Youth Ministry Communication: Are You A Dropped Call?

Are You Static, Five Bars, or a Dropped Call?

Doesn’t matter who the carrier is, a dropped call or a call full of static and robot voices is annoying.  The message is muddied, if it’s received at all – and it’s frustrating to have to start over not knowing where the call was dropped or when the conversation went south.

Sometimes (unwittingly, I’m sure), youth pastors become static on the line of communication between parents and teenagers.  Tragically, they can even become the dropped call.  A running theme in our podcast for parents of teenagers centers on keeping the lines of communication open between them and their student.  Youth workers can be a crystal clear call – or one of those calls where you want to slam your phone into the nearest wood chipper.  Who are you?

DROPPED CALL:  You stealthily place yourself between students and their parents.  You see yourself as the answer to students’ problems.  You see all the deficiencies parents are bringing to the table and you are there to be the stand-in dad or spot-on mom.  You never encourage kids to open up to their folks because you know mom and dad will screw it up, given half a chance.  You position yourself AND your youth ministry to be a safe haven away from parents – a place where kids can talk openly to someone in place of their parents – you position yourself to ‘drop the call’. Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Realities: “I Hate You!”

If it hasn’t happened yet,  it will.  A day will come when you get your first “I hate you speech.”

It can come in the form of  an eye roll or that horrible sound when they stick their tongue to the back of their teeth. They might write it in a journal. They might tell you that they will never come back or disdain being in your “stupid” group.  It comes because you wouldn’t break the rules for them.  It comes because you are making them move past complacency.  However, it happens for whatever reason you know it when it arrives.

You feel small, bite your lip, and might even hold back the tears. Sometimes you may want to scream.  Other times you throw your hands in the air and quit (on the inside you quit for the millionth time…. that day.)  You want to scream back. You want to get in their face. Anger and hurt and disappointment, that it has to be this way, all bubble up inside.

I would argue, when they really hate you then you are finally doing something right. For you care enough for them to want to push back on their lives.  Others just let them “get by,” while you are pushing them to more. We are cruelest to the people that we feel safest with. We know we can rage out and in our hearts they will keep coming back. Continue Reading…

The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible: BOOK REVIEW

If you haven’t picked up a copy of , you really should! By Andy Blanks of YM360, this book is probably the most effective book I have read when it comes to breaking down steps in teaching the bible.

The chapters are broken into the 7 practices and each include compelling reasons for the practice itself, along with super practical applications that anyone could put into to action immediately. Beginning with foundational practices, Blanks takes us on a journey from start to finish in the essentials of highly effective Bible teaching.

For me, the best practice (and the most challenging one for me personally), was the practice to Embrace Unpredictability. This practice challenged me to consider how ‘unpredictable’ my teaching style is. Or as Blanks says it: Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Leadership: What’s Your Leadership Style?

FREE LeaderTreks Youth Worker Leadership Style Assessment

What’s your leadership style? Do you value tasks more than relationships, or do you care more about people than getting the job done? The answer could say a lot about how you lead and how others perceive your leadership. We all naturally value one over the other; it’s not wrong, it’s just how we are wired. However, it’s important to know which way you lean so you can make adjustments to become a more balanced leader.

Youth workers who understand their leadership style are in tune with how their leadership impacts parents, students, adult volunteers and other church leaders. When you know your leadership style you can craft your interactions with key people in more intentional ways and you’re more able to achieve key goals.

How To Help ‘That Kid’ In Your Youth Ministry

If you want to pick up a copy of No Teenager Left Behind or download a copy,

Striving Towards Irrelevancy In Youth Ministry…

One of my favorite books of all time is .  In it, Nouwen gives his perspective on what being a Christ-like leader truly means.  He says, “I truly believe that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her vulnerable self.”

I can’t think of many vocations where the urge to be relevant is greater than in the area of youth ministry.  You know what I am talking about.  If you have ever spent time catching up on the current music trends, scoured YouTube for cool videos to play on Wednesday night, or bought a pair of skinny jeans that no one over 20 should have any business adding to their wardrobe then you know of that which I speak.

With your permission I would like to free you from the shackles of relevancy.  Christ created us to be a specific person.  Don’t you think that it is the same person he called to minister to his precious children? So just be who you are.  If you hate rap, don’t pretend you like it.  If games and skits aren’t your thing, there are others on your team for that.  Stick with bible study and relationship building.  If you still love wearing grunge-era flannel…..well, actually that is one you need to give up on.  In the end, kids can tell when you are being genuine, so it is better to just be yourself.  It’s who God wants you to be anyway.

Are there any ways that you struggle with wanting to be relevant?


When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry: Revisited

Last night at our midweek environment we had two factors working against us. First, we have had our first two days of warm weather as we heated up to the 70′s here in Michigan, (the average high is 43). The second was the beginning of Spring sports and countless try-outs that took students away from our midweek environment. When this kind of double whammy occurs, it can be easy to become despondent and defeated, but it’s important to step back and see the big picture of what is happening. It’s also important to consider how we respond to these times in ministry. Below are some points I made last year in a post titled, When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry: Part 1

Viewing the Situation Differently:

1) Embrace, Don’t Fight: Attacking the school system, parents, and schedules does no good! Our message might be accurate, but it falls on deaf ears when we challenge commitment to the church. In my experience, parents and students will always try to “make it work” for the church when we come alongside them instead of attacking them. It is often in the “come alongside” moments that they are more willing to make it work for our programs. Remember, parents and students are not our enemy, culture is.

2) Understand Parents and Students Better: It’s hard for me to understand parents of teenagers since I am the parent of two toddlers. However, I have made it my goal to ask questions about the reality of sports for parents and their kids. I have some brilliant youth leaders who are parents themselves. I make a point of  listening to what it is like to have a student in sports and try to understand the struggles and pressures on the family. It’s not as clear cut as we might think sometimes… I have acquired much more empathy for parents as they make tough decisions with their kids schedules. Until I am in their shoes, I cannot judge how easy it is to make decisions about sports and church schedules. Continue Reading…

Youth Ministry Leadership: Friend or Leader?

Students don’t need youth workers to be their friends, they need adults who will lead them to God and invest in their lives. Unfortunately, many of us have bought the lie that we need to be ‘friends’ with our students in order to have influence in their lives. Some of us have even allowed our need for acceptance from students to cloud our need to lead them effectively.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love doing youth ministry and I love investing in students. I love spending hours talking with them,  laughing with them, and getting to know their heart. But I do this as someone who is leading them and is invested in their lives as their pastor and youth leader... not their friend…

Besides, students don’t see us as their friends. They see us in a distinct role as youth leader, youth director, youth pastor, (or whatever your title is). Even though we might try to gain acceptance as their friend, they will never see us that way, so why keep trying? God has called us to be their leaders. They already have a bunch of friends, why would they need more?

Over the years, here are some observations I have made when I see youth leaders trying to be a friend instead of a leader.

friend to students can easily get caught up in popularity of students but unknowingly take away from the person of Jesus. A leader to students will do everything they can to point them to Jesus and ensure that He gets the glory. A leader to students also recognizes the need for team and looks to applaud fellow youth leaders

A friend to students can easily get sucked into unhealthy need for acceptance by students. When a student rejects that leader, it can feel devastating. Whereas a leader to students feels totally accepted by God and is focused on helping students discover the same acceptance. If we are devastated by a students rejection, we must consider if we are getting sucked into an unhealthy need for acceptance. Unfortunately, I have met many youth leaders who are fueled and ruled by the need for acceptance from their students. This is a very dangerous path to walk down.

Continue Reading…

SYMC 2013 Promo Video


Last weekend I attended The Simply Youth Ministry Conference. I came across their promo video for 2013 and thought I’d share it with you? Are you coming?

Phil <><

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…
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