Archive - February, 2012

NEW BOOK: No Teenager Left Behind

This week we are excited to announce 3 books by Darren Sutton, Phil Bell, and myself that have been published as part of the  by Simply Youth Ministry. Here’s a snapshot of the book:

No one ever said ministering to teenagers was easy. (Actually, one person did say that—but he didn’t last long.) But working with certain teenagers seems especially challenging, difficult, stressful.

How can you best connect with defiant, clingy, or complacent students? How do you build bridges to unchurched, hurting, or socially awkward teenagers? Drawing on two decades of youth ministry experience, Leneita Fix offers practical insights and strategies on effectively connecting with 10 groups of teenagers that we can overlook, ignore, or avoid all too easily.

In No Teenager Left Behind, Fix paints a picture of students who can fall through the cracks of our youth ministries, a picture rooted in her own teenage struggle with insecurities and doubt and low self-esteem. These are the students that we pretend we are too busy for.  They’re the ones that are lost and we feel totally unqualified to reach.

But what they need is to be loved. Instead of avoiding these teenagers, we can see them as Jesus sees each of them—and each of us.  And we can commit to the vision of leaving no teenager behind as we minister to this generation.


NEW BOOK: Answers to Teenagers’ 50 Toughest Questions

This week I am excited to announce three new books by 3 of us here at As a part of Simply Youth Ministry’s brand new  series, Leneita Fix, Darren Sutton, and myself are excited to see three highly practical youth ministry books get in the hands of youth workers. In the next few days, we’ll tell you a little about each of the books.

For now, here’s a snapshot of 

Teenagers are hungry for solid answers to the relentless questions gnawing at their hearts and minds.  They’re yearning for help, hope, and healing that are founded in truth—and youth workers are the ideal people for delivering those answers!

If you’ve ever felt unprepared when students want to talk about tough topics, then this is the book for you. Answers to Teenagers’ 50 Toughest Questions will equip you with biblical, practical, specific responses to the thorniest questions students may toss your way.

Written collaboratively by a diverse team of youth workers, this book examines tough questions from six different areas:

• Faith Basics

• Faith Struggles

• Discipleship and Evangelism

• Life Choices

• Family and Friends

• Dating and Sex

For each question, you’ll find a biblically based response, along with next-step ideas that will engage students in conversation and exploration.  And for most of the topics, we’ve provided a list of recommended readings and resources to aid their investigation.

This is a perfect equipping resource for any youth worker—whether you’re a youth pastor, a small group leader, or simply an adult who loves teenagers and wants to see them pursue Jesus-centered lives.

Phil <><

5 Reasons I am Looking Forward To The Simply Youth Ministry Conference

This weekend I join 3000 youth workers along with Darren Sutton, John Fix and Leneita Fix, (contributors here at youthworktalk). I am excited about this conference for many reasons, but here are a my top five:

1) It’s For Youth Workers, By Youth Workers: This conference is designed and implemented by in the trenches youth workers who understand youth ministry and what youth workers need. Not only do these guys and gals love this conference, they absolutely love the people that come there! Many feel like this conference is “home” to them. (For most people, calling a youth ministry conference “home” might sound weird, but at #SYMC it really does feel that way). As someone who is on the inside track to this conference, I can tell you these people are as authentic as you can get!

2) It’s A Time To Breathe: This years theme is breathe. So often youth ministry can catch up with you. What started off as blessing can sometimes feel like a curse if we don’t take care of our souls. This year I am excited to be a part of a conference where I can breathe in and recharge.

3) They Have A Shelter: My good friend Len and his SYM Soul Care Team are providing a safe place for youth workers to get free, confidential pastoral support when they need it. It’s like “urgent care” for a youth worker’s heart & soul!

4) There’s Over 200 Learning Opportunities: Here’s what they say on their site: You’ll get 2-3 times the amount of content and options to choose from than other training events—with more time for depth and discussion and more practical solutions to your ministry needs. From peer panels to workshops, from “half-tracks” to “deep learning tracks,” there are a gazillion learning options there!

5) I Get To Bring Some Of My Volunteers: I super excited to bring some incredible volunteers who I have the privilege of doing ministry with. They are an incredible group and I can’t wait to hear their stories and process all that they are going to learn. This conference is a place for the volunteer, the rookie, and the veteran who all have one purpose: To love God and love students!

If you are going to SYMC, leave me a comment or send me a tweet @PhilBell

Phil <><

Gaining Healthy Respect & Influence In Youth Ministry: Parents

Gaining healthy respect and influence in youth ministry can sometimes be challenging. Many youth workers are young and often feel like people see them as “the young kid.”  Even veteran youth workers feel like the title of “youth worker” devalues their influence. It’s true,  we do face stigmas and inaccurate perceptions. However, it doesn’t mean that we cannot gain the respect and influence that will help us build strong youth ministries…

Today, I want to encourage you to consider how you can gain healthy respect and influence with the parents in our ministries. As many of you know, having parents “on our side” can make or break the success of our ministries. Below are three things that when consistently worked on, will help us gain healthy respect and influence with parents in my ministry.

1) Set An Example And Stay The Course: This is perhaps the most effective way of gaining healthy respect and influence with any group of people in our church. Parents entrust their kids to us on a daily basis and it’s important that they see someone who is setting a consistent Godly example. It’s easy to get frustrated when people don’t give us time of day, but it’s also important to realize that trust takes time to build. Being a solid and consistent example will bear much fruit in time… Getting frustrated and defensive with parents will only go to confirm any negative ideas they might already have about youth workers… Set an example and stay the course… Continue Reading…

What Does Successful Look Like?

Ok, so I am a zealot.  I admit it.  I need every activity I do with kids to have a purpose or a point. No one has ever accused me of being the fun youth guy, especially not the youth.  Oh, I have drunk the raw eggs and thrown everyone’s shoes in the middle of the room, but not without a well communicated message about God’s unique plan or the dangers of food poisoning.  It is a character flaw really.

However, there is a method to my madness.  I always want my lessons/programs/activities to be a piece of a bigger puzzle.  And what is that puzzle?  It is the picture of what I want my youth to look like after having been in my program.  To steal a cliché, “I begin with the end in mind”.

When is the last time you have asked yourself what type of youth you are trying to produce,  and then purposely come up with a plan or a program to grow them in that direction?  If it has been a while I think it is well worth your effort to think about the following questions:

  • What do I hope a child looks like after being in my program for 4-7 years?
  • What qualities do they exhibit?
  • What kind of Christian will they be?
  • Will they be leaders?
  • Do they have a heart for discipleship or are they evangelists?

These are just a few ideas.  What other questions would help you picture your kids in the future?


Darren’s List: 5 Things I Pray At Every Youth Program

In Phil’s previous post, he outlined his 5 things he prays at every youth program. Well, here’s Darren’s quick list…

Maybe you can identify with some or all of them? What would you add to this list? What do you regularly pray for at your youth programs?

1. Please don’t let anyone spill their soda on the sanctuary carpet.
2. Please don’t let anyone’s cell phone go off during my message – and if it does, help me not to lose my train of thought.
3. Please let everyone bring their deposits on time.
4. Please don’t let the senior pastor come in here.
5. Please let me survive this night to fight another day.

Go ahead and comment. What would you add to your prayer list?

P.S – This isn’t Darren’s “serious prayer” list, it’s more for fun… well, mostly.


Going to SYMC 2012? Don’t Miss These Video Links!

If you are going to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March, you have got to check out these videos made by my good friend Matty McCage. Matty has scoped out all the good and essential places to go, see, and experience while you are in Louisville, KY.
Take a look:
  • Matty Files #1:
  • Matty Files #2:
  • Matty Files #3:  
  • Matty Files #4:
  • Matty Files #5:
  • Matty Files #6:
  • Matty Files #7:
  • Matty Files #8:

5 Things I Pray At Every Youth Program

There are five things I try to make sure I pray almost every time at our youth programs. Not only I am genuinely wanting to pray these things every week, it helps to give our students a prayer focus, I find it also helps to continue to cast the vision of why we meet each week. Prayer is powerful, life changing, and focuses us on the things of God.

Here’s what I pray regularly at our weekly programs: 

“Thanks so much for the new faces here tonight, and thanks for the students who call this place home” – It’s imperative to communicate care to the new students as we pray for them and thank God for them. It’s also imperative that I thank God new people while also reminding our regular students that there are new faces here to look out for.

“Thanks to these incredible youth leaders who show up week after week to love students” – I have some of the most fantastic youth leaders a youth pastor could ask for! I realize this, but students don’t always consider the sacrifice their small group leaders make to show up week after week. In addition, it’s my job to help the small group leaders become ‘ministry heroes’ to the students. Praying for adult leaders every week truly helps students to see how much they are loved by these brilliant people! Continue Reading…

“Why I Suck at Valentine’s Day” – The Perspective of a Man in Ministry

Sorry Guys.  It’s Valentine’s Day.  No, I have no clue what happened to the last five weeks either.  We had sooooo much time to figure it out how to make the day special, but the sand has run out of the hourglass.  All we have left now is candy from the local Walgreens, a teddy bear from Exxon,  and a myriad of excuses.  If we only put as much effort into planning for V day as we did scrambling for valid excuses, our legend would be epic.  You know what I mean by epic.  That idiot friend who makes you look bad because he somehow got a string quartet to play his wedding song at the base of a waterfall last February 14th.  I hate that guy….

Of course we have no one to blame but ourselves.  We were once that idiot friend, weren’t we.  Think about it.  There was a time when you pursued your soul mate full on, sparing no expense or detail (whether you lost your man card or not).  Then it happened….life.  There are a myriad of things to blame it on, but I find that ministry has become a handy scapegoat.  It sucks all of your time, money, and energy.  Scratch that, it sucks all of your time, doesn’t give you any money, and uses your energy for such quality activities as chubby bunnies.  It is a challenge to keep your wife at the top of your priority list, but I know we all agree it needs to happen.

I don’t know about your spouse or girlfriend, but my wife’s top two love languages are Gifts and Quality Time (I blame this on you too Gary Chapman – but that is a topic for another post).  As any ministry veteran well knows, the two things that are most scarce are free time and cash – the very elements that are necessary for a successful Valentine’s Day extravaganza.   Oh how many times I have failed to meet my wife’s needs in the name of ministry.  How many fights we have had because I put more effort into my work and excuses than into listening to her deepest desires (that’s rhetorical dear, don’t answer that in the comments section).  You see, and this is where I hope to help all my brothers in arms, I was missing the point…

IT’S THE SMALL (BUT BIG) THINGS: For a woman who loves gifts, an unsolicited presentation of her favorite candy bar means that you care enough about her to remember to get if for her.  Words of encouragement are simple – a text message reminding her that she is just as beautiful today as the summer you met her is almost (I said almost) as good as a poem or sonnet.  Acts of service – where to start on this one?  Make her dinner or wash her car.  If you are married, for lord’s sake pick up your underwear and vacuum once in a while.

THE KEY: The key to all of this is simply making sure you do the little things every day that show her she is cherished and most important in your life.  Am I good at this?….not at all.  It is a constant effort to make sure I am doing the little things.  But I tell you what, if I would just focus on the simple things that make her feel special everyday than the pressure of Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be so great – and I wouldn’t be fighting with you for the last Hoops and Yoyo card at CVS.    Here’s praying that you have a blessed Valentine’s Day.

P.S. This post has been proofread and approved by my wife.

John Fix

Married In Youth Ministry

So many times we sit with others “in ministry” and we hear the stories of their journey. We heard it said once in every marriage one of you is the plow horse and one of you is the race horse. In other words, one of you is the passionate visionary and the other is the slow and steady planner. Another way of looking at this would be to say that one of you is the pioneer and the other “follows and supports” the lead. Nine times out of ten when we “talk” about the road to ministry as a couple, the “dreamer” is the husband and the “practical” one is the wife.

Not in our marriage. We have had a unique expedition into serving the Lord. Leneita is the crazed overly passionate, “We can do anything” voice, while John is the calm, reasonable, “Sounds good, but how will we accomplish it,”  voice. It used to make us roll our eyes as the husband would look at Leneita and say we are just alike. It made John feel emasculated that he was more like the ministry “wives.”

Ministry is challenging. Then you add marriage to the mix and it simply complicates everything. In our case neither of us even has a “real” job (or so we have heard them called.) to support the cause. Instead, we have walked hand in hand down this road of fully focused, all in, running youth min stuff 24/7 for almost 15 years now.

Here are 3 things that have helped our marriage:

1. We were BOTH called. In our life we have the interesting perspective that our whole family is “in ministry” together. We live in the inner city as missionaries and serve on staff with a ministry. Our lives are immersed into the vision. Yet, we recognize it wasn’t one or the other of us following the other. The Lord made us “one flesh” this means that this call was for both of us. In your life it might look different. One of you may hold down a non “church” job. One of you might stay at home with the kids. However, the Lord wants you unified in his vision for your life. Serving in youth ministry is part of that.

 2. We are called to be who God called US to be. Expectations from others was what brought rifts into our marriage. In the early years we kept trying to make it look like what we defined as the “norm.” This brought a constant sense of uneasiness to our relationship. I’ll never forget the day I heard a young, stay at home, homeschool mom, say to me, “I could never do what you do, I just support my husband as a youth guy.” I told her, “You aren’t supposed to do it our way. You are supposed to do it the way the Lord made YOU as a family.” If you are not sinning in any way and you are happy with the way your marriage is working, stop trying to fix it. It isn’t broken.

 3. “Doing” ministry can never be as important as your relationship. We all say, God first, family second, everything else third. I have also heard it said, “God only.” Our identity can’t be in what you do, it has to be in who you are in the Lord. HOWEVER, when the Lord gives you a spouse that relationship needs care. There is never a “good day,” to take off. There is never a day that the phone calls, text and demands of those you serve will end. If you keep telling your spouse, “they just need to understand this is important,” there will come a day when they won’t anymore. The most important relationships need nurturing. You were called together. Even if your stint in “ministry” ended tomorrow, you will still be together, don’t forget that.

Honestly, when we were both single and “doing ministry” it was relatively easy. The only people we had to care about were Jesus and everyone else. The reality was that the Lord gave us a traveling companion on this life with him. The day we said, “I do” it meant that we would walk it all together, whatever life brings. For today, that means we get to tell kids how to live for Christ… as a couple.

What has helped your marriage in youth ministry? What is essential to continue growing together as one or both or you minister to students? 

John & Leneita


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