Archive - January, 2009

Bachelors in the United Kingdom

If you want proof that youthworkers are just as crazy and creative in the UK as they are here in the States, check out this video my buddy Alan Witchalls made a few years ago for my wedding! There’s a few inside jokes, but you will get the basic premise of what is going on. Click on the link below and check out the video on his website: 

Building a Youth Ministry Fan Base – Part II

A few days ago I talked about the importance of building a youth ministry ‘fan base’. The premise is this: All of us in youth ministry will get through the honeymoon of ministry when those around us realize that we are not one of the Apostles (or even better, Jesus). Give us a year and we realize there are people in church who  have concluded that our  ministry is heading in the wrong direction. Or, you and I have made some mistakes that are very apparent and we have to make good of them. It’s at these times when we need gracious people who know us and our hearts. It’s in these times we need youth ministry fans…

So, how do you and I allow people at our churches to have a better perspective of our ministry and ultimately each of us as individuals? How do we ‘allow’ people to be more gracious with us, more than they were with the previous youth worker? It helps to be building a youth ministry fan base (See previous post, ‘How to Build a Youth Ministry Fan Base’)

First, I want to be clear that our goal should not to focus on trying to manipulate or become everyone ‘fake best friend’. What I am talking about is realizing that there are some healthy things we can do to supplement what we are trying to implement. Implementing our ideas without the supplement of ‘fan base building’ will become a detriment. 

Here’s some further ideas: 

1) Serve People in your Church. An effective way to build bridges and promote your wonderful students in your ministry is to be intentional about planning some service type events that bless people in your church. We try to do ‘Serve Team’ projects once a month which are aimed at blessing our community by showing God’s love in practical ways. At the same time, we try to find a few people in our church we can help or visit during that event. You will be surprized at how much the youth ministry will be promoted positively by those people inside and outside your church. Example: Before Christmas, we took our middle school kids Christmas carolling. We were inentional about going to some families at our church who needed the ‘blessing’ of middle school kids singing to them. I heard a lot of favorable comments from a number of people. 

2) Look out for your Pastor. As youthworkers it is imperative that we ‘lead up’ by always having the back of our lead pastor and other ministry staff. When we are team players who cover our team and supports them, we will see the same support extended to us. Note: I have seen and been apart of teams where everyone is for themselves. It’s tempting to fall into the mold too… In these cases you will build trust with insecure team members and you might just change the environment. Whether or not we do see fruit from this… We must do it since it is the best and right thing to do.

3) Do jobs Outside of your Job Description from time to time. Again, so many larger churches, (and smaller ones too) can easily live in silos where we only care for our own area. I am learning that building a fan base, (as well as good friends in ministry), happens when I agree to do jobs or tasks that are outside of job description from time to time. Things like, helping out the kids ministry with a message, or helping to update the website for your church, or preaching once in a while to give your pastor a week off (I currently preach every 6-8 weeks). Or even things like ‘talking up’ other ministries and helping them recruit volunteers. Note: Be careful not to become the doormat who gets asked to do EVERYTHING, but, make sure you don’t live in a silo either!

Finally, and most importantly, be a God pleaser above all else…

Building a youth ministry fan base is important, but it can go very wrong if we do not start with pleasing God first. We might become people pleasers who stretch ourselves too far by being the doormat of church ministry. Make sure that you are sensible with your time and bridge building. 

Any other ideas for building a youth ministry fan base?

Funny British Road Signs

Today someone sent me some funny British Road signs. I remember my wife seeing one like this (with out the additional cemetery sign).  










Hope this made you laugh!

Phil <><

How to Build a Youth Ministry Fan Base

Once any of us have been in a church for more than a year it becomes very apparent that the honeymoon is well and truly over. People are starting to discover that we have faults and failings. We’ve already stained the new carpet with paintball. Or we might have shown a video clip in church that had a cuss word in it. (Actually, I have never done that… I have tended to leave that to my lead pastor… he’s done that twice)!

The fact is, give it time and people get to see that you are not one of the Apostles and that you don’t stay awake 24 hours a day, and that you are not the answer they were looking for in a youthworker. It’s in these situations that you and I need to build what I call a ‘youth ministry fan base’.

A fan base is not an ego boost… The fan base are the people who have your back, who know you, who understand you vision, who see you and accept you for who you are. Our fan base will not only keep us encouraged, but will also keep us in healthy accountability. The fan base are the ones who speak for you at a church meeting or when a parent is concerned about you and their kids. The fan base can be the difference between short-lived ministry and a healthy long one. So how do I work on my ‘fan base’

1) Invest in the Leaders. Choose 4 or 5 influential people at your church, (in leadership or simply influential). Take them out for coffee and find out about them, ask them about their hopes and dreams for the church. Ask them how someone like you and I could do well there. Then, at the end of your time together, ask them if you can share your vision and dreams … (You will be surprised how your vision might be restated by someone like this at opportune time).

2) Invest in Parents. Parents need to be heard and need to know that we care. They need to know that we are reaffirming what they say at home to their kids. They only know we care if  we take time out. On a typical evening you will see that I spend 50% of my time talking to parents at the end of the program. These conversations are valuable to understand families and their dynamics, but also to build trust with parents. Here’s the other upside… some of those parents become your leaders, event planners, and food providers too. Hopefully, they are blessed, but so are our ministries.

3) Invest through the Generations. At my last church we had quite a large number of shall we say, ‘older folks’ who seemed to struggle with teenagers. (I am sure your church has similar issues). However, I quickly learned that it was important to seek out a few influential pensioners who could become ‘youth ministry fans’. It was just a question of taking time to talk with them about what the students were up to and what issues these kids face today. It’s amazing to see the walls come down when you share stories of kids joys and challenges to older folks. You see, it’s a lot harder to judge when you heart is hurting for kids…

4) The ‘Up Front’ Strategy. Work with you pastor and leadership to be ‘up front’ as often as your schedule allows, even if it is for the announcements on Sunday, or helping with a kids message. Whatever way you can, it pays to let people see you. At my current church I preach every couple of months, (it used to be every 5-6 weeks), and I regularly do announcements. Even if I am not doing either, you will always see me on the door greeting people as they leave. Even if I don’t feel like I know everyone, I have found that people feel connected with me because I am up front a quite a lot. When people feel like they know you, it’s harder for them to be a critic. Be strategic about being up front. 

More ‘Fan Base’ Ideas to come…

Phil <><

British Connection at the Inauguration Ceremony?

My lovely wife thought that because I am British, I would not be interested in the Inauguration ceremony. However, I was very intrigued when I heard Aretha Franklin singing ‘My Country Tis of Thee’ to the tune of the British National Anthem. Anyone know the roots of how that came to be?

It takes TIME – Part II

bigbenms1108_468x4321Yesterday I talked about how easy it is to focus on how far we have to go instead of how far we have come in our ministries. It’s important that we understand and embrace the simple truth: 

It takes TIME! 

Today I want to add another dimension as to why we should expect it to take time. This understanding will also help us in our ministry plans and strategies…

It takes TIME: 

To understand the Culture: Now, I am not talking about youth culture, I am talking about the culture of the church we are presently serving at. It takes time to know and understand how the church runs, the people of influence, the history of successes, and the history of failure. Just like any kind of culture, it’s important to understand the ideas and values of people at our churches. This takes time…

It’s very tempting to come into a church with a ministry mindset and plan and not consider the culture of the church. I believe missing this principle can make or break the health and success of a youth ministry. It is imperative that we acknowledge and understand the culture of the church and people we serve, instead of coming in with a plan and going straight to work. 

Instead, initially, it is helpful to build on something that is existing and have some ‘visual successes’ that will build some excitement and investment from students, parents and leaders. However, this is a learning time for us to do some good things, but at the same time be working hard to understand the culture. Combine this with building trust by not changing too much at once, I believe this is a great time to build relationships and build a vault of culture understanding. This could make the difference.

When we have taken time to understand the culture, it helps us to: 

1) Predict challenges of change and address them before you get there. 

2) Select key people to carry a new vision. 

3) Understand how slow/fast to move on certain ideas. 

4) Keep our job? Yes, as crazy as it sounds. I have heard too many stories of youthworkers who have taken a great ministry plan into a church, but never succeeded because they did not listen to the culture first. I have heard of some youthworkers who go into a church and start with a clean slate and change everything.  But, I believe this can only be done when the majority of people are ready for massive change. I have heard of this done only in a few situations. 

Bottom line: It takes TIME to understand the culture of the church… It is important to understand it before we try to change it…

It takes TIME

big-benIn the last few weeks I have been looking back and assessing our last year in youth ministry and looking forward and setting goals. It’s great to see how  many new students we have reached and how many students have taken deeper steps in faith and service… Sound good? Can I be honest just for a minute? 

I wonder if you are like me when it comes to these times of year? It’s easy to catch myself looking at what we have done, but still wishing we were further ahead… It’s easy to take side glances at other ministries and feel insufficiant because we are not able to do all they are doing… In quick moments, (only quick moments I am glad to say), it is easy to forget all the great things that God has given us, and focus on the areas of our ministry that could be doing better. 

It’s in these moments you and I need to understand and embrace this fact: 

It takes TIME…

To Build Trust: With the students you work with, the parents you partner with, and the leaders who lead with you. Even if you have come into a healthy sitution, people still need time to know who you are and what you stand for. If you are coming into a challenging environment it takes longer to build trust and our steps must be lighter. 

It takes TIME

To Bring Clarity to the Vision: The reality is this: Even if we had a great plan and purpose in our last church, it might not work in the new place. Even if we feel like our plan is solid and easy to understand, we can’t assume that students, parents, and leaders are on board even after a couple of years. I believe that clarity comes easier when people have heard and seen a plan in action for at least a couple of years… Therefore, if you are building a ministry and adding components as you go, people might not yet have clarity since you are still building…

It takes TIME

To develop Leaders: It’s only after a few years that you can see the fruit of  the investment of meeting with leaders and training them for ministry. It takes time to see which leaders are in for the long haul and who you can depend on to be your key players. In my ministry, I ask for a high level of committment and I have some incredible leaders. But, the truth is, it had takes time to get leaders to be self sufficient and have good chemistry with my vision and direction. This takes lots of coffee meetings, lunches, hang out times and training days.  

It takes TIME

To build Relationships: We live in a shallow world where students ‘don’t care what you know, until they know that you care’. (I am sure you have heard that before). But let’s face it, students have adults coming in and out of their lives all the time and even if you are the most likeable guy or gal in the world, it’s going to take time for students to really let you into their world. A key to showing that you care is a commitment to consistency and longevity. It takes time…

Finally, if any of us take a look at other successful ministries around us, our first response must be, “Praise God for what He is doing there”. And second, “It must have taken TIME”. 

Have a great weekend!

Phil <><

Why every youthworker needs to network…

One of the goals I have this new year is to be networkworking with other youthworkers in my area.

A lot of the time we don’t make time, (or feel like we have time). Sometimes, if we are honest, we don’t want to network with the bigger churches or the ‘competing churches’. Sometimes if we are honest, we don’t want to have to meet with other denominations or get into ‘those discussions’. Here’s why I believe every youthworker needs to network: 

1) It’s about the Kingdom: If we think that it’s all about our church, we are mistaken. God’s plan and purposes are much grander than ours. I beleve God wants us to embrace and enjoy the differences between churches. The fact is, there are so many different kinds of students out there who are not all going to like my youth program. There’s often going to be a church down the road that they will like better… It’s not personal… that’s life! I have to honestly ask myself if my insecurity allows me to stop networking? If I am confident in what I am doing, and I know that I care well for kids, I shoud be secure that kids will keep coming… 

2) It’s about Support: I speak to so many youthworkers who feel lost and alone in ministry. Just this morning I met with a local youthworker friend to encourage each other. It’s these meetings that will often keep us encouraged and seeing the big picture of ministry… 

3) It’s about stealing, (I mean, using) good ideas. I wish I could say that I have lots of creative ideas, but the truth is I don’t. Some of my best ideas come from others. When we meet with other youthworkers, we often get ideas and inspiration. 

4) It’s about Collaboration: If you live in a small town or have a smaller program, sometimes working with others allows you to provide larger events with greater resources. Even if you are in a larger church or city, we should still consider ways to collaborate. In fact, I would challenge us larger ministries to consider our responsibilities to help and support smaller not so well resourced ministries… that’s another way we can be Kingdom minded… 

Who needs to be on your email/phone call list this week? 



This evening as I write this, it is -4 here in Southeast Michigan. (-20c to all my UK and metric readers). For the next few days it’s going to this cold and perhaps even colder. Coming from the UK, I must admit, I am still not used to this kind of weather… The thing I dislike the most, (apart from the bone chilling cold), is that I never know when I am drive on a patch of ice or even worse, walk on a patch of ice I didn’t see… 

So, here’s my question… Do you ever have any ice patches in your ministry? Do you have times that catch you off guard and hurt you? Do you drive or walk in your ministry living in the fear of hitting ice again? Let me explain what I mean better…

Do have those moments in ministry when you wonder if it’s worth it? Do you have those moments when you feel like someone in your church had the inside scoop to your insecurity and went straight for the jugular? Do you ever have those moments when you are rethinking every word of your message after youth group and wondering if the kids ‘liked it’? Do you ever have moments when someone questions your ability to lead and it tears you apart? 

If you have had those moments, you and I are quite similar… It’s been some of those moments that have made me question whether or not I should stay in ministry or not… I guess you know what I concluded :o )

Take some time to read part of an article written by Craig Groeschel from wrote today. The only way that I have concluded I can stay in ministry and be truly effective, is to be secure in Christ…


People are always watching. Many are full of grace. Many are full of judgment.

As a pastor’s family, you will be wise to prayerfully develop a deep sense of “security in Christ.”

  • When your kids are secure in Christ—peer pressure weakens. When your kids are not secure in Christ—peer pressure increases.
  • When you are secure in Christ, your need for human acceptance decreases. When you aren’t secure in Christ, rejection kills you.
  • When you are secure in Christ, you easily obey the voice of God. When you are not secure in Christ, you constantly fear the opinions of people.

The more God blesses your ministry, the more negative voices you’ll attract. Years ago I was stinging from some painfully false rumors that were circulating. God used Amy  to build my security in Christ.

She asked me (already knowing the answer), “Are the rumors true?”


Then she said with deep faith and assurance. “People’s opinion of us doesn’t change Gods’ opinion. Live for the opinion that matters.”


Bend it like Beckham meets Michael Jackson

I’m always checking in with my home country of England to see what is going on back there in the news and media. Whenever I go back to visit my mom (or mum, as I call her), she is always watching the latest ‘Britains got talent’. Now, I know that might sound impossible, but there are a lot of great acts from England… The Beatles and Coldplay are just two that come to mind.  Well, check out this video from Britains got talent… It’s what I like to call, Bend it like Beckham meets Michael Jackson… I found it funny. Maybe you will too…. Or you will just think I am a strange Brit who has a weird sense of humor, (and you might be right ;o)

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