When Is It Time To Leave Your Youth Ministry?

If you regularly read this blog you know I have taken a one month break from blogging as I transitioned out of my previous youth ministry position and into a new position as family life pastor. During this time it’s been important for me to transition well and ensure that my new ministry (and my family of course), has been my main focus. In the next few weeks, there will be more posts…

Exit Youth Ministry

Since transitioning, (and before), I have often been asked this question, or seen it posted on youth ministry forums:

“When is it time to leave my youth ministry.”

I’ll be honest, this is not an easy question for someone else to answer. Ultimately, God is the one who leads and directs, and we should be asking Him this question.

It’s also imperative that each of us seek Him to discern the difference between an opportunity to grow compared to an opportunity to go…

While it is God who directs, here are five questions I have prayed through in my time in youth ministry: Continue Reading…

I’m In Transition

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, I apologize for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks. I (Phil) am in transition at the moment. I finished up in my ministry as high school pastor and am now transitioning to a new church as a family life pastor.

Youth Ministry Transition


I am Sad! While I am excited for my new role, I am also sad to leave the countless families in a church I have come to love and care for. For the last four years I have poured myself into students, parents, and volunteers. In ministry you can’t pour yourself into people without feeling a sense of loss and pain when you leave. That is how I am feeling today… However, it’s also a good sign to me that it’s been a good ministry for myself and my family. We have seen some incredible things happen here and have made great lifelong friends!

I am Excited! What excites me about my new position is that I get to pour myself into children’s, student, and college staff and volunteers, while also partnering with the family to help them succeed. I am excited to develop healthy leaders, see marriages strengthen, parents become confident, and empower kids to own their faith. My new church is passionate about reaching the whole family while providing great environments for kids, students, and college age people. I can’t wait to get started!

In the coming weeks I will be blogging a little about transition and some of my thoughts about finishing well and starting right. In the meantime, I greatly appreciate your support, prayers, and patience (with the lack of posts).

In Him,

Phil <><


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Back to School: Meet the Parents

So the teenagers are heading back to school.  Maybe your office will finally get cleaned now.  After making your trip to Goodwill with all the unclaimed junk left over from camp, consider spending the first few weeks of school making contact with moms and dads.

Youth Ministry Back to School

School starts and we’re nursing kick-off weeks and asking kids about their first few days of classes – But just as their routines are all new, so are Mom’s and Dad’s.  So seize that opportunity:

  1. Write a note to every parent.  “Hey Mr. Jackson:  Praying for Michael as he heads back to school this week.  Praying for you, too.  Let me know if I can pray for something specific!”  ~darren Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Leadership: Your Focus Determines Your Outcomes.


A few weeks ago I read this article (and video above), about The article caught my eye for two reasons: First, I am British and of course I love soccer. Second, because this young guy had made a significant choice that led to his great success. Here’s what the article said:

“The 22-year old from England started doing freestyle tricks at the age of 15, and when it came time for Henderson to pick between university football and freestyle, he chose what he does best. Henderson now practices five hours per day, five days a week, and quite clearly all the hard work is paying off.”

And here’s the bottom line for him: This guy could have done two things with his giftedness. Rather than go the route that many others were attempting to go, he chose to do what he does best. In other words, he chose to focus on his strengths and greatest gifts. In youth ministry, there are a couple of lessons we can learn from his example…

Continue Reading…

15 Ways To Partner With Parents In Your Youth Ministry: The Final 5…

In my previous two posts we covered 10 ways in which you and I can partner with parents effectively. Before we jump into the final 5, let’s recap the importance of partnering with parents in youth ministry:

In we read:

“No one has more potential to influence a child’s relationship with God than a parent… No one has more potential to influence the parent than the church… The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when it partners with a parent.”

Orange Light Bulb1

Therefore, if you and I want to invest and influence a students faith, it’s imperative that we seek ways to support, equip, and effectively partner with parents. After all, they have been with their kids a lot longer than we have. They spend more time with their kids than we do. And they will continue to influence their kids well after they have graduated…

Here are the final 5 ways you and I can partner with parents. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments too!!!

11. Model Healthy Family. In Philippians 4:9 Paul states,

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Not only did this great man of God get to teach the scriptures, cast vision, and lead his people, he did life together with them in the city of Philippi. The Philippians got to see first hand how he lived his life and modeled Christ to them. Families are looking for authentic leaders (who don’t have to have it all together), who are earnestly seeking the best for their families. If we truly want to partner with parents, it’s imperative that what we say and teach is backed up by a model of what healthy family. No one expects us to be perfect, but they need us to lead as we put our family first…

12. Create Parent / Student Events. We know that adolescents don’t always want mom and dad around don’t we? However, there are certain strategic times where we can create an event to bring students and parents together. A number of years ago in a previous ministry, we had students make and serve dinner with their parents. While the idea wasn’t rocket science, it was amazing to see how impactful it was for the students to serve their parents. What is more, we got to meet many parents from fringe kids and begin to develop relationships from that point on. Consider what events would be a win for parents and students?

13. Recruit Parents for Youth Ministry. This can be awkward depending on the family and the dynamics of the parent / student relationship. But, some of my best youth leaders and small group leaders have been parents. (Remember, somebody else’s parents are always cooler to talk to). Here’s some guidelines however:

  • Ensure the student is good with their mom / dad being there. Review this from year to year since the parent / student relationship can change
  • Avoid having the parent / student in the same small group
  • Instruct the parent that they are “not allowed to parent” at youth group
  • Don’t allow parents to get involved in drama that involves their student
  • Don’t recruit parents who want to “check up” on their student

While involving parents can be a little messy, good boundaries and expectations can help it to be a win for students and parents. Again, some of your best leaders will be parents of students…

14. Train Volunteers to Partner with Parents. Have you ever considered the impact of partnering with parents if your volunteers were to invest and partner with parents too? Just as we rely on great volunteers to reach every student in our ministry, we also need them to partner with parents too. If your volunteers can catch the vision and take their time to invest in relationships with parents, the impact on the student will be far greater than just you and I.

15. See Potential In EVERY Parent. This is the final, but perhaps the most important way you and I can partner with parents… For years I have heard youth workers complain about parents. The truth is, there are no perfect parents and you and I will never be either. But here is a great reality for you and I:

When we look for potential instead of perfection, God opens our eyes to greater ways in which we can partner with parents.

Well, there you go! That about rounds up the 15 for you. But, let’s not stop there. Please weigh in and add your ideas and comments below! 

Phil <><


photo credit: via

15 Ways To Partner With Parents In Your Youth Ministry: The Next 5…

In my previous post I talked about ways in which you and I can partner with parents in our youth ministries. While you are called to youth ministry, it’s imperative that you adopt a approach (or whatever you want to call it), as we look to partner with parents. After all, the influence of parents on their kids is far greater than the influence you can have given the limited time you will have with them each week…

The two influences of family and church come together to make a greater impact on students. Therefore, it’s essential we find ways to partner with parents as they raise their kids. Helping Parents Our Problem: Although you may already agree with this philosophy of ministry, if you are like me, there have been times when I have been unsure as to how to implement a strategy to partner with families. In this post we continue to look at the next 5 of 15 practical ways you can implement a strategy to partner with parents. Some are not rocket science, while some will challenge you… Continue Reading…

15 Ways To Partner With Parents In Your Youth Ministry: The First 5…

Partnering with parents in youth ministry is absolutely essential. When I speak to youth workers, usually we agree that partnering with the family is far more effective than living in a silo youth ministry that only focuses on the students.

But the problems is this: While most of us agree that partnering with parents is essential, many of us don’t know where to start practically…

Partnering with Parents

In the book, he makes a great case for using our time and resources to support parents. Each year the average youth ministry will have approximately 40 hours of teachable time with students, while parents will have approximately 3000 hours of teachable time with them. It makes simple sense to support parents and partner with them as they raise their kids…

But what can this look like practically?

In the next few posts, I will list 15 ways in which we can effectively partner with parents. Some ideas are easy to implement, while others will take a change of culture in your church. Continue Reading…

Three Crucial Questions To Ask About Your Youth Ministry…

There are three crucial questions that surprisingly many youth workers can easily forget to ask as they minister to students. (I’ll cover the three questions in a moment, but follow my train of thought for a moment would you)?

Youth Ministry Questions

So often we go to college to study youth ministry, (I actually studied Family Life for my Bachelors), we learn youth ministry philosophy, programming, and practical youth ministry… But we can easily miss these three crucial questions… When we arrive in a new church, we work passionately and programmatically to build a healthy and sustainable youth ministry based on a model or methods we have seen work before… But we can miss these three crucial questions…

Why do we miss the crucial questions? (I know we haven’t got to the questions yet… Stay with me for one moment longer)?

Rather than asking questions and delving into potential new territory, it’s our instinct to default to what we know: Models and methods.

In other words, we implement what is familiar instead of fact finding…  We default to what we’ve done before instead of discovering the new…

So what are the three crucial questions you might ask? 

  1. What are the needs of the students? 
  2. Where are our students spiritually? 
  3. What steps do we need to take to meet the spiritual needs of our new and committed students? 

ONE: What are the needs of the students? You see, before we default to a model or method, we need to understand the needs of our students? What are their greatest challenges? What do they long for the most? What felt and perceived needs do they have?

You see, by listening first to their greatest needs, we can then develop a model, method, and teaching designed around them. Rather than implement what we have done before, we can custom create a ministry that meets the students where they are.

TWO: Where are our students spiritually? I am surprised by how many conversations I have had with youth workers who have little idea of the spiritual climate of the group they are leading. It’s not enough take a model and method and teach the word faithfully. It’s imperative we know where students are in their faith walk so that we can help guide them to the next steps.

Not knowing where our students are spiritually is like a doctor performing surgery without knowing a diagnosis!

THREE: What steps do we need to take to meet the spiritual needs of our new and committed students? By knowing the answers to the first two questions, we can then begin to develop a plan to help our new and committed students take their next steps in their faith walk.

Until we understand their greatest needs (which varies from church to church and area to area), we will not know what to teach and what to address…

Until we understand the spiritual climate of the group we can’t confidently create steps based on where they are currently standing…

Now please hear me out. Model and methods are brilliant to ensure that we have a good structure and balance to our youth ministries. However, it is essential we take time to assess the people God has place under our care first. THEN we can implement a model based on what we know to be true.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you addressing these questions? Have you missed the before? Are you following a model or method and forgetting to take time to ask crucial questions? 

Phil <><

photo credit: via

9 Signs You’re Burning Out In Youth Ministry

In my previous post I talked about the need to understand what we are called to, rather than what we are pulled to in youth ministry. Having a strong faith foundation and knowing what God is calling us to, will help us avoid saying “yes” to everything, and doing everything in our own strength…

Recently I saw a great post by Carey Nieuwhof that provides . It’s a great post and really worth the read.

Phil <><

Youth Ministry Management: How to Keep Great Volunteers – Part 2

In my previous post I provided five ways to keep great volunteers in my youth ministries over the years. Having a great team of volunteer youth leaders is essential to the health of any youth ministry. There are no more ‘lone rangers’ in youth ministry and it’s important that we maintain a ‘wide bandwidth’ of volunteers to reach the different kinds of students we have in our churches and communities.

Volunteer Youth Worker

Here are five more ways that have been effective in investing and keeping great volunteers:  Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Management: How to Keep Great Volunteers – Part 1

In my previous post, I talked about how I recruit volunteers. Having a well established volunteer team that is trusted by students is an incredible strength for any youth ministry. But this will only happen when we are able to keep volunteers coming back year after year. But how can this happen? What are the keys to keeping great volunteers?

Team Youth Ministry

Here are the first 5 of my essential practices to help keep great volunteers. I’ll post 5 more in my next post:  Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Management: Recruiting Volunteers

There are ‘lone rangers’ in youth ministry. Your youth ministry will be effective if you have a great volunteer team. “How do I recruit good volunteers?” This is something I get asked about a lot. Today, let’s take a look at how I have successfully recruited volunteers, while also dispelling ways that I do not recruit volunteers. 

Recruiting Volunteers

In recruiting volunteers, I DO NOT: 

  • Put an an announcement in the bulletin or church newsletter
  • Make an announcement in the worship services
  • Put up recruitment flyers around the church
  • Create a catchy video that promises potential volunteers an incredible ministry and free coffee, (I did that once).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the methods above, but for me, they are simply not very effective. The other aspect is that they are all deeply impersonal ways to recruit volunteers aren’t they? If you and I are dreaming of a relational ministry with relationally invested volunteers, it is imperative that we start out on the right foot and employ methods to recruit potential leaders in a relational way. (I think this is true of hiring a full-time youth worker too).

In the last ten years, there have been only few times when I truly struggled to recruit enough volunteers. Part of that is because I think I have a fairly good idea of how to keep good volunteers, (I’ll post about that next), and part of it is because of the way I recruit them. Here are five things I do:

1) Ask Personally: Not rocket science I know! Taking time to get to know people in your church and then ascertaining if they would be a potential good fit for youth ministry takes a while to figure out. However, there are likely a number of people who you know right now who could be a good fit. Asking them personally validates them and affirms what you see in them. The hardest part about asking personally? Be prepared for rejection… You see, rejection is perhaps the greatest reason we don’t ask potential volunteers.

2) Have Current Volunteers Recruit: Every year I have asked my volunteers to help recruit at least one volunteer. They know what kind of people the youth ministry needs and, collectively they know more potential volunteers than I do. I simply ask them to share the potential volunteers name with me before they ask, just in case I have a red flag on that individual, (although this has never happened).

When we begin to create a culture of recruiting through our volunteers, it can create a fun competition too. In the last few years, it has been fun to watch two veteran volunteers ‘compete’ against each other, (all in fun), and compare who they have recruited. These two volunteers have recruited ten or more people in last couple of years.

3) Have Students Ask: I will never forget ‘Ted’ who was recruited by young middle school student called ‘James’. Ted served with his wife providing snacks once a month in my youth ministry. Ted never saw himself as a youth worker and was only there because he was helping his wife… We were looking for small group leaders and so I brainstormed with a small group of students about some potential leaders. After agreeing with the names the students had given me, I asked them to go and ask! I will never forget my conversation with Ted afterwards as he shared with me how a middle school student had asked him to be their small group leader. I asked Ted, “What did you say?” Ted replied, “well I couldn’t say ‘no’ to the kid…”

Having students recruit for us might be a little crafty, but it is very affirming to potential leaders. As long as we are in agreement beforehand, enlisting students to help recruit gives them ownership as well as highlighting good volunteers that you and I could easily miss.

4) Don’t Recruit From Other Ministries: I have always insisted that I will not intentionally recruit from other ministry areas. First, I want to be a team player. Second, I want people to be committed to one main ministry and do it well.

5) Run a background check: It’s unfortunate that this has to even be included because after all, we're talking about church here. But the sad truth is that pedophiles have gotten very smart about how they infiltrate groups to have access to kids that this is necessary for everyone’s protection. You will need to know how to look up criminal records online so you can check a potential volunteer’s criminal history. Otherwise you are open for heartbreak and potential liability.

What are your thoughts on this, and what has worked for you? What would you add to this list? In my next post, I’ll look at how to keep good volunteers. 

Phil <><

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