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Spoon-Feeding or Self-Feeding Youth Ministries? Part 2

In my previous post I talked about the importance of considering he long-term implications of our ministries and whether we help students to truly own their faith through self-feeding. Today, here are a few self-feeding ideas and practices I employ to help ensure that students are learning to develop spiritual habits that will last and bring fruit in their lives.

Here’s some thoughts I have been considering. Feel free to give me more ideas!!!

1) Create Bible Study Opportunities That Will Place The Burden On Students: We are currently doing a summer series Bible study in the 1,2,3 John. At the start of the study we have given students a packet that has questions about the passages we are studying through. We set the expectation that everyone should be reading ahead on a weekly basis and showing up thoughts and ideas about the study. We communicate the excitement of group learning when we all show up with great insights!

2) Use Phrases That Constantly Communicate Self-Feeding Principles: Here are a couple I use: Christians are self-starters and self-feeders. We’re not here to help you become big fat baby Christians who are spoon fed, we are here to help become self-feeders. In many ways, it is about communicating a vision of self-feeding by constantly using key phrases to remind students of the expectation.

3) Give Students Bible Study / Devotion Materials To Take Home: This year I have been creating and adapting simple 30 day devotions for students to take home to use and study. The feedback I have been getting has been fanastic! In fact, when I don’t make these available now, students complain!

4) Have Self-Feeding Students Promote Self-Feeding: Here’s what I mean by this: There’s always students who are already reaping the benefits of being a self-feeder. They are growing in faith and experiencing a closer relationship with God as a result of self-feeding. My job is to find opportunities to get them in front of the rest of our students to talk about how, why, and the benefits of being a self-feeder. Recently, we did a series called “Slice of Life” where we interviewed students who shared how God has been working in their lives. In each video interview I asked every student what habits they practice to feed and fuel their faith. It was great to hear the many different and great ways that students are fueling their faith…

5) Involve Parents: Part of my ministry should be to partner with parents. One of the ways I try to help students become self-feeders is to involve their parents in the process. This involves casting vision for expectations that their kids should be benefiting from daily habits. It also will mean great communication with parents about resources we are providing their kids to help developing self-feeding habits as well as letting them know what we are teaching their kids on a weekly basis.

These are just a few methods I employ currently. What do you do? What ideas do you have? What should we be looking ahead to do? I would love to get your ideas on this. I truly believe that this is one of the most crucial elements of the ministries we oversee…

Phil <><


The Lesson I Learned When My Laptop Crashed During Sermon Prep

Today my Macbook Pro crashed!

It was a BIG crash! The good people at the Apple store told me my hard drive is not recoverable. Ever have that happen? Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever had a computer crash in this way… But here’s the bigger problem:


So, apart from backing up my sermon as I wrote, or writing it on a web-based application like , here is my BIG lesson I have learned:

“Owning” The Message And Preparing Well Is Helping Me Now:  It’s a pain to have to write it again, but ownership of the message will make it easier to write again.  In Communicating for a Change,  Andy Stanley talks about the importance of “owning” a message and internalizing the core of the message. He even goes so far as to say, why should people listen to us if we don’t own it ourselves? Since reading the book I have tried to ensure that I prepare in such a way, I could preach without notes if needed.

So, even though I have to write my sermon again. And even though I am crammed for time to do it before Sunday, I am thankful that I feel fairly confident that I own the message and have the big idea (and most of the points) in my head… Owning the message is imperative for our audience, but I found out today how helpful it is to write the same sermon again!

For now, here are 5 simple things I do in my writing process to help me “own” the message:

1) Pray: Obvious, yes. Crucial, for sure! Good prayer time saves time!  It’s easier to discern what God is wanting me to say. So often it’s easy to jump into research or even writing without considering what direction The Holy Spirit might want me to look in.  

2) Prepare: Lots of reading of commentaries around the passage or topic. (This really helps to solidify what I own and know). I use for Mac.

3) Plan a Map: This is where I outline a starting and ending point for my message. In many ways, we take people on a journey with us. It’s important that we consider how to get them on the journey, how to keep them on the journey, and how they land at their destination.

4) Put it Together: I don’t write every word, I write an outline that is a detailed version of my map. (This is the part that is lost on my hard drive at the Apple Store).

5) Practice: This is perhaps my best way to own the message and internalize God’s Truth for myself as I preach. It also helps me to iron out transitions and make tweaks as I go. When I practice, I actually talk out the whole message from start to finish. I particularly focus on the take off and landing…

So, there you go. Not rocket science, but perhaps you have struggled in putting sermons together in the past. These 5 points really help me a great deal. Hope they can help you too in case you don’t backup your sermon as you write it!

Phil <><


  • My Macbook Pro will be in repair for a few days getting a new hard drive
  • I backed up my Macbook 3 weeks ago…
  • I started using a our student ministry Macbook Pro to finish my sermon… It crashed. Not kidding. Can’t get the thing to work!
  • I wrote this post on my lovely wife’s laptop. Unfortunately the laptop is not very lovely. I need to buy her a new one!

What is Youth Ministry?

A couple of days ago my good Canadian friend asked the question on Facebook: “What is Youth Ministry? What isn’t Youth Ministry?” Great question Andy! A number of us gave our responses and you can see some of them over at Andy’s blog: . In addition, you might want to check out Andy Blanks post over at and a post by Paul Martin over at . Great reads!

For now, I think I could be thinking and writing about this question for a couple of weeks. I don’t think I can channel all my ADD thoughts into one post. Therefore, here’s a snapshot of some of the big chunks I have written about before that I consider youth ministry to be about. Let me know what you think?

1) Jesus Centered - Without Jesus being our center for all we do, we might as well be a club. I am sure that we all say that we are Jesus centered, but let’s be honest… It only takes a short while to get back to “what we know” and depend on our methods and skills. Soon, Jesus is taking a back seat. Numbers can increase, accolades can be given, but Jesus is the only one who will bring lasting change to our students lives.

2) Student Focused - Being student focused means taking a lot of time to get into their world and listen. Again, so often, it is easy to resort back to what we know and what has worked in the past. However, I find that God moves best when I listen to the heart of my students and what God is saying through them. In many ways, it’s similar to what Rick Warren says and how we should be catching the wave of what God is doing, rather than trying to create the wave. Some of our best events, service projects, and Bible studies have been a part of, have come from students.

3) A Greenhouse for Self-Feeders – I have a series coming up in a couple of weeks to talk about this more, but for now let me say this: Unless we are helping students to learn to become self-feeders who spend time with God when they are not with us, we are missing the point. Are we helping students to develop life-long habits to help them feed on God’s love, truth, and wisdom, or are they dependent on a weekly youth group meeting? If students are consumed with our weekly meeting but are spiritually starving during the week, we have missed the point… Just my opinion of course. More to come in a couple of weeks on this…

4) Parent Partnered – Parents spend so much more time with their kids than I do. So many parents under estimate their impact on their kids too. I firmly believe that I should do all I can to make parents the hero to their kids, not me. The more that I can encourage, support, and equip parents at home, should result in greater growth and impact for our students. If I am honest, this is one component I see to lacking in so many ministries. Personally, I am not happy with how much we currently do… It is a goal of mine this year to partner with parents in greater ways…

What is Youth Ministry to you? What did I miss? There’s a whole lot, I know! For now, these are my big chunks… What are yours? Post your comments!

Phil <><

5 Things I am Doing After A Missions Trip

At the weekend I returned from a week-long mission trip to Eastern Tennessee with an incredible team of students and leaders. It was a fantastic trip and our debrief on Friday saw students and leaders share some powerful God moments! Now that I am home, here are 5 things I am doing:

1) Spending Quality Time With My Family: I am off for two days,  which also means my phone is off, my Facebook is closed, and my email has not been touched. I was away from my family for a week and I was busy prior to the trip. Therefore it’s imperative they get the best of me now that I am home. (As I write this, my kids are in bed, and my wife is working, which means no time away from them, just in case you wondered :-) . Giving my family my best and complete attention is imperative. While I was away doing exciting things in Tennessee, they were back home missing me. Therefore, they should not have to “miss” me now that I am home…

2) Rest: Working everyday for 16 hours over a week can take its toll… I loved every minute, but I was beat when I returned home. Leading a large team of students and leaders meant being “on call” continuously. My goal this week is to spend time “calling on Him” and rejuvenating.

3) Thank You Notes: So many incredible people gave so much to make this trip happen, especially a dedicated team of volunteers who took time off work and their own families for the week. It’s imperative that I let them know how much I appreciate them! When I get back into the office, this is a priority for me.

4) Making Videos, Sharing Photos, Telling the Stories: After the trip is over, it’s imperative that parents and supporters continue to hear the stories of what was achieved on the trip. Again, once I get back in the office, I will be working on sharing videos, photos and stories. We have a Facebook page and mission trip blog for this type of stuff and we will also have an opportunity to share with the whole church at later date.

5) Reviewing: This week I will be writing notes about the trip and ensuring that key learning’s are noted while they are still fresh for me. So often this is something that is missed in the mission trip process. However, this is a crucial step that can ensure a more effective mission trip for the future.


Well, there is one very important thing I missed out of this list that my wife has reminded me of… Today, I am finishing up my laundry and getting my bags all unpacked. The last thing my lovely wife needs when I get home is a huge load of stinky, bug infested laundry, (we had a lot of bugs in our cabins… a Daddy Long Legs walked across my face one night… nice)!

What are priorities for you when you return from a mission trip?

Phil <><

Keeping Parents Plugged-in on Mission Trips

This Sunday, myself and a team of high school students and leaders will be heading to Copperhill, TN for a week-long mission trip. As I have prepared for trips like this, I have found it to so important to over-communicate details with the parents and students and make sure that everyone understands deadlines, details, and the decisions we are making.

However, one aspect that can get overlooked, is the importance of communication during the week of the trip. This includes daily updates, blogs, photos etc. Good communication from the trip helps in so many ways:

  • Families can pray specifically
  • It calms the nerves of worried parents
  • It promotes God’s work
  • It creates “bridges” of communication between parents and students once the trip has ended
  • It can involves students (as they blog and post photos)
  • It keeps fundraising families in the loop as they hear the progress of students which they supported

Here’s just a few ways we are communicating with families while we are away:

1) A Daily Blog: It’s easy to set up a basic blog through WordPress or Blogger. Every day, we plan to have a couple of students blog about the work and experiences they are having. We set a blog up a few months ago to communicate the details of the trip, as well as creating interest for parents and financial supporters. Here is a very basic blog we set up:

Continue Reading…

When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry – Part 3: Real Life

In my first post on this topic, I talked about importance of changing the way we view sports to promote “teamwork” between sports and youth ministry. In my last post I talked about the importance of owning the problem and coming up with practical steps to help students in their harried sports schedules. Today, I want to post the reply to an email I sent to a good youth ministry friend. Here was his predicament:

I really liked your blog posts about us dealing with the sports in the schools.  I think we do a decent job of working around the game schedules, but what is terribly frustrating for me is the dreaded “open gym” in the school… The girls basketball coach just posted the spring open gym times for the basketball team.  All of these practices directly conflict with the high school youth group and start this Sunday and go until school gets out.  But I wouldn’t really begin to call these gym times “open” at all.  The coach demands that everyone be in attendance.  So starting this Sunday through the rest of the school year, I will have lost roughly 50% of my regular attenders because a lot of the girls in my youth group are in basketball.  I want to be supportive of the team and the girls in sports, but his actions make it incredibly hard to do so.

Here’s a reply I gave him. But what about you? Can you help? Continue Reading…

When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry – Part 2

In my previous post I talked about the reality of sports (and other extra curricular activities), and how they often collide with our youth minisrtry events and programs. In this post I want to look at practical steps I take to help sports and youth ministry work for me and the families I minister to. Or another way to put it, here is how I I try to create teamwork between youth ministry and sports:  Continue Reading…

Simple But Effective Training for Volunteers – Part 1: Time

I love my volunteer youth leaders! They give up their evening and weekends for some of the most craziest stuff in youth ministry. Recently, I was able to spend a weekend at with some of them. The conference was a great opportunity to get feedback and evaluate how they were growing. Ultimately, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to consider how I was helping them to grow into their leadership and effectiveness as youth leaders.

The big takeaway for me was this: Effective training is better when it is simple, memorable, and practical. Volunteers are busy and have many to plates to spin. It’s better to give them small steps or give them small bites to chew on. Over time, I am finding the small steps add up to significant impact!

As we consider the simple, memorable and practical principle, here are some training I will be giving my volunteers about how best to use their time to impact students lives. (This is something a learned a while back from one of books):  Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 4: Parents

Many parents are busy, stretched, and stressed. Everything I do must be intentional about their 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). If I can partner with parents effectively, it could be one of the best ministry investments I make!

It’s God’s design that parents disciple their kids, (Deuteronomy 6:7). Unfortunately, many models of youth ministry either take over the role of parents, or do not intentionally partner with parents to support them. Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 3: Volunteers

In my previous post I talked about how a successful ministry goes hand in hand with a leaders who care well for their own family. Today I want to talk about the importance of caring well for volunteer leaders and supporting a healthy family focus for them too. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own and busy lives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them too…

I could start by telling you what I do to promote a healthy family focus for my leaders, but I will let some of them start by telling you instead: Continue Reading…

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