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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 <><

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The Essential Leadership Qualities Of Effective Youth Ministry Veterans

Today we continue our series looking at leadership in youth ministry. If you and I want to be successful in youth ministry and have a lasting impact, there are some key qualities we should be aware of and strive for. Take a look:

Youth Ministry Essential Leader

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A Leadership Lesson From A Youth Ministry Veteran: Part 2

In my previous post I talked about the audacious faith youth ministry veteran Byron Porisch. Last weekend, I was able to share some fun memories about Byron at a celebration his church threw for him. Byron is the guy who gave me my opportunity to move for England to the United States twelve years ago. He’s also battling an aggressive brain cancer and I would love for you to pray for him and his family.

Today, I want to share a key leadership lesson that has made a huge difference to me and the way I lead others in my ministry. Understanding and living out today’s leadership lesson from Byron is a foundational lesson for every leader. Failure to learn this lesson can be devastating…

Secure Leadership

I’ll never forget the question I once gave Byron in my early years of youth ministry. I will never forget the impact of his answer and exactly what it meant.

Me: Byron, how is it that students, volunteers, and parents are so attracted to your leadership? What makes you so magnetic? 

Byron: (Laughing hysterically), Ha! I’m so uncool, it makes me cool… 

Now, you might be reading this and wondering how this statement can be life altering and so impactful? Let me explain what Byron really meant by this statement. What he was actually saying was:

I’m so comfortable with who I am, people are attracted to my confidence in God’s unique identity for me… 

Again, you might wonder how I am able to take Byron’s statement and arrive at the statement above? You see, at the time Byron made this statement, he was in his fifties, had been in ministry for over twenty five years, and was clearly the older guy in the room. While many others were getting out of youth ministry, Byron continued to live and breath youth ministry and pour into younger leaders like me.

When he referred to being “uncool” I knew exactly what he meant. You see, Byron didn’t care about age or titles, he embraced his uniqueness of the day. While the students knew he was the older guy in youth ministry, they also saw his great confidence, great passion, and being completely secure in being the “uncool” older guy.

In our world today, people are drawn to leaders who are confident and comfortable in their unique identity. Yes, we will follow charisma and vision, but they will not follow insecurity for long. So often, because of insecurity, leaders will change who they are, and so often with devastating results:

  • They compromise their ethics. 
  • They try to be a friend to students instead of being a leader
  • They promote themselves above Jesus
  • They constantly play the comparison game and live a life of leadership inferiority
  • They leave a ministry too early because they think they don’t have what it takes
  • Their insecurity eats them alive and they dampen the growth of leaders around them

There are many I could add to this list, but I think you get the point. Again, the bottom line to all this is:

When we lead with confidence and assurance of our unique identity, people will follow us.

What’s your take away from this? How has insecure leadership impacted you? How have insecure leaders impacted you?

Phil <><



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A Leadership Lesson From A Youth Ministry Veteran: Part 1

Last weekend, I was honored to attend and speak at a celebration for a good friend and youth ministry mentor, Byron Porisch. Byron is the guy who gave me my opportunity to come the States twelve years ago; to work and study in youth ministry.

Byron has an agressive form of brain cancer… His church (the same church I interned at with Byron), threw him a incredible celebration that he could enjoy and experience. As I considered what I would share at this celebration, it was not hard for me to focus on Byron’s standout quality as a leader. It’s a quality you and I should strive for, and one that you and I should ask God for.

Youth Ministry Leadership

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Ministry is More Than a Service Project

We’ve all been there!  Our student ministry has gotten a little too inward focused.  Our students are a little self-absorbed.  We realize we although we are definitely not OF the world, we’re also not IN it!

Sometimes our first reaction is to schedule a service project.  We call Habitat for Humanity or make a mad dash for our local homeless shelter.  And if we’re real world changers, we might even make that a regular ministry opportunity we offer…

Youth Ministry Serving

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The Most Crucial Youth Ministry Discipleship Question???? Who’s Discipling You?

In the previous two posts we’ve look at youth ministry discipleship. Discipleship is more than filling in the blanks, and it can be messy, unplanned, and takes a lot of relational time. Today, I have a challenge for myself I want pass on to you too… Here’s why:

The way we are discipled will often correlate into how we disciple others… Who’s discipling you?

Discipleship Questions

So my challenge for myself and for you is simply this: In the coming weeks, I am challenging myself to create time and space to seek out Godly people in my life to help disciple me. It does not matter how old or experienced we are, we all need to look up to a ‘Paul’ in our lives who has the time to invest in us. I already have a few great guys who have invested in me, but if I am honest, my life and schedule has taken over recently.

As you look for people to disciple you, what should this look like? Here’s what I am looking for: 

1. They are available and have the TIME: We live in a fast paced world. Some of the most Godly men and women are ineffective because of one foundational deficiency: They are simply too busy. For you and I, I would seek out those people who are good time managers or have more time on their hands. Some of the best people to disciple you are in their retirement years because they have more time and will MAKE time for you. I know it might be awkward asking an older guy or gal to meet with you at first, but you will be blessed if you do so… Who at your church or in your community is strong in their faith and has TIME?

2. They help me dig into God’s Word and prayer: Years ago when I lived in the UK,  I met regularly with a guy called Chris who studied the Bible with me. I will never forget his passion, his knowledge, and the basic bible study skills he gave me. The way I personally study the bible and the way in which I help others study is because of Chris. What are you learning and what are you passing on?

3. They can speak into my family life: When I first arrived at my current church, I sought out a guy who teaches a number of our family and marriage classes. After a few coffees with him, I asked him to look out for me and gave him permission to check in with me about my family. To this day Bob has sought me out to meet for coffee on numerous occasions. We have dinner with him and his wife regularly and they have been a huge support to our family. We are learning from them in so many ways and are incredibly thankful for the Godly wisdom they provide.

4. Ask them to look for areas of weakness: I have always made it a point to seek out Godly leaders around me as a way to grow and glean from them. On the odd occasion, leaders like this will offer to help in some way where they see a need in my life. Years ago, a guy named Dan could see I was struggling as a young leader and offered to meet with me regularly so he could help me become more assertive and confident as a leader. I’ll be honest, at first it stung to hear that he could see I was lacking in a tender area of my life. Yet, after I gathered myself up off the floor from my crying, I agreed to meet with him. Dan was right about what he saw and I needed his advice… Who are are you letting in to speak truth into your life?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do as a leader is ask someone to look for areas of weakness and allow them in to help you…

Remember this key: The way I am being discipled with impact the way I am discipling others. It does not matter how old or wise I think I am, I am always going to need to have a ‘Paul’ in my life to disciple me, as I look to disciple the ‘Timothy’s’ in my life.

In the next 4 weeks I challenge you to seek out one or two Godly people to disciple you. Are you in?

Comment and let me know if you are? Let’s commit to this together!

Phil <><


What My Own Kids Taught Me About Youth Ministry Discipleship

I used to think I knew something about discipleship.   It was about pouring into students who were walking with Christ, and helping them grow.  Sure I would teach them to read the Bible, what church is all about, have a “Quiet Time,” you know the regular stuff you teach someone about what you do when you follow Jesus.  Then my own children started to grow up.

I went from pastoring a youth group to living with one.  My perspective changed radically.

Youth Ministry Discipleship Perspective

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Youth Ministry Discipleship is More Than Filling in the Blanks

Discipleship = learning to live the life of a Christ-follower.  It’s one definition and definitely not the only one.  But if we’re using this as a working definition for training up the next generation of faith-walkers, then we must assess HOW we’re doing that.


Looking at modern day youth ministry distresses me.  We’re sitting students in a room and talking to them for an hour and expecting them to absorb, by osmosis, the conviction and character it takes to follow Jesus in all areas of life.  If we’re especially organized, we’re even giving them an outline with some of the answer left blank – knowing that if they’re writing down the notes we’re giving, they’re truly being transformed. Continue Reading…