Advice For A Veteran Youth Worker: Part 1

Our good friends at YM360 posted an article called In this post and the next, we’ll provide advice for the veteran who has been asking that question, and provide them with practical steps to continue strong in ministry…

I’m not sure at what point you get to be considered a  “veteran”  youth worker.   Perhaps it is the point at which you realize you don’t really “know anything.”  Instead,  the “wisdom”  you have to share are the mistakes you have made.   I think it is the point at which you come to  the epiphany that you just want to be the person Jesus wants you to be.  Out of your great love for him all you can do is serve him.  As I am now considered a “veteran,”  here is what I would share with other “vet” youth people.

1. Don’t be afraid of change. I love to tell the story of the little girl who is watching her Mom fry a chicken.   Her Mom buys a whole chicken,  cuts off the legs and the wings and throws them away.  She proceeds to only fry the chicken breast.   “Mom,”  she asks,  “Why do you throw out part of  the chicken?  Why do you fry it like that?”  Her Mom responds,  “Honey,  I don’t know that’s how your grandmother taught me to do it,  ask her.”  So the little girl goes to her grandmother with the same question. The grandma responds,  “I don’t know that’s how your great- grandma taught me to do it, ask her.”  So the little girls asks the great –grandmother the same question.  The great- grandmother responds,  “That’s easy,  when I first started frying chicken I didn’t have a skillet that was big enough to fry it all in.  It took too long to fry the other pieces later so I threw them out.”    Do you see?  Two generations later a Mom is teaching her daughter to fry the chicken ineffectively,  based on an old standard.  In our own ministries we have to constantly evaluate why we do what we do.  Does it still work?  Does the group of kids I have respond to this?  Can my team buy in?  We must be wiling to shift and change our approach based on the team, parents and students we have NOW.

2. Keep growing and learning. Last week I had a conversation with a mentor who is “farther along” in ministry than I am.    He challenged me,  “Leneita when was the last time you went to a conference just to go.  Not where you are teaching,  but just to meet people and learn.”  In contrast I spoke with a 40 year vet last week who told me that conferences can’t really teach him anything anymore.  It is easy to become sucked into a myopic view of our  ministry.   There comes a point when it feels like there is “nothing new under the sun.”   That might be true,  yet we must recognize that the old dog sometimes needs to learn a new trick.   Perhaps a book or  event simply brings encouragement.  Mentors keep us accountable.  Growth keeps us humble. Continue Reading…

Advice For A Newly Wed Youth Worker: Part 2

The conversation still lingers in my heart.  John and I were “getting serious.”  That’s when I got offered a job as a full-time, paid youth worker.   Up until this point I had been either bi-vocational or a volunteer.  I vividly recall telling him why I couldn’t “take the job.”  It was 60 hours a week at least and there was no way that would be good for us when we became newlyweds.   Yet, after praying and seeking the Lord (separate and together), it was clear that this was Christ’s plan, for us.   My world became immersed in youth, and I got “paid” to do it.  As a dating couple it wasn’t that hard to navigate.  Then we got married.  That first year in marriage we learned a lot about what it means to be “one flesh” and  to be a youth person.

1. You are both “called.” I highly recommend having an honest heart to heart about this before the wedding bells ever ring.  Yet, if you have already “said the vows,” you need to sit and talk this concept through.   I am not suggesting that the church got a “two for the price of one,” deal.   You will need to figure out how you will each serve and support  the  other in the actual day-to-day tasks of “ministry.”  Instead, this is a philosophical view.   When you do not have a heart that is united in backing the  “calling” a rift happens in your marriage.  It does not belong to one or the other of you, because ministry is never just a “job.” Continue Reading…

Advice For A Newly Wed Youth Worker: Part 1

So You’ve Just Gotten Married!!

Congratulations!!  Enjoy the honeymoon – your literal one…and the lingering one as you return from your trip and begin the joyous process of learning to live together and love one another.

While you’re doing that, be on the alert.  Because you’re in youth ministry, you won’t just be learning to navigate the toilet paper rolls and toothpaste tubes around your house!

  1. Build some boundaries.  If you have been single in ministry, chances are your students and your church have become used to your availability.  And even if your spouse is ‘all in’ with the ministry, it’s important to incorporate some boundaries so you can enjoy learning to love one another and live together without the constant eye of ministry watching you.
  2. Spend as much time pouring into your spouse as you do (and have) your ministry.  God has blessed you with a ministry partner – but has also given you a new ministry field!  (And it’s one where your example will speak volumes to your students.)  Invest in your spouse – she/he is your first ministry now.
  3. Build relationships as a couple.  Youth ministry sucks a lot of attention and time.  It’s easy to throw yourselves into ministry with teenagers and never build friendships outside the youth ministry.  Consider getting involved in a couples small group or Bible study.  Your marriage will need identity (and friends) outside the youth ministry.

Enjoy being married!  God made you to serve Him together by serving one another first!

Announcing Another New Contributor: Darren Sutton

The vision behind is to provide youth workers with skills, tips, and encouragement from in the trenches veterans. Today I am excited to announce that Darren Sutton will be another voice adding to the youth ministry conversations on this blog. This week he and Leneita Fix will be sharing the advice for newly wed youth workers, as well as advice for veteran youth workers.

In the meantime, here’s a little about Darren: 

Darren has served in youth ministry for over 20 years.  He has a passion for students and the adults who influence them.  He co-founded Millennial Influence with his wife, Katie. Together, they produce a weekly podcast reaching parents of teenagers. Darren is a student pastor in Texas.

You can connect with him at:


Advice For A New Youth Worker

In my previous post I talked about the advice I had recently given three students who were considering a career in youth ministry. (Check it out and add your advice to the comments too)! Today, I want to focus on the advice I give new youth workers who have been in the trenches for less than two years. There are many things I could cover in this post, but here are the essential things I choose to share. Maybe you could add some more to this list in the comments section?

First, it’s important to realize that youth ministry can be one of the most rewarding and exciting things to do! There are times when I pinch myself because I can’t believe I get paid to invest in students lives. However, having done this for a long time now, I have come to realize that the blessing of youth ministry can quickly feel like a curse if we do not build the right foundations as we start out…

Develop Healthy Spiritual Foundations Now: Starting out in our first ministry is exciting and daunting at the same time. It’s easy to get swept away in the ministry nuts and bolts and find yourself spiritually dry a year into things. Unfortunately, this can become the pattern for the rest of your ministry. Ensure that quiet times and bible study are the foundation to your ministry, not an add-on!

Determine To Be Teachable: I hate to even say this, but I meet so many young youth workers who think they know it all… (I was one of those youth workers a while back too…) A few years at college or a few years as an intern does not mean you have all the answers or have figured how the church needs to change for the better. One of the best qualities of any youth worker is the ability to always remain teachable and realize there is always more to learn. Even after nearly two decades in youth ministry, I realize I still have so much to learn… Unfortunately, I see many young youth workers constantly asserting their new-found knowledge in unhealthy ways in order to gain quick influence in their churches. Unfortunately, much of the time they come across as the arrogant “know it all” and actually don’t gain the influence they were hoping for… Continue Reading…

Advice For Students Looking Into A Youth Ministry Career

In the last two weeks I have spoken to three students about the possibility of them pursuing youth ministry as a career. Two are current high school students in my ministry, while the other is the son of a friend I play soccer with. (His son is a freshman in a Christian college nearby).

What advice would you give someone who is looking to pursue a career in youth ministry? Here’s what I started with: 

1) PRAY, PRAY, PRAY: This should be a given! But, do you know how many young people I have spoken to who want to go into ministry because it looked fun? It’s so important that we help students to see that youth ministry is a calling and should not be taken lightly. I believe there are great deal of youth workers who burn out early because it simply was not their calling, or they did not take the time to prepare for it…

2) Get Involved In A Local Youth Ministry While At College:School is very important, but it is essential that you get 3-4 years as a volunteer / intern under your belt before you set off into full-time ministry. You will be able to see the good, the bad, and the indifferent as you work in the trenches. It will also allow you discover and develop your strengths, as well as face your weaknesses. Learning these lessons in the relative safety of a volunteer position or internship is a whole lot less painful than being the paid guy or gal…” Continue Reading…

Sharing the Journey…

“Sometimes, even though you may be the most skilled person at completing a task, it does not mean you should be the one to do it”.

Nine years after a mentor shared theses words with me, they still serve as the most powerful ministry lesson I have ever received.  When he spoke them I was working for a grassroots urban youth ministry that was understaffed and overworked (aren’t we all?).  We all had way too much on our plates, and the concept of delegation seemed as real to us all as winning the lottery…it just could not happen.  As I whined and moaned about our lack of staff and volunteers he called me out on what the issue truly was.  There were other people I could delegate to.  I just did not believe that anyone could do the job as well as I could.  As we continued to talk, he brought me to the realization that in order for me to be more effective in my primary responsibilities, I had to be willing to let someone else do work that I was more qualified to complete.  Sometimes, in order to accomplish our goals, I had to subdue my control freak and share the work. No, the task may take the other person more time to get it right, but it would get done.

I recognize that lack of help is one of the three problems we all face in youth ministry (behind lack of money and finding really good games that involve duct tape and Ovaltine). However, I think if you truly think about it, you have people who are willing to jump in and help.  Maybe instead of crowd control and consuming inedible foods they could help carry more of the load.

Now I get it. This youth group is your baby.  God has given you a calling and vision for these kids and this program. It has to be done right. However,  hasn’t He also called your volunteers to the same things? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t you give them something significant to do?

But where do you start? How can you be sure that they are ready to take over the things that you “are most qualified to do”?  It really is simple.  I have found it comes down to three steps: Continue Reading…

Dealing with Tough Stuff

At first glance the article seemed amazing…   I opened it expectantly as it addressed a topic so close to my heart: Girls understanding their identity in Christ.   It began well with the realization that just “telling”  a  teen girl  that they are “pretty” enough will not solve the problem.  Yet, as I read on my frustrations rose.

If I share the piece you will most likely wonder what I am getting so uptight about.  It made great points about how the issue is that young women today need to see themselves through the eyes of Christ.  The “dilemma” is that we are looking at ourselves at all.  All eyes should be on Jesus and Jesus alone.  Again these are great points.

Here is what frustrated me.  It was one more piece about  “what” should happen.   In the end there was not answer to “how,” to help this generation with this quandary. I am tired of reading articles on “what” is wrong with no answer on how to help.   We have come to believe that if we merely talk about the problem then that brings about a solution.

We have come to believe there are certain problems that “just won’t” go away.  That means we should just talk about it. So we hold a sermon series, small group discussions or have a passing conversation on these “hard hitting topics,”  (like self-image.) Then we move on to the next one.  All the while our kids remain in a place of hurting or apathy.   We want to see them change, but we don’t know how to “make” it happen.  That is why we write posts about the problems and solutions with no answers.  In my opinion we need to stop this cycle and start addressing what we “can” do more than what we “can’t.”  Stop writing out hopeful words and start explaining what we can do.

So how do we deal with these tough topics? Continue Reading…

Introducing Two New Contributors!

Today I am excited to announce two new contributors to this youth ministry blog! Here’s some info about them:

John and Leneita Fix have been in some form of youth ministry for almost 20 years. In the early years John volunteered and spent his days as a High School science teacher,  while Leneita was the one considered “full time.”  That all changed about 16 years ago when they both came on staff with an urban youth ministry.  They have always approached ministry with a shared vision to see the next generation grow from survival to thriving in Christ.  With the changing landscape of “urban” ministry their heart is for unchurched families.  Together they bring a unique perspective of ministering in  a variety of  settings   from running ministries,  to programming,  teaching,  speaking and simply enjoying their marriage while raising 4  children.  All the while they do this by living in the inner city learning to be a neighbor to those who are there with them.

Friday Freebie: Youth Worker Devotional

In March I am excited to attend in Louisville, KY. I love this conference for it’s authenticity, incredible learning opportunities, and the chance to connect with dear friends in ministry who I have met in previous years.

Simply Youth Ministry is deeply committed to tending to the souls of youth workers just as much as they are about resourcing and equipping them. In fact they have created an incredible 12 months of devotions specifically designed for youth workers like you and me. The conference is “for youth workers, by youth workers” and these devotions are for youth workers by youth workers too. They are written by in the trenches veterans who know what we need to stay strong in our faith and ministry…

Check ‘em out:

I hope these devotions minister to you as you as you minister to your family and students!

Phil <><

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