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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 <><

photo credit: via

9 Signs You’re Burning Out In Youth Ministry

In my previous post I talked about the need to understand what we are called to, rather than what we are pulled to in youth ministry. Having a strong faith foundation and knowing what God is calling us to, will help us avoid saying “yes” to everything, and doing everything in our own strength…

Recently I saw a great post by Carey Nieuwhof that provides . It’s a great post and really worth the read. You can check it out by

Phil <><

Avoiding Youth Ministry Burnout

“Over commitment will lead to a lack of commitment! Know the difference between what you are called to, not what you are pulled to…”

No one enters youth ministry ever expecting to burnout, breakdown, or lose their passion. However, in my years of youth ministry I have heard too many stories of great youth workers who left ministry all together because of burnout…

Youth Ministry Burnout

There are many reasons why you and I could burnout, but it usually starts when we try to do everything for everyone with only our strength. Before we know it, we are working unhealthy hours, our walk with God is shallow, and our family are getting the left overs. But, how can we avoid this? Here’s a starting place:

Know the difference between what you are called to, not what you are pulled to.

(I saw this quote a few weeks ago. I wish I could tell you who said it, but I have no idea. However, it stuck in my brain so much that I have not been able to get away from it).

The bottom line is this: When you and I can have a healthy walk with God, we will hear His voice and He will lead us to what we are called to. From here we can:

  • Discern what God is calling us to do
  • Know the difference between a good opportunity and a God opportunity
  • Have the confidence to say “no” to the things that we are pulled to
  • Have the clarity to be able to communicate our vision to others
  • Have the time to spend with God and our families
  • Find peace in God’s plans even when storms rage around us.

You see, there are a number of reasons for burnout in youth ministry, but personally, I believe it begins with an unhealthy expectation that we say “yes” to everything, (and then in our own strength, try to do everything). Instead, we should begin with a strong relationship with God that continuously seeks His purpose and vision.

There are many other ways in which you and I can be pulled into burnout, but this is what I have observed in the last few years.

How are you avoiding burnout? Do you have time to hear God’s voice in your life? Do you know what you are called to for the long and short haul?

Phil <><

photo credit: via

Youth Ministry Management: Recruiting Volunteers

There are ‘lone rangers’ in youth ministry. Your youth ministry will be effective if you have a great volunteer team. “How do I recruit good volunteers?” This is something I get asked about a lot. Today, let’s take a look at how I have successfully recruited volunteers, while also dispelling ways that I do not recruit volunteers. 

Recruiting Volunteers

In recruiting volunteers, I DO NOT: 

  • Put an an announcement in the bulletin or church newsletter
  • Make an announcement in the worship services
  • Put up recruitment flyers around the church
  • Create a catchy video that promises potential volunteers an incredible ministry and free coffee, (I did that once).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the methods above, but for me, they are simply not very effective. The other aspect is that they are all deeply impersonal ways to recruit volunteers aren’t they? If you and I are dreaming of a relational ministry with relationally invested volunteers, it is imperative that we start out on the right foot and employ methods to recruit potential leaders in a relational way. (I think this is true of hiring a full-time youth worker too).

In the last ten years, there have been only few times when I truly struggled to recruit enough volunteers. Part of that is because I think I have a fairly good idea of how to keep good volunteers, (I’ll post about that next), and part of it is because of the way I recruit them. Here are four things I do:  Continue Reading…

Making The Most Of Your Summer Getaway

For many of us in youth ministry, the summer is full of mission trips, special summer events, and changed programming for a number of weeks. Hopefully, it also provides us with a welcome change of pace and a getaway with our family or friends?

If you have a vacation planned, experience has probably taught you to make the most of your time away… It’s not long before September creeps up and we jump back into a busy schedule. Getting refreshed is paramount and it’s essential we don’t allow our vacation time to be negatively impacted.

Our ability to minister well year round will depend on how well we use our time away in the summer…

Summer Beach Umbrella

Here are a few things I will be doing to ensure I come back refreshed this summer: Continue Reading…

How To Honor Graduating Students While Keeping The Big Picture In Focus.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am new this school year to my church and its Youth Ministry. In the past years, Axiom (Student Ministry) has had “Grad Nights” to honor the Seniors, where all Seniors come dressed in caps and gowns, and some of the core leaders go through each student and affirm/challenge them in their future endeavors. Each Senior gets a going away present from the staff, like a Bible or inspiring book. I really like it, I think its great!

But as for this school year, I wanted to take a little bit of a different approach. Not a huge change, just a few small & subtle differences that I think can make this night a huge hit:

cap on books

  1. Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry & The Art of Running the Race…

A couple of months ago the ministry I work for decided to use the NJ Long Branch Marathon as a fundraiser.  At first I didn’t think much of it.  I’m not a runner.  As a matter of fact I am an asthmatic who is beyond athletically challenged.  This race was for my husband to complete, look at him,  he is built like a runner.   Then our office needed someone to step up and be part of a two person half-marathon relay.  This would mean an almost 7 mile “race.”  Can we revisit that I AM NOT A RUNNER?  Yes, you’re already there I had to start training.

marathon youth ministry

Continue Reading…

Creating a Community that Welcomes New Students to your Youth Ministry

When the Lord moves your family for his plan and purpose, it is never easy. This means new ministry for you. For your children it also means NEW: Home, School, Church, Youth Group, & Friends…

Everything is about starting over.  It takes a toll on all of you in ways you never knew. This has been my own family for 8 months now.

Newbie Youth Ministry

Continue Reading…

Healthy You – Healthy Youth Ministry! Part 3 – How To Create And Sustain Healthy Habits

In our previous post, Scott Tinman shared how he has moved from being a youth ministry couch potato to someone who is running EVERY day for close to 10 months. Today Scott wraps up our series as he shares practical advice on how you and I can create workout habits that are sustainable. There’s some great advice in this post! Read on!

Youth Ministry Health

Continue Reading…

Healthy You – Healthy Youth Ministry! Part 2 – An Interview with Scott Tinman

Whether we like it or not, our productivity, and ultimately our mental and spiritual health are so closely tied to our physical health. If we can improve our health, we can expect our ministries to improve too. Today we talk to youth ministry veteran Scott Tinman about his radical life change.

Marathon Youth Ministry Continue Reading…

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