7 Steps in Dealing with Cliques

Cliques are a reality for our students in their schools and community. Unfortunately, it is often a reality they face at church too. Cliques are the enemy of healthy community and ultimately the enemy of students hearing God’s best for them. When students don’t feel relationally comfortable, they are less likely to relate to God’s truth. Here are 7 priorities I am constantly working on to avoid cliques in my ministry.

1. Cast vision—It’s important to constantly compare and contrast a vision for healthy community compared to painful reality of cliques. This can be done through intentional messages but also weekly in announcements. It’s imperative to constantly paint a picture of a community where students can feel safe and belong.

2. Know the difference between Comfort and Clique—Some student groups could be described as a clique, when in fact they are simply too comfortable to be aware of others. A clique is defined as, “a small, exclusive group of people” (dictionary.com). It’s important to discern whether students are intentionally exclusive or just missing the point. The way to respond to comfortable students is quite different from clique-y ones.

3. Understand cliques—It’s easy to get frustrated by students who are intentionally clique-y. However, it’s important to remind ourselves that many of them find security in keeping others out. Most cliques, in my experience, are comprised of insecure kids trying to control their environment.

Independence can be a Bad Thing…

On this 4th of July, because I am British, you might expect me to say  something bad about Independence Day. (Haha!) However, I now live in Michigan, I love the people, and I love the idea of freedom that emanates all around the world because of this country. But, here’s the specific problem I have with independence within youth ministry

You see, independence, when lived out in healthy ways is no problem at all. But there is an unhealthy independence that I see in many youth workers in the local church today. Here’s what I mean:

  • It’s the unhealthy independence that says, “I know better”
  • It’s the unhealthy independence that has little regard for leadership structure
  • It’s the unhealthy independence that constantly lives as the “victim youth worker” within the church
  • It’s the unhealthy independence whose key phrase is, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness, than it is to ask for permission”
  • It’s the unhealthy independence which considers others inferior or deficient in their thinking
  • It’s the unhealthy independence which establishes a silo ministry that is independent from the parents of students we work with
  • It’s the unhealthy independence that looks to protect our buildings, spaces, and resources, rather than share

There’s a lot more I could say, but are you with me and my thinking? You see, it’s important to be a strong leader and someone of healthy convictions and independence. However, it’s important to realize that independence can become unhealthy and self-serving in our churches if we are not careful. Here’s some good and painful lessons I have learned personally:

  • Youth Ministries should be a part of a team in the church, regardless of whether or not others have the same vision
  • We can always learn from others and their points of view. Personally, I have found that God gives me different people to help me learn my most valuable lessons. What is God teaching you? Who is He using to teach you?
  • We are employed as youth workers not senior pastors. We should know our place and submit to God ordained authority in our lives…
  • Being a victim youth worker is a choice. If we are in difficult situations, we can either choose to stay and celebrate God’s calling of us there, or we can choose to move on. (I have done both).
  • Constantly asking for forgiveness instead of permission can be disguise for not having the leadership ability to ask others difficult questions or communicate a compelling need. Are we simply side-stepping leadership growth by not asking others for permission?
  • Whether or not we know better, it’s imperative to realize that people do not listen if we come across as the “know it all”
  • Our ministries thrive when we share our resources, people, and spaces. Favors can often be returned at the most crucial times.
  • Without a good support and connection of parents, our ministries will die

I hope you are enjoying a good summer and Independence Day. How are you going to pursue healthy independence in the coming weeks?

Phil <><

Group Magazine Live Podcast: Episode 1 – Sexual Sin

It’s no secret, I am a HUGE fan of Group Magazine! I am so excited that they are creating a podcast that continues the conversation centered around content from the current edition. It’s “Group Magazine Live”. Here’s their official announcement:

GML’s first show will air LIVE on Thursday, July 21, 2011, at 9:00am (MST) at . So mark your calendars…and click here to RSVP via Facebook! This show will be about sexual sin featuring Craig Gross of , Jeffery Wallace (author of, “Urban Youth Ministry Start to Finish”), & Danette Matty of , Rick Lawrence as the host, Toby Rowe as co-host. Together they’ll expand on the topic of sexual sin in the church, youth ministry, pastoral positions, and everyday life.

The format will be similar to what you’ve seen before, but you there will be a huge addition of LIVE Q&A interaction with you the viewer!

Link to the facebook event – PLEASE RSVP

Link to the Related Featured Articles from this Issue of Group Magazine…read up be educated on the topic.

Link to SimplyInsider.com Blog Post

Check it out. The first episode is going to be HUGE!

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 <><

The Most Effective Way To Be Productive This Summer.

Do you want to be more productive in your ministry this summer? For that matter, do you want to be more productive year round and see greater accomplishments in your ministry? If the answer is yes, then I have a simple answer for you:

Here it is… are you ready for it? Take time off this summer. I’m not talking about a couple of days here and there. I’m not including the church camp or mission trip. I’m talking about a good week off from ministry. But, how does this make you and I more productive?

Recently, I read an about world productivity and where the U.S ranks in the field. Apparently, the U.S is # 4 in the world for productivity. (“Not bad”, I thought). Then the article went on to talk about the cost of the productivity.  The average American actually uses only 2-3 weeks of vacation and apparently, the average worker does not take his/her full vacation.

But, look at the results we get in this country“, you could be inclined to say… Correct! Until you hear about the country of Sweden… You see, the Swedes get a minimum of 5 weeks vacation granted to them. Most  Swedes take all 5 weeks and more. And guess what, these guys rank # 2 in the world for productivity. It’s pretty astonishing that a country to takes 2-3 weeks more time off than Americans can actually get more done. Why is that?

Well, I am not genius or an analyst, but here is my simple answer. I believe God designed our bodies, minds, and souls, to work from rest. Not, work, burn out… then rest. So often we keep going and going because we have a long list of things to get done. Even if we are exhausted, we often continue to plug on, regardless of how tired we might me. It’s times like these our productivity drops and mistakes are made. However, if we learn to take good rest and allow ourselves to be refreshed, we will find  surprising results: Our productivity increases, our minds are sharper, and I also believe that we are able to discern God more clearly.

Jesus often had a long list of people to heal, sermons to teach, and places to go. However, we also see that he made it a priority to rest, re-tune, and refocus on His Father. So often we think that we have to keep going until it is all done. However, we need to understand that their will always be more to get done. It’s imperative that we take time out to rest… I mean really rest.

How are you going to rest this summer? What could your productivity look like?

Phil <><

Keeping Parents Plugged-in on Mission Trips: Part Two

In my previous posts I talked about the importance of Keeping Parents Plugged-in On Mission Trips and the importance of Keeping Leaders Plugged-in on Mission Trips.

This video is an update from as they finish up their week in Memphis providing flood relief. My friend , over at sent the link to me with this comment:

“We are in Memphis, TN this week doing flood relief. I have been posting updates, pictures and am putting together a quick midweek video”

This is a great way to continue the communication with family and supporters as Brandon and his youth ministry finish out their week. Not only does it encourage the parents, it gives them a number of conversation starters when their kids return. Parents are able to better understand what their kids have been involved in, and are also able to praise and encourage them specifically.

Finally, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words... In this case, a video is priceless!

Keeping Leaders Plugged-In on Missions Trips

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of keeping parents plugged-in with your mission trip experience once you arrive at your destination.

Today, I want to emphasize the importance of preparing our leaders for mission experiences as they support students. This video is a quick “Top Ten” video update of important things I created to remind leaders as they prepare to leave for our trip. Some of the content has come from my friends over at who provide some pretty sweet resources. Leadertreks also provide some great mission experiences for students with a leadership emphasis. Check out a review I did for The Student Mission Trip Greenhouse too. It’s a brilliant freebie you can download straight from their website.

In addition to this video, I have prepared my leaders in the following ways.

Continue Reading…

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…

The Next Biggest Youth Group Game?

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Is this the next biggest youth group game? Maybe not, but funny watching these guys!

It Should Not Be About One Person

It should not be about one person… Our ministries should not center around us… People should not be so dependent on us, that if we left, the ministry would fail. It shouldn’t be about attaining a celebrity status in our ministry or ministry circles. Our lives should not take away from Jesus, but should confidently point to Him. Every program and task should not center around us and lead us to the point of burn out. We should not create unrealistic expectations for the people we serve by saying yes to every opportunity. We should not be the center of focus and take away from gifted volunteers and students who desire to serve…

In our culture today, I see a common issue in churches: People are looking for the leader to answer all the problems and be the icon of the ministry. People love celebrities and often love to create celebrity pastors who are on stage. I also see that many of us secretly enjoy the iconic leadership and focus. Many of us have become addicted to the feelings of affirmation when we think people depend on us…

However, as a leader of students and families, it is imperative that we realize ministry is most effective when the Body of Christ is fully utilized. It is wholly unhealthy for everything to center on one person… We must recognize how healthy and effective ministry comes from a good leader leading a team of people to accomplish the vision. It is imperative that we do all we can as leaders to create environments where the rest of the Body of Christ can work together.

Therefore, it’s imperative I see myself as one part of the Body of Christ, and not the guy who does it all…

Here’s Some Things We Can Focus On:

Replace Yourself: How are you training volunteers to do what you do? If you are a volunteer, how are you training others to do what you do? How are you training students to do what you do?

Give Opportunity to Others: Whether volunteers or students, how often are we putting others up front to lead? What healthy risks are we taking to see others thrive in opportunities?

Let Go of Perfection: Are we looking for perfection when others start leading, or are we looking for potential? We must start with potential. Some of  the most brilliant leaders have had a challenging start, but have flourished later.

Training or Doing? How much of our time is taken up in training – compared to doing? Take a look at your schedule and see how much you are doing compared to training.

Talk Others Up: How much praising of others are we doing to take the focus off of ourselves? Praise parents for the God given job they do. Praise volunteers in front of students. Praise students publicly when they serve in big and small ways.

Give Them The Tools: What tools do you and your leaders need to grow and lead? Email training tips – Make training videos – Buy “how to” youth ministry books – Take them on a conference if you have the budget.

Train In The Teachable Moments: See every youth program as a ministry classroom. How much “on the job” training are we really doing? Do we see our programs purely to teach and train students? Or do we see them as a classroom for youth ministry training?

Just some thoughts. I would love to hear yours…

Phil <><



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