Archive - February, 2011

Love Wins? Teaching Students How to Deal with Conflict?

If you are on twitter regularly and follow some of the well known theologians and church leaders, you would not have been able to escape the major trending topic from last weekend. For now, I don’t even want to mention names, only to say that a certain pastor, writer and speaker,  was the number trending topic in the U.S.A on Saturday evening.

Why all the talk and trending?

This pastor has a book coming out soon and has an accompanying video promo for the book. But, why all the fuss? Well, without reading the book, but watching the video promotion, some prominent church leaders and theologians were quick to attack the theology of this individual… Before we knew it, this guy was a top trending topic as many of us debated, commented, and attacked the theology of the video promo (and probably many of his past best sellers).

Now, let me be clear, I am not here to give an opinion (and I do have an opinion about the matter). However, I want to address the way church leaders went about voicing their disdain. I also want to tie this into our youth ministry world as I think it means everything to understand the ramifications for the future of our students and the church…

1) Is Twitter Really A Place for the Pillars of our Church to Criticize other Church Leaders? Whether we like it or not, this guy is a pastor of a prominent church and still represents the Bride of Christ. Is it right for us to air our “dirty laundry” in public like this? Could there have been a different way? Is it more about “being right” or is more important to protect the Bride of Christ?

2) Being Too Quick to Attack Only Devalues the Message. To be honest, a big part of me was thinking, “come on guys, you have not even read the book and you obviously have an agenda concerning this guy.” Instead of listening to the arguments, I was just ticked that judgments were being made without good explanation… The argument became devalued since their judgment seemed premature…

3) If we have a Problem with False Teaching, isn’t it better to Deal with the False Teaching rather than the Individual? If we genuinely have an issue with someone’s theology, isn’t better to address the error of teaching than attack the individual? Focusing too much on an individual can make a blurry argument. False teachers will come and go, but false teaching itself is our real problem.

4) If we have a Place of Leadership, we must Consider the Ramifications of our Comments. I am deeply concerned by the actions of some prominent figures in the church who I had respected for years. Their place of leadership in the church directs the thoughts and ideas of so many. Instead of following Matthew 18 when dealing with disagreement, their public comments created a frenzy of debates and attacks within the church… Not so good.

So, how does this all relate to Youth Ministry?

1) As Leaders, We Must Consider Our Speech And Actions In Every Domain. Our students are watching us and are following our lead. When they see and hear us gossiping and attacking others in the church, they will likely follow suit. Consider your church today; How many comments and attacks come from grown ups who once were in our youth ministries?

2) We Must Be Careful What We Post. Students, parents, leaders, and friends are watching our tweets and Facebook updates more than we know. Why? They look to us for leadership and direction and want to get the inside track on how to follow Jesus. Nearly every week a parent or student comments to me about something I posted. Therefore, we must consider the implications of every post and comment. If you are like me, I lost a lot of respect for certain church leaders last weekend and it’s vital that our followers do not lose respect for us. More importantly, it means everything that our comments do not take people away from our Savior.

3) As Leaders We Must Teach And Model Healthy Conflict and Disagreement.

Matthew 18 could not be clearer:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Matthew 18: 15-16

In our churches and youth ministries we must teach and model healthy conflict. Not only should students see us following Matthew 18, but we should constantly remind them that this is the best option Jesus gives for dealing with disagreements in the church. Too often students learn from the church to gossip, get back, or hold on to hurt. It’s important that students in the teen years are challenged and encouraged to learn God’s way of dealing with conflict.

Finally, how are we doing in this area personally? How are we dealing with conflict in our churches? What areas can you and I work on this week? Let’s be real honest, it’s easy for me point to the twitter debate from the weekend, but it means everything that I examine my own actions above all. We might not post opinions and attack individuals publicly on twitter, but how often are we doing so in our churches?

E-book Review: The Student Mission Trip Greenhouse

is a student leadership development ministry using trips, innovative training, and curriculum to help students identify and develop their personal leadership skills. In addition, I am amazed at how many freebies they give away to anyone who asks! What’s more, I am astounded by the quality of there latest freebie and wonder, “why don’t they sell this stuff? It’s brilliant!”

For now, I will let them figure that out, and I will tell you about The Student Mission Trip Greenhouse by

This e-book is very helpful for anyone who is in ministry full-time, part-time or volunteer, who is looking to lead a short term mission trip. The big idea behind this book is best captured by this excerpt:

The leadership principles and life lessons that can be taught on a mission trip have no rival. Yet students will only learn these principles and lessons if we are intentional about bringing them to the surface. We cannot simply hope the trip alone transforms them; we must be intentional about transformation through- out the entire process. It’s one thing to toss some seeds on the ground, hoping they take root. It’s another to cultivate the soil and provide an environment for solid growth.

Here’s some more great reasons to read this e-book

IT’S CONCISE: If you are like me, I have bought books and manuals on leading mission trips, only for them to sit on the shelf and gather dust. If I am honest, it’s often because there is too much detail in them and much of what I read is not applicable to my situation. What I love about this book is how concise it is! It’s so easy to apply the “greenhouse” principles to my setting and situation without wading through pages of information.

IT’S PRACTICAL: It’s broken down into sections that allow us to to plan, prepare and put into action the steps needed to allow my students to get the most out their missions experience. I particularly like the section on casting vision with the adult volunteers. So often, our adult volunteers are too quick to step in and take over when kids are struggling. However, it’s imperative that we cast the vision for “teachable moments”  that allow some of the best lessons to be learned by students. It’s imperative to train adult volunteers to see themselves as supporters not solvers…

IT GAVE ME A NEW LENS TO LOOK THROUGH: It’s easy to get consumed with the planning and details of a trip and not truly consider how one trip can lead to long-term transformation. Instead we are challenged to consider the “before, during, and after” of a mission trip that will bring long-term fruit. This e-book helps us to focus on the long-term outcomes and how to shape the trip (and all it’s components) toward the end goal.

Overall it’s one of the best freebies you could download.

Get this FREE e-book: – Let me know what you think?

Phil <><

A Long-Term View of Student Ministry

A number of months ago one of our students was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to church with friends. This young man had a strong faith and had a passion for serving and missions trips. His funeral was obviously a very gut wrenching occassion, but in many ways a time to celebrate his faith, life, and his eternal destination. At the lunch after the funeral, a parent asked me this pertinent question:

When all is said and done, where do you hope to see students by the end of high school? What are your priorities for them?

It’s a question that I somewhat answered at the time, but is a question I have been working through ever since (and still am). The funeral of a sixteen year old student and this question from a parent gave me a new perspective on what I do. In some ways, it gave me a new lens to look through in what I do… It has caused me to struggle through the question:

What matters most in my ministry” What priorities are truly going to help students grow and “finish well”?

Or, maybe, frame it this way:

What is most important today that will impact students in the long-term?  Continue Reading…

BOOK REVIEW: “In Transit” by Tim Ciccone

“In Transit” is an excellent book by Tim Ciccone, who is a youth worker with 17 years of “in the trenches” experience. His book should be read by anyone who is looking to transition to a new ministry, has recently transitioned, or is wondering if it is time to change ministry. In addition, it’s a great book that can help youth workers to solidify their calling and vision to continue well in their present calling…

I read this book a year after transitioning, but I  still found it incredibly valuable to reflect on lessons learned as well as consider how to stay strong for the long haul.

“In Transit” is split into four easy to read sections that are highly practical and full of personal stories of transition: 1) The New Call 2) Saying Goodbye – Saying Hello 3) What’s Next? 4) Hope for the Future.

Perhaps the best aspect of this book is the way in which we are challenged to ask pertinent questions of ourselves before we look to transition into another ministry. Tim takes us through step by step questions and reflections to allow us to see the bigger picture of our situation. So often, we could consider a move for the wrong reasons and we misinterpret tension in ministry as a reason to leave. Tim also gives brilliant insights to building solid foundations when starting out in a new ministry role. Perhaps the quote that stands out to me the most is:

In your first 120 days, don’t change a thing… this is a time for you to spend 98 percent of your ministry energy focusing on new relationships, not new programming…

Whether you are starting your first ministry position, or are veteran youth worker, this book is a must read!

Phil <><

New Ministry Position: One Year Later

One year ago I started a new ministry position as Pastor to High School Students. As I reflect back on my year, here are some memories, thoughts and insights…

THE FIRST WEEKEND WAS MEMORABLE: My first commitment was to attend the high school winter retreat. I thought it would be a great way to make good connections with students… so I thought! Unfortunately, on the Saturday morning, one of our new students collided with another student on the tubing hill. One ambulance ride later, and a stay in the ER, he was air-flighted with a bleed on his brain. Praise God he was fine after a few days in hospital… but a very scary moment for everyone… I will never forget my first retreat, (neither will he).

LISTEN FIRST, IMPLEMENT SECOND: I made the commitment that I would move slowly and take time to understand the people and programs first. I committed to not making any major changes in the first year, (only tweaking what we had). This is easier said than done, but was crucial for me. I gleaned so many important insights, learned good lessons, and most importantly built trust with leaders, students, and parents.

RELATIONSHIPS: No matter what I do in ministry, I cannot forget that relationships are at the core of everything I should be doing. This last year has been filled to the brim of meeting with students, leaders, and parents. In a new position, I think it is easy to get task focused, but we cannot get too busy to build relationships… The age old statement of, “people don’t care what you know until they know you care” is so true.

CLEAR VISION: Given many years of history before me, there were a lot of ideas and visions that were ingrained into the heart of this ministry. Some were good, some used to be good, and some… not so good. It has been imperative to constantly discuss a vision for healthy ministry and the steps needed to get there…

OWNERSHIP: It’s easy to start somewhere new and lead everything as the person who has been employed to be the ‘expert’. However, it’s important that people feel ownership of what we are doing. I often find too, that given the time and investment, others actually do a better job than me… It’s imperative to see this key truth: People become devoted to a ministry when they are given a clear vision and ownership to see the vision come to life…

GOOD FRIENDS: In the last year we have been surrounded by many people who have become good friends. Dinner and lunch invites still continue to come in for us, even after a year of being here… that is unusual… I think?

TRANSITION: I am just starting to read a book called by a friend in ministry . I will be doing a review soon… If you are interested in how to transition well, it could be a great read for you…?

Phil <><