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Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 2: You

Yesterday I began a five-part series reflecting on why it’s important to be family focused in our student ministries. I also gave a quick snapshot of how I keep this focus. Today I want to continue this focus by looking closer at one aspect I mentioned in my previous post:

IT STARTS WITH ME (OR YOU): In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 1

Today I am beginning a five-part series on family focused student ministries. In the last few years I have intentionally changed my focus of ministry to focus on the family as a whole. Here’s why:

Every student that we see in our ministry is part of a family system and is impacted by the health of their family. Given that we typically will have only a few hours a week of contact time with our students, I have had to realize that my impact on my students is greater when I can impact and support the whole family.

In addition, students value relationships and family more than ever. Many of them have been raised in a world of broken families or have seen the impact the of broken families in their friends. Out of this brokenness, they are desperate for answers as they look to their future. Therefore, it is imperative that we not only look to support their families with healthy family focused ministry, but we also look for ways to model healthy family through our own lives as volunteers and paid youth workers.

In the next four days I will take a look at how I am attempting to model and support healthy family ministry for myself, my volunteer leaders, my students parents, and for my students. I don’t claim to have all the answers, I am simply on a journey to discover the answers. Here is a snapshot of where I am going this week:

For Me: In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. He insists, “if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church”? In the same way, as a church leader, I have to realize that healthy family ministry starts with me and how I model health for students and their families. It’s crucial that I understand how my ministry will reflect my own life and family…

For My Volunteer Leaders: My volunteers have families and are an example to our students on a weekly basis. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own. The time they volunteer in student ministry is over and above their work week, is over and above their family time, and ultimately takes them away from their families. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them…

For My Parents: Families are busy, stretched, and stressed. Everything I do must be intentional about helping families – not hurting them. The way I schedule, the way I communicate, and the way individually support parents should be a passage to helping them (and ultimately helping their kids). Again, if I can impact parents positively, I am helping my students for the long-term. If however, I choose to lead a silo ministry that runs incredible programs, I might feel like I am helping students, but in reality I am not.

For My Students: Many of the students in our ministries come from broken homes or difficult situations. Statistically many of them are living with only one parent and have seen divorce. It’s important that I see the big picture of my ministry as a model to these students who need to see how a dad / husband acts and lives. In the same way, many of my students need to see how a mom / wife acts and lives through the example of my wife. It’s vital that my students get the inside scoop to myself, my wife, my kids, and the way we live… Scary thought?

In the next four days I will be exploring each area and brainstorming the ways that I currently support families and how I hope to support them in the future.

Phil <><

E-book Review: The Student Mission Trip Greenhouse

is a student leadership development ministry using trips, innovative training, and curriculum to help students identify and develop their personal leadership skills. In addition, I am amazed at how many freebies they give away to anyone who asks! What’s more, I am astounded by the quality of there latest freebie and wonder, “why don’t they sell this stuff? It’s brilliant!”

For now, I will let them figure that out, and I will tell you about The Student Mission Trip Greenhouse by

This e-book is very helpful for anyone who is in ministry full-time, part-time or volunteer, who is looking to lead a short term mission trip. The big idea behind this book is best captured by this excerpt:

The leadership principles and life lessons that can be taught on a mission trip have no rival. Yet students will only learn these principles and lessons if we are intentional about bringing them to the surface. We cannot simply hope the trip alone transforms them; we must be intentional about transformation through- out the entire process. It’s one thing to toss some seeds on the ground, hoping they take root. It’s another to cultivate the soil and provide an environment for solid growth.

Here’s some more great reasons to read this e-book

IT’S CONCISE: If you are like me, I have bought books and manuals on leading mission trips, only for them to sit on the shelf and gather dust. If I am honest, it’s often because there is too much detail in them and much of what I read is not applicable to my situation. What I love about this book is how concise it is! It’s so easy to apply the “greenhouse” principles to my setting and situation without wading through pages of information.

IT’S PRACTICAL: It’s broken down into sections that allow us to to plan, prepare and put into action the steps needed to allow my students to get the most out their missions experience. I particularly like the section on casting vision with the adult volunteers. So often, our adult volunteers are too quick to step in and take over when kids are struggling. However, it’s imperative that we cast the vision for “teachable moments”  that allow some of the best lessons to be learned by students. It’s imperative to train adult volunteers to see themselves as supporters not solvers…

IT GAVE ME A NEW LENS TO LOOK THROUGH: It’s easy to get consumed with the planning and details of a trip and not truly consider how one trip can lead to long-term transformation. Instead we are challenged to consider the “before, during, and after” of a mission trip that will bring long-term fruit. This e-book helps us to focus on the long-term outcomes and how to shape the trip (and all it’s components) toward the end goal.

Overall it’s one of the best freebies you could download.

Get this FREE e-book: – Let me know what you think?

Phil <><

A Long-Term View of Student Ministry

A number of months ago one of our students was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to church with friends. This young man had a strong faith and had a passion for serving and missions trips. His funeral was obviously a very gut wrenching occassion, but in many ways a time to celebrate his faith, life, and his eternal destination. At the lunch after the funeral, a parent asked me this pertinent question:

When all is said and done, where do you hope to see students by the end of high school? What are your priorities for them?

It’s a question that I somewhat answered at the time, but is a question I have been working through ever since (and still am). The funeral of a sixteen year old student and this question from a parent gave me a new perspective on what I do. In some ways, it gave me a new lens to look through in what I do… It has caused me to struggle through the question:

What matters most in my ministry” What priorities are truly going to help students grow and “finish well”?

Or, maybe, frame it this way:

What is most important today that will impact students in the long-term?  Continue Reading…

BOOK REVIEW: “In Transit” by Tim Ciccone

“In Transit” is an excellent book by Tim Ciccone, who is a youth worker with 17 years of “in the trenches” experience. His book should be read by anyone who is looking to transition to a new ministry, has recently transitioned, or is wondering if it is time to change ministry. In addition, it’s a great book that can help youth workers to solidify their calling and vision to continue well in their present calling…

I read this book a year after transitioning, but I  still found it incredibly valuable to reflect on lessons learned as well as consider how to stay strong for the long haul.

“In Transit” is split into four easy to read sections that are highly practical and full of personal stories of transition: 1) The New Call 2) Saying Goodbye – Saying Hello 3) What’s Next? 4) Hope for the Future.

Perhaps the best aspect of this book is the way in which we are challenged to ask pertinent questions of ourselves before we look to transition into another ministry. Tim takes us through step by step questions and reflections to allow us to see the bigger picture of our situation. So often, we could consider a move for the wrong reasons and we misinterpret tension in ministry as a reason to leave. Tim also gives brilliant insights to building solid foundations when starting out in a new ministry role. Perhaps the quote that stands out to me the most is:

In your first 120 days, don’t change a thing… this is a time for you to spend 98 percent of your ministry energy focusing on new relationships, not new programming…

Whether you are starting your first ministry position, or are veteran youth worker, this book is a must read!

Phil <><

New Ministry Position: One Year Later

One year ago I started a new ministry position as Pastor to High School Students. As I reflect back on my year, here are some memories, thoughts and insights…

THE FIRST WEEKEND WAS MEMORABLE: My first commitment was to attend the high school winter retreat. I thought it would be a great way to make good connections with students… so I thought! Unfortunately, on the Saturday morning, one of our new students collided with another student on the tubing hill. One ambulance ride later, and a stay in the ER, he was air-flighted with a bleed on his brain. Praise God he was fine after a few days in hospital… but a very scary moment for everyone… I will never forget my first retreat, (neither will he).

LISTEN FIRST, IMPLEMENT SECOND: I made the commitment that I would move slowly and take time to understand the people and programs first. I committed to not making any major changes in the first year, (only tweaking what we had). This is easier said than done, but was crucial for me. I gleaned so many important insights, learned good lessons, and most importantly built trust with leaders, students, and parents.

RELATIONSHIPS: No matter what I do in ministry, I cannot forget that relationships are at the core of everything I should be doing. This last year has been filled to the brim of meeting with students, leaders, and parents. In a new position, I think it is easy to get task focused, but we cannot get too busy to build relationships… The age old statement of, “people don’t care what you know until they know you care” is so true.

CLEAR VISION: Given many years of history before me, there were a lot of ideas and visions that were ingrained into the heart of this ministry. Some were good, some used to be good, and some… not so good. It has been imperative to constantly discuss a vision for healthy ministry and the steps needed to get there…

OWNERSHIP: It’s easy to start somewhere new and lead everything as the person who has been employed to be the ‘expert’. However, it’s important that people feel ownership of what we are doing. I often find too, that given the time and investment, others actually do a better job than me… It’s imperative to see this key truth: People become devoted to a ministry when they are given a clear vision and ownership to see the vision come to life…

GOOD FRIENDS: In the last year we have been surrounded by many people who have become good friends. Dinner and lunch invites still continue to come in for us, even after a year of being here… that is unusual… I think?

TRANSITION: I am just starting to read a book called by a friend in ministry . I will be doing a review soon… If you are interested in how to transition well, it could be a great read for you…?

Phil <><

How to be Taken Seriously as a Leader

Being a youth worker is not always the glamorous ministry position. There are times when some of us have experienced the feeling of not being taken seriously by pastors, parents, and church members. When I first set out in student ministry I desired to be taken seriously and accepted as a viable member of a church staff. I longed to be seen as leader who, (even though I was young), had wisdom and could be trusted by the adults, (or shall we say, the more ‘senior’ people in my life). The fact is, when we are young (or in a new position) in leadership, often it can feel like hard work to gain acceptance as a legitimate leader in ministry.

So what are we to do with this reality?

1) Realize that this is path of the course. You’re not alone. All of us at some point have to earn our stripes. One day the time will come when they say you have the leadership, but the kids think you are old… Enjoy this season if you are still in it…

2) Leadership is about trust… Trust takes time: No matter where I have been, or how old I am, I realise that people need to know and trust me before they can be led by me. I have been at my current church for just over a year now. In my first year I committed to not making any major changes (unless emergencies), until a year had passed. This went a long way with youth leaders, students and parents. Whether you are seasoned youth worker or not, people will follow when they trust you… it takes time…

3) Avoid using “when I” statements: I have been guilty of justifying my decisions by talking about my track record from the past. When I was younger I would often refer to accomplishments I had made in my short experience as a way to gain acceptance of an idea. Now that I look back, I realise that it only came across as insecure and showed my lack of experience. Note: I think it is perfectly fine to talk about ideas that have worked in the past, but when it is gain greater leadership acceptance and  fill the hole of inexperience, the truth will likely be seen by others…

4) It really does take time: I can’t say it enough… If we want people to follow, realize that greater leadership and experience must run it’s course. Relax, take it easy, enjoy your ministry and enjoy growing…

5) Have such integrity that people will believe what you say… From the words of Wiersbe, ensure that people see your ingretity. I have found that even while people will point out leadership flaws in my ministry, they are still willing to go on a journey with me when they know they can trust my integrity…

A Leadership Achilles Heel for Steve Jobs?

Steve Jobs is the man everyone is talking about in recent days, months and years. He is the icon and leader behind Apple, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. He is the leader who represents the future and the leader who inspires the present… But is there an achilles heel to his leadership?

Now, let me be clear, I don’t claim to have the answer to that question. I am just asking the question… I don’t work alongside him, I don’t work for him and  I don’t know him personally. It’s obvious that his impact on the world through his leadership of Apple has left and is leaving an incredible mark on technology and how live in our world today.

THE REACTION: With all this said, it has been interesting watching the reaction to his recent medical leave. Within hours of his email going out to his staff on Monday the news channels around the world were filled with stories and theories about his medical leave. Many were asking whether Apple would continue to function as well without his hands-on leadership.

THE ACHILLES HEEL? So, where is the Achilles heel in all of this? Has Steve Jobs allowed others to depend on him so fully that they cannot function without him? Has he led without bringing others into leadership (and the spotlight), to allow them to continue what he has begun? Has he created a leadership vacuum by leading well in the short term, yet lesser leaders have not been given opportunity to lead in the future? If Steve Jobs was to leave indefinitely, or die at some stage, would Apple continue in the same way or would we see the company collapse?

These are all questions I do not have answers to and it is unfair for me to answer since I am not on the inside track with Apple. Therefore, instead of looking to Steve Jobs and the press and media perceptions of the situation, we should instead, look to ourselves…

OUR LEADERSHIP ACHILLES HEEL? Do others depend on us so fully that they cannot function without us? Are we in the spotlight of student ministry so much, that other leaders are not getting opportunities to learn, lead and grow? Are we doing such a great job in the short term that we are creating a leadership vacuum for the long-term? If we were to leave our ministry, would there be a huge void, or would leaders be equipped to step up and lead effectively?

JESUS CENTERED LEADERSHIP: Perhaps the biggest question we should be asking is this: Do students look up to us more than they do Jesus? Is our personality and leadership overshadowing our Savior? (This is a painful question to answer sometimes)…

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I don’t claim to know whether or not Steve Jobs is leading well for the long-term, only time will tell. In the meantime, it’s imperative that we take a good look in the mirror to ensure that our ministry is not just about us, it’s about Jesus and leading others to effectively do ministry when we are not there… How are you intentionally equipping others for ministry? How are you creating a Jesus centered ministry with an ongoing legacy of leadership?

Phil <><

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