Archive - August, 2011

12 Tips I Give My Volunteer Youth Workers – Part 2

In my previous post, I posted 6 of the 12 tips I give my leaders to help them be effective in their ministry. Here are the next 6…

As I said yesterday, some of these have been “borrowed” from friends, and some are my own specific tips. All in all, I hope they are tips you can use for your volunteer meetings and trainings, or training manual…

7. Be a Leader – Not their friend:  It’s a trap many leaders can fall into: Trying to get students to like them by being their friend. They already have lots of friends who give them bad advice; they need you to be a leader in their lives.

8. Be a Leader – Not a Chaperon: A chaperon will stand outside looking in at the group – Leaders are invested in the group and have relationships with the students. Be invested…

9. Be a Leader – Not a Parent: If you have a student at FUSION and they are acting out, don’t be the parent. Let another leader know, and let them handle it. It will save embarrassment and also give you the night off of parenting…

10. Find Contact Time Outside of FUSION: Students will really know you care when you send them a postcard (available in the black cabinet), Facebook them, show up to the last 15 minutes of a game, text them. If you have 30 minutes a week, you can easily do this…

11. Read Phil’s emails: The more plugged in you are with events, meetings, and latest happenings, will help you communicate events better with students and help you to know what is happening as a whole.

12. Check the website: For calendar, videos, teaching plans, curriculum, and training documents. These are all here to simplify your ministry and save you time with phone calls, emails, and text messages to Phil.

There you go… So what you add to this list? What tips do you give your leaders?

Phil <><

12 Tips I Give My Volunteer Youth Workers – Part 1

If you are looking to train your leaders and help them be successful in what they do, it’s important to come up with a training manual that is quick and easy to read. It also should be highly practical.

Below is a page from my volunteer leaders manual. They are 12 tips I give my leader to be successful in youth ministry. Some of these tips have been borrowed from friends and books. Thanks for a couple! Feel free to borrow what you like!

Here are the first 6 tips I give my youth leaders… the rest will be posted in part 2, tomorrow… 

1. Be Consistent: This is the best way to develop great relationships with students. When students know you are going to be there consistently, they are more likely to share their joys and struggles with you…

2. Show up a few minutes early if you can? The most awkward time for students is the first 15 minutes. A caring adult makes all the difference. In addition, some of the best conversations happen in the first 15 minutes when there are few people around.

3. Stay a few minutes at the end? When students are leaving is sometimes the best opportunity to listen to how kids are doing or what God is challenging them in. (They might not share this in small group, but might want to talk alone after).

4. Join or Start a Game: It feels forced and awkward to walk up to a group of students. Instead, join them in a game or activity where you can ease your way into their lives. Before you know it, questions about their week and school seem natural.

5. Ask lots of Questions: The best way to show you care and to find out about students lives is to learn a repertoire of questions: “What’s your name? What school do you attend? What do you do when you are not here or at school? How would your friends describe you? What’s the highlight of your week? What’s the low point of your week?

6. Avoid “Leader Huddles”: It’s great to catch up with each other, but we need to make sure that our conversations and catch-ups are brief. It’s important to make the most of every opportunity we have with students…

Well, there’s the first 6 for you. Check back to see the rest!

Phil <><


GUEST POST: Review Producteev – Matt Murphy

Youth Workers (stereotypically) have one great weakness, that is our ability to administrate and multi-task several projects at once.  While some of us might have it down, most of us are looking for that leg up to help us be better administrators.  My friend Andy () from Group suggested this app to me after I asked him what does he use for task lists and managing his day.  I started to play around with producteev and it has shown great value and potential (I’ve been using it for about 6 months, still haven’t gotten to every nook and cranny yet).  But what I have learned has convinced me that this is a great app to use.

I have two basic rules when it comes to my APPS 1) It must work really well and 2) Being free helps extremely.  I have to say that Producteev is an app that does both very well J.  Producteev is productivity software that works across all platforms that I can think of; you can create tasks for this program from your iphone, ipad, mac, pc, Gmail, email, Google Calendar, etc.  It also has web-based program and desktop based programs that you can use to coordinate all of your task-lists.  You can just email important emails to (after you set your account up, which is easy) and it will automatically create tasks for you.  When you have time you just go in and tweak whatever you need to do to it.

Tasks: Tasks are very simple to make no matter how you are trying to enter them in.  Basically there is a bar that you can type in your task.  From there you can insert date (and time if necessary) it is due, prioritize it from 1-5 stars, attach notes (I use notes to attach syllabi requirements to my assignments (tasks).   You can set up Reminders for your tasks and you can set up a Repetition for tasks that are due every month.  I just noticed there’s a Crowdsource function that enables you to tap into your social media/email to use those to help you accomplish tasks as well.   On the bottom of the task screen you can see all the changes made (and who made them) for your tasks, so if you need to fix something, you can see what happened.

Overview Section: There is an overview section that contains all your tasks that are either ever created or due.  From this you can assign a task into a workspace or just arrange all your tasks to see what across all your priorities need to be done next.

Workspaces: One great aspect of this app is that instead of creating one long to do list, you can create workspaces.  Workspaces can serve as master lists so you can break up your job into multiple categories (Missions, Wed. Night, Sunday School, Committee X, Y, Z, etc).  You can have a workspace and assign someone else to use that workspace with you (One is free, more is for a nominal charge).  The collaboration on this app is great!.   You can add as many workspaces as you want.  Inside workspaces you can arrange these tasks in many different ways.

Labeling: Labeling is a way to organize your tasks inside of a workspace.  Lets say (like me) you are on a committee, and in that committee you have several roles.  You can use labels to break these roles up and still have them on the same Workspace.  For me, I have a leadership flag, a communications flag (things I need to communicate), among others.  For my school Workspace I assign a flag for every class.  You can then organize your list by flags to see what assignments you have left for a particular class. You can also assign multiple labels if it applies to several projects at the same time…

Priority: You can assign tasks a priority, the program will help cue them for you (if you want) to see what tasks have the highest priority.  You can use this with or without due dates to see what are those things that need to get done ASAP, vs what things need to get done whenever.

Hot Tasks: Producteev learns your working style and creates Hot Tasks based on due date, etc.  So if you want to know what urgently needs to be done, click this and it will tell you what is about to go up in flames if you don’t pay attention to it.

Team Members: In the free version you can assign one team member to each workspace (they and you can work in that workspace together.  You can Assign work to them (or them to you).  It’s a great collaboration tool.  If you want more you can pay to have more team members utilize your producteev account.

Reports (email): Producteev also allows you to send yourself reports on what tasks you have made and what has been completed so you have a handle on your workload for a particular day (or week).  You can also have it send you reports on what is due that week, or tomorrow.  This functionality is rather versatile.  I have it send me tasks that are due tomorrow.

Closing: As you see, I like Producteev and have been using it rather well.  It has been an excellent tool for Seminary (all those classes, syllabi, projects, etc) as well as all the other areas of my life that need to be arraigned.  So, if your so inclined you can get started by going to or searching for it in the app store of the mobile device of your choice.  J

Matt Murphy is a 14 year veteran of youth ministry.  He just graduated from Denver Seminary and is looking forward to continuing his Youth Ministry career in the Northeastern US.  He loves ministering to at risk youth as well as mentoring youth workers and helping them through the dark places of their lives.  His website and blog is located at



My New Favorite Youth Ministry App

OK, well it’s not specifically a youth ministry app, but it certainly is a brilliant app to communicate care for students and leaders… This is an app that a bunch of my YM friends have been using to great effect…

is a fabulous yet simple app that can use photos from your phone, (iPhone or Android), or Facebook. Simply upload a photo, add a message, add an address, and postagram will send it to the person of your choice. It even shows up in a cool looking folder thingy…

Here’s some ways you could use it:

1) Photograph Students on an Event: After the event, send it to them and let them know how much you enjoyed seeing them there!

2) Take a ‘Sad Face’ Pic of Yourself: Send it to a student who has been missing for a couple of weeks. Let them know you miss them.

3) Take Photos of Things That Remind You of Your Students / Leaders: For example, you might be a store and see a goofy looking photo or object. It could be fun to take a pic of it and send the pic with a note to a leader and let them know how you appreciate their goofiness. Or simply, “I saw this today and thought of you…”

4) Take A Group Shot and Send It To Everyone: This could get costly, but how awesome could it be to send a photo in the mail just a few days after the event or retreat?

You might be thinking: “I already do this on facebook and twitter, why would I want to do this as well”?

My Simple Answer: Students LOVE mail! Going the extra mile to send them a nice picture in the mail with a caption or comment will go a long way to communicate care and investment in their lives. Sometimes it is the extra mile type stuff that makes all the difference!

What apps are you using that make ministry more effective, efficient, and meaningful? I would love to know. In fact, if you would like to guest blog about an app you are using for ministry, I would love to hear from you. Contact me through my contact page… 

Phil <><

Youth Ministry Myths: Part 3 – ALL Youth Workers Are Disorganized…

My previous posts have taken a look at youth ministry myths that I see many youth workers frequently facing. Here’s the myth we are looking at today:

If you are a youth worker, you and your ministry will be disorganized… 

I never forget a one of my former students commending me for my organization of an event saying,”wow, for a youth pastor you are pretty organized, I didn’t expect that”! And, here are some more examples: 

  • In youth ministry circles, we proudly brag about our amazing ability to be able to “wing” anything. We almost wear our disorganization as a badge of honor…
  • How many times do we start writing a messages just a couple of hours before we meet with our students?
  • How many times have we been chewed out by a parent for our lack of communication?
  • How many conflicts have occurred in our marriages because we left something to the last minute and took away hours from our loved ones?
  • How many times have we double booked ourselves needlessly? 

If you are like me, being disorganized in youth ministry has been something I have laughed about, but it has also been the source of great pain. For some of my youth ministry friends, it has also been the source of losing their job. But, does it have to be this way? Are all youth workers naturally disorganized?  If we are not the “organized type”, should we simply accept chaos as part of our ministry reality? The answers to these questions should be NO!

Whether you are naturally organized or not, we do not have to live out the myth of disorganization. There are ways to improve and raise the bar of our ministries through good organization. Ultimately, if we want to have an effective ministry, we should work on our organization…

Here are some ways we can beat the disorganized myth:  Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Myths: Part 2 – You Need A Big Budget

In my previous post, I talked about the myth that centers around how great facilities do not equal great ministry. Today, I want to look at the myth of budgets. The myth is simple:

The bigger the budget I have, the better the ministry will be. Right?

This is simply not true. 

I live and minister in South East Michigan which has been hit hard economically in recent years. In addition, I grew up in the England where youth ministry and churches work on a shoe-string. In fact, when I came to the States 12 years ago, I was amazed by how many resources were at hand for youth workers. Most of my friends in the UK run their ministries on a fraction of what I have to work with…

In many ways, I feel greatly blessed that I have never had a massive budget and I was able to discover the blessings of ministering to students with limited resources. And, here’s what I have discovered: Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Myths – Part 1: You Need An Incredible Facility

Today I begin a series of posts about youth ministry myths, their connotations, and the solutions to the myths. So, here we go…

Youth Ministry Myth Number One:  You need an incredible facility to minister effectively… 

In the time I have been in youth ministry, I find this myth to be one of the most distracting myths out there. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been to churches which have  brilliant youth facilities. If you are like me, you have often thought something like, “if only we had a great youth facility like this, we could do some incredible ministry”. However, as someone who has been a part of  a church plant with no facilities, I have discovered that healthy youth ministry is not dependent on an incredible youth room. Here’s a snapshot of some of the places I have done ministry:

  • The Basement of a Home: When I began at a church plant, we had 10 students, 3 leaders and a small basement. We grew to over 100 students in 3 years… Here’s some places we grew into…
  • Coffee Houses: I have seen some of the most relaxed and God inspired conversations happen in places where students feel comfortable. Coffee houses can be incredible places for God to move
  • Old Churches (I mean really old): I never thought that an old Salvation Army building could be transformed into youth room. (We had to set up and tear down twice a week with sound systems, lights and other equipment). It was incredible! Students were on a mission every week to make relationships the key focus. The sense of accomplishment was fantastic!
  • Parks: Some of the best outreach events have been at BBQ’s in the park. Simple, low cost, a loads to do!
  • Warehouse: My current church rents a warehouse for our student ministry. I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty sweet building and we have done a lot of work inside to make it student friendly. However, it is not attached to main campus of the church and can be challenging sometimes to direct students there. Nonetheless, we have seen some incredible growth and depth happen there.

With all this said, I want to make a bold statement: The less we focus on facilities, the greater our youth ministries can flourish!

Why? Here’s a few reasons:

1) We Can Focus More on Students: When we get focused on spaces, we forget to focus on the faces. The blessing of not having a dedicated space or not having an incredible youth room means we can actually invest more in students. In my last church, I had no full-time building to use until my last 6 months there. I found that I spent more time investing in students and less time managing a building or facility. As soon as we got into a building, it became the focus, not the students.

2) Students Can Focus More On Each Other: The same principle applies as above. In many youth rooms I have been in,  it’s easy to spend great amounts of money and time creating a space with video games, game rooms, ping pong tables, air hockey, etc etc. However, some of the best ministry happens when students don’t have these options and we are forced to engage each other. Programmatically, we are forced to create ice-breakers and connection games where students build community in some great ways. I know it can be awkward, but in the long-term, the pay-offs are huge.

3) It Can Involve Students More: Being in a church plant for nearly 4 years taught me a valuable lesson in ownership. You see, having no dedicated space meant that we had to set up and tear down every week. This included students in the process and meant that more of them were involved in key roles. If you don’t have a great facility, consider how students can be a part of the solution, and watch how they build community in the process.

4) It’s Not About Buildings… It’s About Students: I know, I know… We all know this right? But do we really? Take some time to take a gut check. Are we spending too much time wishing our facility was better? Are we looking at other churches thinking that their facility would solve our problems? Are we caught up in the myth of thinking that we need a great facility to do great ministry? Are our students losing our focus in favor of our facilities?

Phil <><



BOOK REVIEW: Sun Stand Still: Steven Furtick

It’s been a LONG time since I did a book review. And, this book is one that has been out for a long time too. However, recently, while away on vacation with my family, I was finally able to catch up with a few books I have been waiting to read. Sun Stand Still is an excellent book that many of my friends in ministry had recommended to me. Here are some thoughts about it:

It’s a great read that will challenge us to consider not only our dependence on God, but also to trust Him to do the audacious in our lives and ministries. It is a book that could and should “illuminate the Divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside your for years.” It so easy to get complacent and be content with the “normal” and not truly expect the amazing to happen in our own lives or the lives of students. “Time can talk you out of your dreams. Routine can weaken your propensity toward audacity.” Sun Stand Still challenges us to assault the mediocrity in our faith and to break into the brilliant vision that God has for us.

Not only is Sun Stand Still inspirational and challenging, it is highly practical, hugely transparent, and full of real life examples of people who have boldly prayed for God to do audacious things in and through their lives. It would be difficult to walk away from this book and not want to fall to your knees praying for God to wreck your life and put it back together in some outrageous and incredible ways. Furtick has an brilliant way of getting us to consider what God could do with us if we only believed… He gets us to stand on the edge of the mountain and view the enormity of God and His gigantic plans for His people… Through his honest and conversational approach, Furtick challenges us to consider that God’s audacious plans are not only for select people or pastors of mega-churches, they are for everyone! They are for you and for me… Read this book and let it “incite a riot in your mind” and lead you to pray boldly for God to do more than you could ask or imagine…

Although this is not a “ministry book” as such, this is book that people in ministry SHOULD be reading. I have seen too many good friends fall into the pit of routine and complacency as they struggled through their ministries.  I expect this book to be one that can inspire, challenge, and help youth workers to take their lives and ministries to the next level.

Bottom Line: Great read and great content!

Phil <><

GUEST POST: Self-Feeding Youth Ministries – By Darren Sutton

Youth ministry can be a lot like parenting.  No, youth workers are not replacement parents.  But there are some striking similarities in the ways we ‘rear’ the kids.

I remember how easy it was to feed my kids when they first came home from the hospital?  They cried and I just popped a bottle in there and the noise magically stopped.  And then there was the initial excitement when they started holding the bottle on their own!!  FREEDOM!  Not only could I pop the bottle in to stop the crying – now I could walk away!  My kids were finally feeding themselves!!

Then I realized the shocking truth!  It was only an illusion of self-feeding.  Just because a baby can hold his own bottle does NOT mean he is feeding himself.  I was still prepping that bottle for him – making sure it was disinfected and the contents were fresh and safe.  The milk was safely contained – only available when the baby applied the right amount of pressure in the right places.

Is that my youth ministry?  Give the kids a bottle so they don’t make noise…and if I’m really progressive, let them hold their own bottles?  What happens when that safe, prepared bottle runs out of milk?  Just refill it and stick it back in?  If you’ve ever parented – you know that doesn’t work for long….

Eventually babies grow up.  Milk is no longer enough to satiate their appetites.  I vividly remember the day I first started giving my son a little cereal with the bottle?  He was growing up and I was so proud!  He was finally getting REAL food.  Man food.  He would soon be a carnivore!!  Maybe, but it was still safe – spoon feeding – baby food.  It was easy to swallow.  Knowing that nothing on earth would make mashed up peas from a jar attractive to my son, I packaged it in the fun of a spoon becoming an airplane flying into the hangar.  And lo and behold – he was still fully dependent on me.  I made the cereal.  I bought the baby food.  I sat at his high chair and made it attractive.  I shoveled it in…

Is that my youth ministry?  Play games and shovel in food, whether the kids like it or not – and just hope and pray that they get some of the nutrients they need to sustain themselves? Sooner or later, kids want to crawl out of that high chair and make their own food….

Using a parental perspective on youth ministry, helping students self-feed might look a little bit like this.  After we progress from the bottle and baby food, we give them Cheerios.  It’s virtually mess-free.  It helps improve their dexterity.  It’s easy clean-up and not ridiculously unhealthy.   We remove the bottle and offer them a sippie-cup instead – it still offers the protection of a lid, but kids have to learn a new way of drinking from it.  And if they leave it sitting improperly, it could get messy.  We start moving in spoons, plates, lid-less cups, bibs…and it gets messy.  They throw food on the walls.  They miss their mouths.  They may even occasionally give up and go back to eating with their hands for a time.

And what do we do as youth pastors?  We embrace that!  We LOVE that!  We facilitate that.  We sit near the high chair and watch as they learn to become self-feeders.

My kids are all in high school now.  If they’re hungry – they make a sandwich.  They can cook.  They clean up their dishes following a meal.  They know how to use napkins if they make a mess.  And I am here to help them when they try out new dishes….

THAT’s true youth ministry – and the kind I want to perpetuate!  I want to be a youth pastor that sits next to the high chair while they make a complete and utter mess of ‘learning’ how to feed themselves. And that’s really dirty business that usually sees a lot of stains and requires a lot of clean up along the way. And that’s OK – I like messy. I love the ‘AFV’ moments where the kids have spaghetti in their hair, on the wall, coming out of their nose. It’s then that I truly see their faith maturing, growing, and becoming their own.  Soon, they’ll become truly independent….completely feeding themselves.  And I am quite confident that their ‘messes’ will have equipped them to teach someone else how to hold a spoon…..and that’s the mess – and beauty – of true ministry.

Darren is a veteran youth pastor in Corpus Christi, TX, and co-hosts a weekly podcast for parents of teenagers () with his wife, Katie. You can catch his blog at  and follow him on twitter @darrensutton.



LIVE Leadership Curriculum Winner Announced!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win the LIVE Leadership Curriculum.

If you missed out, you can still contact Matty McCage from the info below, or click on the banner and fill out your contact info.  For now, here is the lucky winner:

Alex Hensley from River Valley Church, in Bossier City, LA. (Alex, you will get an email from me with info on how you can gain your prize).