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How to Create a Culture of Service in your Youth Ministry

Recently I videoed a bunch of the teens in my youth program and asked the ambiguous question:  “Why do you come?”

The overwhelming answer was, “I love to come and serve.”

This answer shocked me a little… From the answers I was getting, you would think I have this awesome structure where each teen is that learning service is beyond a one day “event” or trip. Instead we have been working on this “idea” far more than it feels like we have “done” anything. The question I was asking was,

“How did we arrive at a place where our students love to serve?”

I bet you’re wondering too… Keep reading!

youth ministry rake and run

Continue Reading…

5 Reasons I Love See You At The Pole!

This morning was See You at the Pole at schools all around the America. For those of you outside of the U.S, here’s what it is: A yearly event where hundreds of thousands of students around the nation meet at their  school flagpoles to pray.

Here’s what I love about it:

1) When Students Pray God Uses Them in Great Ways: Over the years of coming to these early morning prayer gatherings, I have often seen these times as a catalyst for God to use students in incredible ways on their school campus. It’s exciting to watch what happens next…

2) It’s Owned By Students: As a Youth Pastor, I am not allowed to organize these gatherings on a school campus, but students are! There is something powerful that happens when students feel the ownership and leadership of rallying together to pray for their schools.

3) It Brings Students Together: It’s great to hear the stories of students who discover many more classmates who are Christians! When students come together and pray they can look around at other students and realize there are lot more Christians in their schools than they realized. This brings a great sense of unity and support.

4) It Sends a Great Message To The School: When students come together and pray for their schools, it sends a message of care, concern, and hope to their fellow students and teachers. It’s so important for others to see that Christians care genuinely about people at their school.

5) I am Blessed: For me personally, it gives me an opportunity to pray with my students and support them and encourage them. It was a great blessing this morning to see so many of my students praying together!

How was See You at the Pole for you? Feel free to share your stories!

Here’s a blurry photo I got on my phone this morning at one of my local high schools:

LIVE Leadership Curriculum Winner Announced!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win the LIVE Leadership Curriculum.

If you missed out, you can still contact Matty McCage from the info below, or click on the banner and fill out your contact info.  For now, here is the lucky winner:

Alex Hensley from River Valley Church, in Bossier City, LA. (Alex, you will get an email from me with info on how you can gain your prize).

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…

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 week I talked about “Listening” as being a key to healthy and successful ministry. This week I want to looked at an area of youth ministry which should be a given, but I often feel is greatly overlooked: Ownership…

Ever hear leaders say, “Sometimes it is easier to do it yourself”? In student ministry, I think it is ALWAYS easier to do it yourself. And as leaders of ministries, that is often exactly what we do don’t we? Things get done, events get planned, programs run smoothly… But is that a good thing?

While we might be running an organized and well executed ministry, I think it is better to run a ministry that has potential to have, “holes all over the place” if it means we are giving students ownership of what is happening. In the short-term it can be messy, but in the long-term, there is a greater reward for the students we minister to…

1) Students Belong: The greatest need I see in every student  is the sense that they belong somewhere or to something. Giving them a sense of ownership and walking alongside them builds confidence, allows them to learn in safe way, and most of all, they feel like they belong. If students don’t feel the sense of ownership through belonging, I have seen that one or two things can happen. First, they might not stick around… Second, they will quickly become spectators instead of owners. Spectators can often turn into critics…

2) Students Become Long-Term Leaders: I am convinced that the likelihood of students being committed to a church (and having a strong faith), after high school is hugely dependent on how they learn to lead while they are in our ministries. It is imperative that they not only discover their gifts, but they are able to put them into action in a safe environment of a student ministry. More than that, it is imperative that students find avenues to lead and contribute to the overall church and minister alongside all kinds of people. If however, students only ever serve within a student ministry, is it any wonder that the transition from high school into ‘regular church’ is tough? Therefore, it’s important that students lead and serve in our ministries as well as with people in ‘big church’ that they might not normally come into contact with…

3) Ownership Builds Numerical Growth: I will never forget reading about Billy Graham’s incredible ability to predict the turn out of one of his huge gatherings back in the 80′s. People were amazed at how he could accurately predict how many people would come to an event. When asked how he could know, (thinking that maybe God had spoken to him personally), he shared his simple formula: First, he  found out how many people were involved with the planning and production of the event. Second, he would multiply that number by a figure he had come up with through years of observing attendance. The greater the people involved, the greater the number attending. In other words, the greater the number having ownership, the greater of people who will come…

Note: While numerical growth is not the goal, it certainly will become the fruit of having a healthy ministry that builds ownership into it’s DNA.

Therefore, not only is ownership crucial for helping students to belong and become, they are also used to build the ministry they are in… The hope is that new students would plug in and find faith and the same sense of ownership.

My next step is to ‘steal’ a series idea from , where he has students lead a whole message series called, “You Own the Weekend”. This is a great way to build ownership for students. Check out Josh’s blog for how he does this…

Phil <><