GUEST POST: Tailgate Parties

What a great idea…

GUEST POST: Tailgate Parties

Last Friday, our ministry tailgated two of the biggest games of the season. I got to admit, we were a little nervous about how well this was going to go over. We tried to do tailgates about 5 years ago but they just weren’t working so we cut them. But, with our huge focus on campus outreach this year, we thought it was worth another try.

We decided to learn from our past and completely reinvent how we did tailgate parties. The first big difference was our location. This year, we held our parties at parks that were near the schools. We did this for a few reasons… well one reason, the schools said no. It was a frustrating thing to hear because there are so many people that tailgate on campus anyway, but we would rather call and get a “no,” than to go and hurt the reputation of our ministry. Because of that, we ended up doing out parties at the parks, and we loved it! Having it at a park let us do more activities (ultimate Frisbee, Football, Spikeball, etc.) that kept students at the event, giving us more relational opportunity. While having the tailgate in the campus parking lot would have given us a more convenient location, I feel like students would have grabbed food and left, giving us little face time with students.

As far as the event itself, we kept it simple and fun. The games that we tailgated for were the big rival games so we made sure to capitalize on their school spirit. We decorated everything in school colors! We had the balloons, tablecloths, streamers… the whole bit. We even set up a “War Paint” booth, where students could get their face painted for the game that night! Once students started coming over, we handed out some Frisbees, footballs, volleyballs, set up a game of Spikeball, and threw a dance party in the parking lot. We fueled them up for the big night by giving them pizza, cupcakes, cookies, chips, soda, and anything else that we found cheap. The event as a whole was super fun and super easy.

I am so happy with how it all turned out. We got to meet so many new students and got to make some awesome memories with our regulars! Tailgates can be a great outreach opportunity and can work for a ton of ministries out there because there are so many different ways to do them. I’m already thinking of ways to take ours to the next level!

Has your ministry tailgated a game before? How did you do it?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.


United set a fire

United night of worship

Worship at United

5 Keys to Building Healthy Volunteer Teams

Some great ideas to use in ministry!  

5 Keys to Building Healthy Volunteer Teams

Orange workshop

Are you committed to building healthy volunteer teams? (Image: KROMKRATHOG /

Last week I had the opportunity to teach a workshop at the Orange Conference for the very first time. Loved it! I am definitely not called to kid’s or student ministry, but I love hanging out with family ministry leaders.

In my session last week, we talked about building healthy volunteer teams. You’d think in volunteer intensive ministries like we engage in churches, that there would be more written and talked about on this topic. Yet, Simply Strategic Volunteers is still one of the few books I’m aware of that’s focused on engaging volunteers in the Church. (What other good resources do you know of on this specific topic?)

These are the five keys to building healthy volunteer teams that I offered to the Orange leaders last week:

  1. Think volunteers before staff. It’s our responsibility to “equip God’s people to do his work.” When we’re overwhelmed, our first question should be “How can we equip more volunteers?” As I’ve shared before, the church I’ve worked with that had the fewest staff members per attendees also had the highest percentage of people volunteering. They are thinking volunteers before staff, and it’s working.
  2. Teach shoulder-tapping. My friend Tim taught me this one. In the church, we tend to rely on promotions to recruit volunteers. We use platform announcements and bulletin ads and pleas for help. Volunteer recruitment is relational. It’s one friend inviting another friend to join them in serving. Four out of five people show up to church for the first time through an invitation from a friend. That same principle works for every next step people take at your church.
  3. Stay focused. This is a simple math problem. The more ministry programs and events your church offers, the more volunteers you’ll need. Focused ministry means less competition for people’s time and attention. People are busy. Their church shouldn’t be compounding the problem. We should be helping people prioritize their time rather than making their lives more complicated.
  4. Identify leaders, not doers. The church needs doers, or servants, too. But, as Jethro pointed out to Moses, we also need capable leaders. We need leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands. (See the 4 Stages of Leadership.) And, this may surprise you, but you don’t have to be on paid staff to be a leader in the church. Volunteers have leadership gifts too. If you feel stuck, you probably don’t need another person to get tasks done. Instead, you need another person to lead.
  5. Empower people to use their gifts. We need to remember it’s about the body of Christ using their gifts to fulfill God’s mission. It’s more about helping people be who God created them to be than it is about us finding people to get tasks done. I love this line from Tony Dungy, “I wasn’t there to be their boss. I was there to help the players get better.” That same philosophy of helping people pursue God’s potential applies in ministry as well.

Share what you’re learning about building healthy volunteer teams. What’s working? What’s not? Join the conversation by sharing your comment.

  • Outreach Events


Lots of people asked me if my 40th was significant to me in any specific ways.  Oddly enough, I had my midlife crisis at 38 I think.  So my 40th was not that mind warping.  However, I did make a list of several things I want to do in my 40th year- a bucket list of sorts I suppose.  While making that list I realized that in the next decade of my life, all my kids will become legal adults.

If I live to 50:  TJ will be 24, Tyler will be 22, Jake will be 19, and Becky and Billy will be 30 days from turning 18 when I turn 50.

So, with this realization, I have officially declared this my DECADE OF PARENTING INTO ADULTHOOD.  

I have no greater responsibility in the next 10 years and to that end, here’s my game plan:

MEET ONE-ON-ONE WITH MY KIDS.  As long as my sons and daughter live under my roof or within driving distance, I’ll keep making it a priority to meet weekly with them one-on-one.  Hands down it’s been the best parenting move I’ve made to date.

PRAY RIDICULOUSLY HARD.  I’m more committed than ever to praying for and with my kids.  I know raising my teens into functioning adults is no walk in the park.  I’m giving up before I get started and gonna cry out for Divine help and guidance constantly.

LEAVE NO VACATION DAYS FOR TOMORROW.  I’m going to get away with my wife and kids every chance I get.  I want to camp. Ride bikes. Enjoy the snow and the beach and the mountains and the rivers.  Play pretty much anywhere I can afford to go.  This season will be gone before I know it.  I decided that I want zero vacation days on the books when I hit 50.  I’m gonna exhaust all of them.

PASS THE BATON OF FAITH AND GET OUT OF THE WAY.  My goal is to stop running my kid’s lives in the next decade.  I could write for days in this concept, but bottom line is that I’m going to consciously continue to give them the chance to process through the “why” questions of life.  I want to do less for them and equip them to do more.  My greatest goal is for them to mature into thinking, passionate, and intentional followers of Jesus who have an adult faith and life.  Getting there is a maze I might not be able to navigate, but I’m firmly setting my sights there regardless.  

LISTEN AND LEARN.  I’m getting all the mentors around me I can find who have been there and done that.  I have no misconception that somehow you can create a family by formula, but I’m going to do everything I can to learn from the victories and even the warnings and regrets of every parent I respect who is further down this road than I am.

So… to those who have been there and done that or are in the thick of this with me… anything you’d add to my list?