There When They Need You- A while back, I got an email from the parent of a kid that hadn’t been part of our ministry in years. They just stopped coming. She talked about how influential I had been in their kid’s life and that he was hurting and in need of some care. All sorts of thoughts and feelings […]
When Teens Are Gay-   We have teens and young adults in our church who are gay, bisexual, and transgendered. At one point not too long ago, we had to deal with two girls who were actually kind of making out with each other during our large group time. I eventually had a private conversation with the two of them […]
Defining the Wins- It can be really hard to tell if you’re #winning as a small group leader. Showing up week after week to lead sometimes seemingly meaningless discussions only to have kids bounce around in the conversation to whatever happens to be on their mind, or even literally bouncing around on the floor. A small group leader may not […]
When Driving with Students- We’ve all been there. Whether it’s the kid who needs a ride home after youth group or the kid who can’t get a ride to come meet you at Starbucks, the scenario is the same. You and a teenager alone in a car. Should you be concerned or is it no big deal? I say it’s a […]
When a Kid is Suicidal- If you’re in youth ministry, you will inevitably encounter a teen who is at least somewhat suicidal. It’s a scary thing that must be taken seriously. Because of it’s danger, I’ll cut to the chase here and get to the most important things that you must do when a kid is suicidal.
When Kids are Cutting- I’ve been in youth ministry for more than 20 years and have come to realize that there is no end to the steady stream of kids who experience deep pain in their lives and resort to cutting (and other destructive behaviors) as a means of coping. Every time I talk with a young boy or girl […]
Hate Recruiting Volunteers?- A major part of me hates recruiting volunteers. It takes a lot of energy just to work up the motivation to ask people to volunteer. I think most ministry leaders pretty much hate recruiting volunteers. We don’t like asking for help. We don’t want to make all those phone calls only to be told “no” […]
The #1 Pastoral Skill- The #1 skill that a pastor should master is RECRUITING.* You might say that the #1 skill that a pastor (or any other ministry leader) should master is preaching. A pastor can get pretty good at preaching and build a large audience. But, if he doesn’t master recruiting, find people, and equip them to lead and staff the kids ministry, the […]
Don’t Organize…Mobilize!- There’s a big difference between organizing ministry and mobilizing ministry. The more we grow, the more gears there are to grease, the more issues we face, the more it’s necessary to recognize the difference. As a ministry grows, it is absolutely necessary to develop more policies, systems, and protocols to try manage the unwieldiness and messiness of […]
Mission Trips- The Problem: How I Did Missions Then For years, I took students on annual mission trips. Some were domestic (in the U.S.) and some were international (outside the U.S.). They were always great experiences. But one day I realized a few things that made me really uncomfortable with doing them anymore. I think we were guilty […]
What Grows Your Group?- Four Things that DON’T Grow Your Youth Group 4. Fun Games It’s fun to play games at church or youth group. In fact, fun and laughter are great for building community in your group. But games don’t grow your youth group. In fact, if you play the wrong games, you can actually drive kids away who think they’re […]
13 Easy ways to Get Students Involved in Church- Ask them to read scripture during worship services, youth group, and small groups Ask them to pray during worship services, youth group, and small groups Ask them to teach/speak at youth group and other gatherings (maybe even preach on a Sunday) Ask them to be ushers and greeters Ask them to play in the band […]
4 Pressure Points on Every Pastor- It seems to me that there are four pressure points I experience on a weekly basis that seems to be common to all pastors and ministry leaders. These pressure points have no regard for person, giftedness, experience or size of church or ministry. Note: I’m not complaining here. I’m just acknowledging what we all experience. […]
7 Do’s and Don’ts of Getting and Keeping Your Group’s Attention- It’s your responsibility to gain and retain the attention of the students in your group. I don’t think you can expect students to automatically grant attention to you as speaker/leader just because you’re an adult or just because you’re up front. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts of getting and keeping their attention.
4 Steps to a Great Small Group- I’m convinced that there is a sequence to building a great small group experience. One step leads to the other. Unfortunately, many small group leaders, teachers, youth pastors, etc. try to jump to the last stage in the process (content) without working through the first four steps. I’ve categorized them into 4 C’s (and yes, […]
6 Things I’m not doing at Youth Group Tonight- 1. Leading Worship – I used to do that, but now someone else is doing that. 2. Giving the Welcome and Announcements – I used to do that, but now we have 2 student hosts each week giving the welcome and announcements. They’re doing great as long as we give them cue cards. 3. Teaching/Speaking […]
The Secret Sauce for Speaking to Students- This is being posted on a Wednesday. Hopefully most of you have already planned your message/lesson for tonight. But, if you’re looking for some last minute magic…here ya go. This is, by far, the best format I’ve used for delivering my messages to students. It’s the ages old Hook, Book, Look, Took. Hook Option 1 (my […]
Best Format for Youth Group- Over the years I’ve experimented with a variety of formats for running youth group. And, I see a lot of other people experimenting, as well. Of course, you have to experiment until you come up with what feels the best for you, for your group, and your context. But, IMO, this is the best format for our […]
7 Reasons Why I Don’t Do All the Teaching- 7. Some people are better at teaching than me. 6. I need a break from the rigor of teaching so often. 5. Kids need a little variety in the voices they hear. 4. Kids need to hear the same truths from other people’s perspectives and experiences. 3. I need the space in my schedule to […]
Letting Kids Know We Miss Them: Sending Group Selfies- So for the last few months, I’ve been pushing a little harder to see our team put more energy into making sure that every student in our ministry knows that they are loved and cared for. One way we do this is by being very intentional and systematic about our retention strategies. One part of this system […]
A Student-Centered Process for Planning Curriculum- Every year, this is how we plan our curriculum for the next year. It’s all laid out in advance but, of course, we make changes as needed when something comes up that needs to be addressed right away. May – Debrief with staff, key leaders, and small group leaders (SGLs) and Discuss the previous school year’s […]
Let it Grow: Mission of the Church, Role of the Youth Pastor- Like I said in my last post, I’m convinced that God designed the Church with the Spirit-driven desire and the innate ability to grow in depth, breadth, and reach. So what keeps it from growing the way God intended it? I’m calling these obstacles “doors” that shut us in like the door that kept Elsa […]
Let it Grow- I can’t help it…I’m humming the now famous song “Let it Go” performed by Idina Mensel, the voice of Elsa in Disney’s Frozen. We’ve seen it probably four times now. And every time I hear the song I honestly think of the Church. We need to “Let it Grow!” We need to unlock the doors […]
Suicide and Self-Doubt- A girl I know took her own life last week. She grew up in our church and was part of our youth group during the earlier part of her high school years. I spent some time with her parents on Friday … crying, wondering, sharing stories, and crying some more. Lots of pain around this […]
Sticky Faith: 4+1- Another thing we’re trying to develop is a better approach to helping our seniors transition to college. We now ask all our 12th grade small group leaders to not take on a new group of 6th or 9th graders after their students have graduated. Nor do we just assume that they’re done working with their […]
Defining Roles on our Youth Ministry Team- The more recent conversation in our Student Life Leadership Team has been about defining our roles (this post) and focusing our meetings (next post). Now that we’ve established some large-frame infrastructures to support our ministry, we’ve developed some new growing edges around our roles and the need to more clearly define them. Here’s what we’ve […]
Sticky Faith: Get Students Involved- If you were to visit our church, you’d see students involved in just about every area of ministry at just about every level. On Wednesday nights you’d see students helping in the kitchen serving the family dinner. You’d see students greeting other students as they enter into the worship center. You’d see students on the […]
Sticky Faith: Partnering with Parents- What are we doing to help our students form a Sticky Faith? We Partner with Parents. Building a partnership with parents is vital to any healthy, growing ministry that cares about helping students be disciples of Christ––now and into their adulthood––and not just building or maintaining a cool program. Helping students develop a faith that […]
Be Creative with Teaching- I love to use mnemonics! 4 words that start with C. The first letter of each word in a sentence or series of points that form an acronym. A 3 line limerick that’s easy to recite. They’re all great. As long as I don’t force the passage out of context or make it too corny, […]
If Nothing Else … Grace, Identity, Mission- Our annual Senior Banquet is coming up soon. It’s a milestone…a rite of passage. We invite graduating seniors and their immediate families to a nice dinner free of charge. We celebrate their stories, their successes, and their promise-filled futures. We laugh together. We cry together. We pray together. This year, for their gift, we’re creating […]
Using Catechism to Set a “Rock Solid” Table- Pushing back from the table is the best part of a meal with friends. That’s when the really good conversation comes out. That’s when you really start exploring deeper subjects, family histories, personal tragedies, and more. We’ve had our fill of a good meal. We’ve had our formal, meal-time gathering. The dishes have been passed, […]
The Current Edge of Where We’re Growing – Lay Led Mission Trips- We haven’t taken students on a mission trip since 2007. Prior to then, my personal practice was to take students on mission trips every year. After 2007, students would go on inter-generational trips from our church or go with other churches. My reasons for discontinuing were two-fold. 1) Our trips were usually not part of […]
The Current Edge of Where We’re Growing – High Capacity Lay Leaders- So, right now I and our youth ministry are on the edge of several growing points. These are things that are currently in development. The next few posts will share these Developing High Capacity Lay Leaders There’s no way we can afford to staff according to the ratios of many small church youth ministries (1 […]
Preaching to Youth (Part 3): Creative Use of Stories from Your Own Life as a Teenager- I love using stories in my messages. I usually “hook” them (I use the Hook-Book-Look-Took method) with a personal story from my own life…preferably one from when I was a teenager. I prefer my own stories and not stories and illustrations from books or websites because they allow me to do two things. First, it […]
Preaching to Youth (Part 2): Keep it Positive- The black eye gave it away. There’s no hiding it from mom when you’re 10. Wearing sunglasses is a habit I won’t have developed for another five or six years. So it was pretty obvious to mom that, once again, I got into another fight. It wasn’t my fault. It usually wasn’t my fault. I’m […]
Limiting Our Growth on Purpose- Our growth started reaching into a certain direction the last couple of months. But, it’s too much for us to handle well. So, we had to put a cap on it. We had to limit our growth in that direction. I hated having to do it but it had to be done. We’ve been attracting […]
Preaching to Youth (Part 1): Keep Preaching- Yes… …we all know that kids learn & grow effectively in a variety of ways. They learn by doing & practicing. They grow through extended and stretching experiences. They learn through discussion. They learn visually through the arts. They grow by exercising logic and reason. There are a million ways that kids (and adults) grow […]
Growth Changes Everything (Part 3): What I Didn’t See Coming- My personality is the type that’s always looking ahead. I have vision documents with goals and objectives from four years ago with projections that are almost on the money today. I think it’s just how I’m wired. But I gotta tell ya…there are some things that I just didn’t see coming with growth of our […]
Growth Changes Everything (Part 2): The First Things to Go- As our youth ministry has grown there have been a few things that we’ve had to let go. Some of them were difficult to let go while others weren’t so hard. Some things had to do with our program, some had to do with the congregation’s expectations, others had to do with my own view […]
Growth Changes Everything (Part 1): Growth Requires Change- I think I’d like to share in the next few posts some of the biggest changes that we’ve experienced and that I’ve personally experienced as we’ve grown. This one is just an introduction. The next one will be “The First Things to Go,” which will talk about the things that I/we had to let go […]
4 Step Process for Behavior Management- To help our small group leaders stay in control, we use simple a four step process for behavior management (4 R’s inspired by Josh Griffin’s post on his blog at Request Ask the student very clear and certain words to change the exact behavior that is disruptive. If you’re too vague he won’t understand. […]
The Risky Reality of Releasing Responsibilities- Risk. It’s always there. It’s something that every ministry leader has to calculate almost every day. Calculating the risk of releasing responsibilities is for sure something we all do no matter what size or kind of church or ministry we have. However, it feels like that as the size of our ministry has grown the […]
I Want to Invest More in My Volunteers…- …but I don’t. I’d really like to spend more time meeting with them, talking about the kids, their struggles, their successes, strategic steps for discipling the kids and so on. I’d love to help them better understand the social and emotional issues that kids are dealing with like loneliness, depression, stress, academic pressure, peer pressure, […]
A Fresh Start – Follow Up Strategies- I’m frustrated with our follow up strategies. It worked just fine a few years ago but not so well anymore. I’ll tell you what we do then what the problem is. We use “A Fresh Start: Following Through on Your Commitment to Christ,” a 30 day devotional by Scott Larson that answers many of the […]
Sharing the Gospel- I try to share the gospel as often as I can. Sometimes it’s with individual students. Sometimes it’s on a special bring-a-friend-to-hear-the-gospel night. Sometimes it’s a tag-on to another message. The point is, I’m usually looking for opportunities to share the gospel. I try to pay attention to potential students who need the opportunity to […]
My Role as a Youth Pastor- I’ve always seen my role as a youth pastor as having four major objectives. Pastor the People. Mobilize the Ministry. Cultivate the Climate. Voice the Vision. Pastor the People As a pastor, my primary calling is to care for people God has brought within my influence. This includes sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, biblical […]

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