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.

At The Table

When was the last time you invited someone to join you at your table and talk about life, love and faith?

by Jesse Criss and edited by Sophia Savalli

A little over a year ago, I watched the clip above for the first time. It’s produced by President’s Choice, a food company here in Canada. #EatTogether has been a campaign for a few years now. When watching the video, it is clear that the food company wants you to invest in food and buy their products. However, every time I watch this video I’m struck by a bunch of little things:

  • This girl seems lost in a world of screens
  • Everyone in disconnected, even the doorman
  • At first, no one really looks at each other
  • What conversation moved them to being in the hall?
  • How awkward was it to wait?
  • A simple knock implies a change of heart

 The video ends with the slogan “Nothing brings us together like eating together.” I would agree with that statement. Gathering around a table to eat has power. Growing up, some of my favourite memories are of gathering around my grandma’s farmhouse table. The house always had visitors and there was always the best food available. It was a simple table with benches and two extra chairs but somehow there was always room for who ever came by. We did, however, do more than eat at that table, which is why I would like to make an addition to the video’s slogan…

“Nothing brings us together like eating together…. and talking about life, love and faith.”

 It was around that farm table that I heard adults talk about life, love and faith. I distinctly remember these big conversations, heated moments, tears and joys being shared around that kitchen table. Sometimes it was during a meal and often it was during coffee or playing cards. If you wanted to talk, you sat at the table.

 Right now our world is saying “sit at your cubical and eat in isolation” because it’s more efficient. I would say that there needs to be a return to “the table” in our world. The table is where you go when you want to talk. But what does that look like for you? What’s your table?

Maybe your table is….

  • The spot on your stairs at school where your crew gathers at lunch
  • The locker you all meet at during third period because Sally’s mom always sends the good kind of cookies.
  • The empty board room that no one ever seems to use but is always booked for some reason.
  • The coffee shop on the corner by work. Their coffee is just okay but you have a “table” in the morning before the joint is officially open. 

I think everyone has a table somewhere in their lives but it sparks two questions:

  1. Have you invited anyone to join you?
  2. Have you considered the substance of your conversation?

The first question is simple: when was the last time you invited someone to join you at your table? If it was recent, well done! Now do it again. If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time to try again. The second question is harder to navigate. The goal is to talk about life, love and faith. All three are needed but we tend to just pick on only one.

My challenge to you this week is to invite someone to join you at the table and actively talk about life, love and faith. If you don’t know how to do that check this video below out. If you are comfortable talking about those topics, just gather and talk. Trust the Holy Spirit to work and guide your conversation.

DOWNLOAD PDF: At The Table

Jesse Signiture
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)

DOWNLOAD PDF:  HERE    

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.