, I have found that ministry can take over our schedules very quickly. It’s imperative that we are intentionally scheduling family times before everything else takes over…

And here is the outcome:

– My family stays healthier

– My church gets a healthier youth worker and my ministry has greater effectiveness.

– I hang in for the long haul and my students will benefit from my longevity.

What family priorities do you need to schedule? What family priorities have become defaults in your schedule that are benefiting you, your family, and your church?


1) Comment and Help David: What advice would you give David? What can he do to make the necessary changes? What needs to happen in his family and ministry?

2) Comment and Share Your Story: In what ways do you relate to David’s story? What have you done to make the changes? What changes could you make personally?

3) Tweet To Win! Tweet the following text and your name can be entered a SECOND time to win!

I just entered to win a FREE conference registration for SYMC 2012  from @PhilBell #stumin






Balancing Family & Ministry Part 1: SYMC Giveaway

Today I begin a series focused on balancing family and ministry. In addition, if you comment on this post AND tweet this out, you could win a FREE registration to The Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville, KY next March. (See details at the bottom of this post on how you could win).

The team at Simply Youth Ministry have created a conference that does so much more than equip youth workers with the tools to do ministry effectively. Right from the beginning, their vision has been to invest in the whole person of the youth worker. SYMC 2012 is a place for youth workers to not only gain incredible skills for ministry, but also discover a place of authenticity where they can refuel and breathe. With this in mind, today I want to encourage you take time to breathe and refuel as you consider how you balance family and ministry…

David’s Story: 

David took his first ministry position straight from college. He got married the following year, changed churches a year after, and had twins with his wife Kim the year after that. David would agree it’s been a busy and sometimes frustrating time as he has tried to deal with the constant changes that family and ministry brings. His job is mostly stressful and a growing church has often become a burden instead of a blessing it once was… If you were to take time to speak to his wife Kim, the exhaustion is evident on her face. The last two years have been sometimes miserable as Kim has watched David get pulled in many directions in a ministry that looks great from the outside…

On the inside of David’s family however, Kim is feeling over burdened with greater responsibility at home and is often feeling alone as David works an unhealthy hours. David too, is at breaking point… He is running on empty and it is only a matter of time before he falls apart…  The cracks are starting to appear… These days he feels like he barely has time to breathe… 

Does this story sound familiar? Are there cracks appearing for you? If someone could peek on the inside and could look at your alone time with God, your family time, your days off, and the authenticity of your friendships, what would they see? If you are like me, there are some areas that I need to work on…

Help David! Comment, Tweet, and YOU could WIN!

Tomorrow I will post some things I have been doing to balance family and ministry.  But for now, I would love to hear from you! Here’s what you can do to help David, and possibly win a registration to SYMC 2012!

1) Comment and Help David: What advice would you give David? What can he do to make the neccesary changes? What needs to happen in his family and ministry?

2) Comment and Share Your Story: In what ways do you relate to David’s story? What have you done to make the changes? What changes could you make personally?

3) Tweet To Win! Tweet the following text and your name can be entered a SECOND time to win!

I just entered to win a FREE conference registration for SYMC 2012  from @PhilBell #stumin

For more information on the Simply Youth Ministry Conference go to: or call Matty McCage at 615-349-7111 to register.




Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 5: Students

Many of the students in our ministries come from broken homes or difficult situations, (not all, but many). Statistically many of them are living with only one parent and have seen divorce. It’s important that I see the big picture of my ministry as a model to these students who need to see how a dad / husband acts and lives. In the same way, many of my students need to see how a mom / wife acts and lives through the example of my wife. Even if students come from great families, it’s vital that my students get the inside scoop to myself, my wife, my kids, and the way we live… Scary thought?

Here’s what I do: Read more

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