Thirty Minutes Faster 

What would your life and ministry be like if you were to live thirty minuets faster?

by Jesse Criss Edited with Grammarly Try it Free

Series Intro: Being an effective leader means we need to have the right tools for the right situation. The larger our toolbelt the more prepared we are for any situation that may come our way.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Thirty Minutes Faster Guide

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and the things I have learned over the years, partly because I’m working on a new ebook on leadership but also because I have lots of reflection time these days.

If you have been following along over the last few months then you know I’m currently in transition. For me, that means I don’t now work for a church, and I spend most of my days being a Manny (according to my wife) as the new school year started. It’s my responsibly to get my twins up, feed, make lunches, get dressed and be off to pre-school three days a week. That seems like a simple task, but they are a lot of work. For this, to work, everyone needs to be up and out of bed no later than 7:30 am. That’s easy enough, but it also means that I have to be up and ready to go. Ya my wife is here, and we could tag team this thing, but she works from home and tries to get some time in before breakfast.

So really for this whole thing to work I need to be up, showered, dressed and ready to go well before the twins. But it’s not just physically being prepared I need to be mentally prepared as well. So the plan right now is to try and be up by 6:30ish each morning. So that I’m downstairs and ready by no later than 7:00 am.

I tell you this because this is a leadership principle that has governed my life and ministry for as long as I can remember.

Leadership Principle: As the leader, you need to be 30min ahead of everyone else.

This fundamental principle has been the driving force behind much of how I have operated in ministry. My goal is to always at the minimum be ready to go 30min ahead of myself at any given time. To be clear, that means physically, mental, emotional and spiritual ahead. Here are some examples of how that works in the real world of ministry.

  • Physically: If I have youth group on Wednesday night and have leaders meeting at 6:00 pm, then I want to have everything I need for youth group READY 30min before that meeting. That allows me to be not only ready for the meeting but gives my mind a chance to be clear so I can provide clear directions to my leaders.
  • Mentally: Typically, youth nights are formed into chunks of time that are about 30min long, mentally, you need too always to be about 30min faster than you physically are. So if your running games from 7:30-8:00 pm and then switching to worship. The band will need to know 15min before the switch so they can set-up when you want to start worship at 8:15 pm.
  • Emotionally: Life and youth ministry get busy, especially on youth nights. However, when your 30min faster than your first scheduled task, it gives you 30min to REST. To pause and breath, take a moment to eat, grab a drink or be still. This rest has been a life-giving moment for me over the years, especially on big event nights.
  • Spiritually: I genuinely believe that when you operate 30min ahead, you are learning to trust that Jesus is in control. Your youth night or retreat day is long, and there are all kinds of things coming you can’t control But what you can control is about 30min of time. After that, you are trusting Jesus to show up in big and powerful ways.

Being 30min early is not always easy. Even today in my home, 30min was maybe 15min, but I entered my day rested and ready for what was to come. In ministry, if you can be 30min ahead of yourself and teach your leaders how to be 30min ahead as well, it will change everything. Because you will walk into activity/program/event physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready for whatever God brings.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: The easiest way to start is to set a small and simple goal this week. All I want you to do is pick one activity or moment in your schedule and be 30min early. Then with that extra time rest, take a break, pray, breath, or read your bible. Don’t just go on your phone, though, rest and pause. If you keep this up over time, it will become natural.

Jesse Email Tag
If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.

How To: Prioritize Work

Recently of one of the people, I coach asked me the following question and I thought I would share my response and a weekly template you can try out on your own.

Written by Jesse Criss

Series Intro: There is a ton of things that happen in ministry that are just never really thought at Bible School. Being a Pastor involves a lot of on the ground training. This series is designed to help you with those “How To…” moments

Recently of one of the people, I coach asked me the following question and I thought I would share my response. Not because I’m so wise but because the question forced me to recognize a mistake I’ve been making in my leadership over the last few years.

Question: How do you know what parts of your job to prioritize?

I once had a friend tell me the first and most important thing to check off your to-do list each week should be the things that are seen as primary for your supervisor, boss or sr leadership. Because that is what they will be checking for first and foremost. However, when you get done what is most important first you get to move on to what you want to probably do. However, over time it will give you the credibility and freedom to be able to chase after what you feel is important because you will have a reputation for getting things done.

This was the mistake I often made over the last few years. I’m a person who always has a few projects on the go. I’m trying something new, writing out dreams, crafting a five-year plan etc…and because they were important to me they tended to take priority in my workday. However, they were not always important to my team, boss or sr leadership.

Here is the order of priority I wish someone had given me, and it’s what I passed on to the person I’m coaching.

  1. Mission Critical – These are the things that MUST be done this week for ministry to happen. Without them, someone will probably want to fire you. Example: Write the sermon you need for Youth Group before Youth Group. 
  2. Boss Priorities – These are the expectations of your leadership. They may not be daily things but they will probably be regular things. They may line up with MissionCritical stuff but not necessarily. Example: Filling out/submitting your timesheet on time
  3. Team Priorities – Is there anything your work/ministry team is waiting on you to complete so they can move forward in their job. Example: Booking the park for the kick-off event so that team member whos running games knows how much space they have to play on. 
  4. Leader/Student Priorities – Has a student/leader asked you to do something for them this week, or do you need to get back someone about a question they had. Example: Sending a leader the spiritual gifts test (Sorry Heather) they asked for so they can follow up with a student. 
  5. Personal Priorities – This is the stuff you want to get done. They may fall into some of the same categories as above but I would make the distinction that these are probably passion projects. Things that make you love what you do every day. Example: Creating space to dream about the future of your ministry, or inventing a new game/event for youth that you will eventually do. It’s important but it’s not mission-critical. 

The reality is the first three things on this list are probably weekly routine stuff that you just need to get done. If your responsible for all your administration then getting that stuff done (unless you’re like me) is the LAST thing you want to do. However, the last two priorities are often very life-giving. They directly full our passions and are often a bit more exciting.

The reality is once the first three priorities are out of the way you can get to the stuff that drives your passion and energizes you if the middle to end of the day when most of us are fighting the tendency to leave early.

Jesse Email Tag
If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.

DNA: Year Long Planner

Creating a Year Long Planner is extremely important but something everyone has done. This DNA Guide will help you craft your very own planner.

Written by Jesse Criss (Update Aug 2019)


DNA Guides/Videos are designed specifically to bring in Pastors, Leaders, and Experts to provide the foundation (DNA) blocks for you to craft your own program component. The goal is not to sell our method but use practical examples to drive home the foundations. 

When I talk to other Youth Pastors and Leaders, a topic that seems to come up a lot is Planning. Specifically, how to break out of the month to month cycle most people are stuck in. For most of us, it is in the early days of our ministry when we know very little, don’t yet have a rhythm or core events that we run month to month, (at least that’s what it was like for me when I started out all those years ago.)

We produced a month-long bulletin and newsletter for the church and it would be due a few days before the next month started. My habit at the time was to spend a few days (or the day it was due) scrambling to get information together. There was no dreaming, vision casting, planning or concern about what came the month after. The goal was to get it out ASAP, and it worked … for a while.

Eventually, during my second year as a part-time pastor and a few years later when I went into full-time ministry, the whole thing caught up to me. Often there were mistakes and double bookings. Once I had an all-nighter in only one room of the church because of a funeral set up and a DEAD BODY (100% TRUTH) being in the other room. I hadn’t bothered to look at what the church was planning so when I made my event FOR THE NEXT WEEK I ran into problems.

After that, I knew that it was time to sit down and make a plan. But the administration was not my skillset at the time and I struggled hard to get my head around a whole years’ worth of programming. Fast forward 18 years and things have definitely changed. I know most of my major events a year in advance and work anywhere from 6-9 months ahead. For the most part, the year is planned but I run our program all year round so there is no real END, just the start of the next set of ideas.

DISCLAIMER: Below is a step-by-step guide to how I plan a calendar. This is my method but I have done my best to stick to the principles of the DNA series. The goal is to offer the fundamental elements so that you can craft your own plan. If you would like a more in-depth guide check out our Digital Bookstore  specifically the “Planning Events” and “Developing Series” ebooks. Both would be a huge asset to anyone looking to do year-long planning. 

1) Get A Calendar

Print off 12 months’ worth of calendar sheets. You can easily do this in outlook and can print them blank. Eventually, things will go digital, but I always start with a paper copy because I find it easier to see everything at once and can better mark up the paper.

2) Church Admin / Room Booker

Now you need to contact your Church Administrator or whoever books the church as a whole. Ask them a series of questions….

  • What major bookings do you have this year (not just on your night)
  • What are regular things that get booked but are not in the system yet
  • What is being rumored to be booked but has not yet been finalized.

3) School Calendars 

Go online and download your local school district calendar. You want to take down all the important dates that relate to your students.

  • Any Pro-D (Professional Development Day) where kids are off school
  • Mark the start of School, Christmas, Easter and Spring Break
  • If you’re a High School Pastor mark down any Grad related dates

4) Annual Youth Events

In every ministry, there are annual events that need to stay annual. Think through some of these possibilities

  • Retreats (Fall, Winter, Spring)
  • Christmas Party
  • Grad Events
  • Nights youth is canceled
  • Kick-Off Nights
  • Anything that you do that is a MUST.

NOTE: Once you have all this together with you now can plug in your program basics. For the most part, every group contains one or all of these elements.

  • Worship Nights
  • Service Opportunities
  • Big Events
  • Retreat
  • Teaching Weeks
  • Small Groups
  • Leadership Development

Now must of us don’t do all these things every week or even every term/semester. What you need to do is figure out how many of each of these nights you want and how close you want them together.

5) Now the Program BASICS

Now you need to plug in all the event elements into your calendar. How this happens is really up to you. This is how I fill my calendar, remember the details are not as important right now as the date and BASIC program element.

  • Worship Nights – 4 per year (1 a term)
  • Service Opportunities – 3 per year
  • Big Events – 1 Event a month (12 events total)
  • Retreat – 3 a year (Fall, Winter, and Grad)
  • Teaching Weeks/Small Groups – We mix them together and they make up most of the weeks. Our one rule is that it’s always at least 2 weeks back to back so we can build some continuity with teaching/groups.
  • Leadership Development – 3 times a year (Sept, Jan, Spring Break)

5) Filling in the details

Now that you have a full year plan you need to fill in the details. What I love about this method is that it gives you and your leaders, kids and parents dates to save. Your space gets booked in advance and you have something to work towards. The hard part is now over, the fun part is getting to fill in the details. Here are a few things to remember.

  • Still trying to plan your details at least a term (fall, winter, spring, summer) at a time.
  • Look for the opportunities that other things like Pro-D days provide
  • Plan out the cost of your ministry to spread out the expensive events
  • Plan your events around the BIG stuff. So, when you come back from a retreat make sure it’s a lighter week or a guest teacher.
  • Take into account your Vision/Mission and make sure your event details line up.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: We are responsible for the students God has put into our care. Our goal and mission should always be lead kids to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and the mission that he has called them to. But don’t forget that we are also the architects of the program. That means we are responsible for events either honoring or ignoring Jesus. It’s why I believe that planning a yearlong calendar is so important. It forces me to STOP and ask tough questions.

BONUS: Always write in pencil… because things will change and that is OK.

Jesse Email Tag
If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.