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Athletes In Action Speakers = Great Outcomes!

Last night, as part of our mid-week program we had two athletes from come to share their faith with our high school students. (defensive end football player), and (softball player), did a brilliant job sharing their faith in a relational and engaging way. It was promoted as a night to bring friends to, and a night where the Gospel would be shared clearly. It was a brilliant evening! Here are some of the outcomes and takeaways I discovered:

  • It was an easy invite for students to bring their friends to: Having a local college athlete share their story is an easy way to get students to bring their friends. We saw a large number of visitors last night who all came with regular students to our ministry.
  • A guest speaker can share the Gospel boldly: It’s not that we do not share the Gospel regularly, but there is something great in having someone else share the Gospel to our students. It’s not the same voice or same style and therefore the students tune in and hear the Gospel clearly. Continue Reading…

Midweek Series “Slice of Life”

SLICE OF LIFE: This Week we kick off a new video series called, “Slice of Life” where we interview students from our ministry. This series has been created for a number of good reasons:

CREATED BY STUDENTS: Students themselves came up with the idea to have a series focused on their “slice of life” and how God is working in their lives.

OWNERSHIP: Anytime students are excited about an idea or series, it’s important to help channel their excitement into somethig that will impact other students. When I can get out of the way and help students to minister, I often see greater fruit…

BUILD COMMUNITY: One of the premises to this series is the idea that we have students from different backgrounds sharing their faithwalk. In our ministry we have about 6 different high schools represented, (plus home school students too). It’s important that this group of students get to hear stories from students from different places and situations. In the long-term, students feel like they are getting to know each other better… Long-term, it builds community.

VIDEO MESSAGES: We try to shoot the students on video. This helps if students get “stuck” or lost for words. Editing is a beautiful thing. In addition, it helps to present another mode of learning for them.

CONTACT TIME: I find these kind of message series where we interview students is incredible for greater opportunities for contact time… It’s amazing to see to the insights and thoughts that students share when you place a video camera in front of them… After the interview, I find some brilliant opportunities to talk, catch up, and hear more about what is happening in their lives…

PREP TIME: Perhaps the least important, but helpful thing with this series is this: The prep time is less that a usual week and it allows me to prepare for upcoming messages and have greater time to meet with students and leaders during the week…

That’s all for now. How are you creating opportunities for students to share their “Slice of Life”?

Phil <><


Last night I met with a group of my high school students at the local Panera Bread to hang-out, talk, and…. listen.

If you are like me, it’s so easy to get bogged down with planning, message writing, and meetings. It’s easy to become task driven and focus less on just ‘being’ with students. Last night I was truly blessed to be around a group of students who are excited about God, are excited to see their friends being reached, and excited about growing deeper in their faith. Last night was a time to listen to their hearts, their ideas and their hopes. Here’s what was impressed upon my heart from our time together…

1) We Discover the Real Issues Students Face:

Students foundational adolescent issues tend to not change too much in that they still desire Identity, Autonomy and Affinity. (Marko in Youth Ministry 3.0). However, when as, Chap Clark puts it, we “sit on the steps” that lead up to student culture, we get great insights to students current issues and needs. Last night was one of those nights for me as I discovered so many things that I was unaware of or had not considered. As I look forward with my teaching, planning and implementation, I am able to focus my energies to support students in areas that they truly need .

2) We move from Colonialism to being  a Missionary:

In his book Youth Ministry 3.0, Mark Oestreicher talks about the importance of seeing ourselves as a missionary. In other words, seeing ourselves as someone who is foreign to a culture and comes in and listens to the locals and understands them first. Coming from England, I am all too aware of British colonialism in the world where the Brits went in to foreign lands and insisted that the locals follow the British customs and cultural nuances. What happened? The Brits got kicked out! Now, I hope you and I don’t get kicked out of our churches or ministries, but it’s important to consider if we are only imparting our own set of agendas and ideas on students. Are we ‘colonizing’ or being a missionary to these students.

Now bear with me for a minute as I say this. I am aware that there are many things that students do not yet see in their lives that are imperative to know and live by. I am aware that students ‘felt needs’ are not always what they really do need… However, they are less likely to listen to us unless they know that we have taken time to listen to them first…

3) We give Ownership to Students:

This was huge for me last night. As I sat and listened to students talk about what they are seeing in our ministry and what they are excited about, they were owning the ministry with their words and their plans for the future. As they talked, they got lit up with ideas and dreams -  they began to take ownership. When students can put the ministry vision into their own words, it is better that a well-crafted vision statement in any student ministry.

4) We Hear Honesty

“Phil, you give great messages, but when one of us can back up what you are saying and can be involved in your message, it has a greater impact”. That was my takeaway last night, among other things. It can be hard to hear that kind of stuff can’t it? But, when we listen long enough, students can feel like they can communicate their true thoughts with you. Ultimately, it will lead to creating a better and more effective ministry. My ego might take a hit, but who is more important here?

5) We Send the most Important Message:

I think the most important factor for me was that they heard the most important message last night. “I care about you guys. You are important and you can make a huge difference”. I didn’t say it with words, I communicated it through listening…In coming weeks, when you and I stand in front of students with a message or study for them, I am convinced they will hear better when they know that we care deeply and have their best interests at heart.

So this next few weeks, I encourage you to hang out, have fun…. and listen.

It’s ok to kick back sometimes.

January 4th = The night before school gets back in the swing of things… Or a night when families are not back in the swing of things… 

Every year for the last few years I notice that attendance is down this weekend of the year for our high school program ‘EDGE’. On weeks like this I am concluding it’s ok (and better)  to use this to our advantage.

Rather than have a huge kick off and be dissapointed by turn out etc, I find it’s ok to accept what is going to be, and change up what we do a little. On nights like this we make them a ‘connections night’ where we have extended worship, more hang out time and we are intentional about having lots of varying games opportunities. We also have a message, but brief and to the point.

This is what we find happens:  The students actually seem to make the most of the relaxed atmosphere and  seem to connect real well with each other. But here’s another insight I saw tonight: Since we have less in the program schedule, the leaders have less programming to do and therefore spend more time with the students simply connecting.

In the last 6 months or so we have been intentional about creating these connections nights and it has really paid dividends for us. It has also been to good to mix up the pace for our leaders. They too need a night where they can focus on talking, laughing and praying with these students and not programming so much. As our students get used to these nights, they have also become a place where students know they can invite a friend to EDGE as a ‘first base’ event and then step into the usual program the week after… I wish I could say we planned that… we didn’t. 

Our typical ‘flow’ of what we do looks like this: 

Series kick off (big elements including band covers, videos etc)

3-4 week series. 

Connections Night

Back to series kick off…


Phil <><