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:

How are YOU Reaching Others?

We tell students to reach out to their friends…

We tell students about the Great Commission and we tell them to bring their friends to our youth events…

We tell them to invest in friendships at church to stay strong, but also to invest in friends outside the church to share the Gospel…

We tell them to break down barriers at the schools and have opportunities to share their lives with kids who don’t know God…

But, what about us? What about you? If I am honest, there have been many times when I have found myself feeling a little hypocritical telling students these things. Or, if you are like me, we use the excuse of being a youth worker whose life is so consumed with church that we can’t do the things we are telling our students. You might even conclude that the kids who come to your youth group are your opportunity for outreach… But as I think about it, none of these excuses sit well with me…

It’s about leadership example! Even if our schedules are consumed with church work and meetings, it’s about our example. Over time, students are able to decipher whether we are committed to do what we preach. Utimately, our students will follow our teaching when we lead by example and commitment. How are we leading by example in this area?

So, with all this said, here are three things I am doing to lead by example when it comes to reaching out to people outside of church: 

1) Starbucks: I love Starbucks, it’s no secret! But I also love Starbucks because of the opportunity it gives me to get to know so many different people in my community. I have been coming here 3-4 times a week for over a year. I know many of the “regulars” and I know each of the barrsita’s by name. (They also know my  ”usual”: Pike Place Roast, two percent, with two raw sugars). I also know many of their struggles, joys and hurts. These days they even ask my advice as a “man of God”…

It’s been a year, but opportunities are starting to present themselves… In my previous church I did the same thing. Today, Kim and her family and Christine and her kids are plugged into church every Sunday and have a solid faith.

2) Soccer: I play on a local over 30′s soccer team. Again, they all know I am pastor, but it seems like over time, they forget my title and start to see me as “one of the guys”. I have had some incredible talks with my team, and they have become my friends. For me, I respect their boundaries, and make sure that faith conversations come in their time and not on my agenda…

3) Coaching: Last spring I helped coached my daughter’s soccer team. (She is only 5, so when I say “coached”, I actually mean I provided “crowd control.” I also learned that people in kids ministry are a special group of people… These 5 year olds wore me out)! Being a coach gave me opportunities to speak to many of the parents and their kids. Even though my contact was short and limited, I did learn so much about how families outside the church are doing. Sometimes, when we spend time with only church people, we forget how the rest of the world is working… It’s important that we understand the issues and context that non-churched people face.

These three things are fairly small and are not out of the ordinary. However, as I talk to friends in ministry, I am finding that many of us are not making the time to break out of our own ministry worlds to reach people who live in the world…

Why should we expect our students to reach their friends when we are not? What do you do to reach others? Or, what can you do to get into the world and reach the people God is calling you to reach? 

Teachable Moments

It’s easy to think that student ministry is all about events, programs, teaching, and hanging out with students. Well, yes, that is a large part of it. However, I am rediscovering that students learn and grow far more in the moments in the teachable moments, or where life can throw a curve ball at them.

We often work so hard to dig into the felt needs of students when creating messages or programs. Why? We know that it is the felt need that will get students “on the bus” when we are trying to get their attention and teach them something powerful and Biblical. However, it’s so important to leave enough space in our programs to allow for the teachable moments where felt needs are staring students in the face. It’s often these moments that students remember the most…

You see, whether it is a conflict with parents or another student… Or if it is a major decision that a student has to make… or whether it is painful mistake they have made… These are the teachable moments when students are MOST open to God’s answers… Yes, we cover topics and issues in our programs and teaching times, but it is the teachable moments when God’s answers will likely leave a longer lasting imprint on their lives, because their felt needs…

Here’s how I am trying to tap into the felt needs and teachable moments of students:

  1. Leave Space in your Schedule to Meet with Students: When the curve balls come, you have time to meet and support students. If we are too busy, we miss those moments. How booked up is your schedule?
  2. Watch Social Media for Teachable Moments: Not that I stalk my students, (I try very hard not to be that kind of pastor). However, students are more likely to post how they are feeling or what they are struggling with in their status updates. It is these updates that give us an opportunity to follow up and support them. Are we plugged into their world of social media? 
  3. Plan for Flexibility in the Teaching Schedule: Once a month in our large group we leave the message unplanned until that week. We look for topical issues of that week in the media or in our community that are good teachable moments.
  4. Ask students the Right Questions: “What are you learning this week”? This question and questions like this can often open doors to many teachable moments. It is when students talk about THEIR challenges and accomplishments that we are able to speak greater truth into their lives. A teenager who desires autonomy will listen and learn when they feel like it is on their terms. Asking about their world taps into their felt needs, and they are more likely to be looking for Godly answers then…
How are you taking time to listen and look for the teachable moments?
Phil <><

Essential Priorities For Parent Leaders

Great parent leaders can make the difference! Without them, students would not be supported and encouraged in their faith in quite the same way. Parents have a brilliant perspective and understand more clearly what is at stake for our students.

On the other hand, poor parent leaders can be a nightmare! But I’ve found that with intentional investment and clear direction, parents can become some of my most effective leaders. It might feel like extra work compared to what we put into other leaders, but great parent leaders can make an impactful and lasting difference in students lives. Here are six priorities I have for parent leaders:

GUEST POST: Parent Meetings for Unchurched Parents?

In her previous post, Leneita Fix talked about the importance of having the right focus and attitude toward unchurched parents. Ultimately, we should see them as Jesus see them, but we don’t always do that do we? Today, Leneita shares practical steps to get unchurched parents to show up to parent meetings, as well as crucial insights to building authentic relationships that bring about opportunities to minister to them…

1) SIGN YOUR STUDENTS UP:  Have students (if you don’t already) fill out some sort of start of year registration.  On that ask for parent or guardian.  Also, ask for the names of any other adults living in the home and their relationship to the student and the parent/guardian.   (i.e.-  “Stepfather”  may actually equal Mom’s new boyfriend.)     Get all pertinent contact info- Home Phone, Email, Facebook, Address,  Parental Cell Phone.  The more contact info the better.  Ask students to update this every couple of months in case anything changes. Continue Reading…

GUEST POST: Partnering With Unchurched Parents – Leneita Fix

I still remember the day the Lord put it on my heart.   Totally my attitude had become to believe that the parents who were “churched” could be held to a higher expectation than the “unchurched.”  I mean most of these “heathen” adults were broken individuals who didn’t even have a relationship with Christ.  How could I expect them to show up to a parent meeting?  Much less how could I ask them to invest in the spiritual development of their children?  Did they even know what that meant?

Then one day the Lord showed me a passage in HIS WORD.  All right it was really two passages.  The same words spoken twice, through the mouth of the Lord.  Once it came from an Old Testament prophet and then again through Jesus.  Both described the effect of understanding Christ- “His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.”   My judgments began to unravel.

In the Garden,  BEFORE the fall- man and woman were told to be fruitful and multiply.  The intention was two parents and children.  After the fall, the Lord knew this had been cracked and separated.  In our relationship with a living God, he longs for restoration.  Part of that process is the family unit.

Now in practicality we can’t DO anything to make this happen.  I can’t cause a wandering father to return home.  With 3 million grandparents in the US raising their grandchildren I can’t cause the parents to take responsibility.  With divorce and death and a variety of familial situations I can’t make any changes.

HOWEVER, I can start with an attitude of seeing the parents the way that Christ does,  no matter who they are.  It begins with respect and honor.    When Jesus looks at us he doesn’t focus on our sin or our wrong doings.  Instead he sees us the way his Creation was intended.   He sees us as redeemed.  His heart yearns for us to be whole and walk fully in his ways.  We begin with looking at parents the same way.

In her next post, Leneita shares practical in Getting Unchurched Parents to Show Up to Meetings and building authentic relationships that build bridges to restoration…

Leneita Fix is the founder and lead consultant for Blue Sky/Green Sky Consulting whose heart is :  ”Passionate about developing and training youth-oriented programs that are looking to take a generation from surviving to thriving in Christ.  In 2012 she will reach the 20 year mark of experience in youth ministry, suburban, urban and rural.  Most of her time has been spent in the urban community,  living as a neighbor to those around her. 

GROUP Magazine Live: Youth Leaders At Risk

I am excited to tell you about an excellent live podcast coming up on Sept 12th, 12:30pm MST. I am excited to three reasons: 1) The topic is close to my heart. 2) There’s some great surprize guests! 3) I’m going to be at GROUP Publishing HQ that day! Here’s what you can expect:

Group Magazine Live is a topical, live podcast that will run every two months to coincide with the current issue of Group Magazine.

GML’s second episode will discuss “Youth Leaders at Risk”. We will dive into the what, when, where, why, how a youth worker is to care for students, family, oh yeah and themselves! Guests will include cross-fit expert and 100 mile marathon veteran Andy Brazelton, Leneita Fix (founder of ), and Darren Sutton (an in the trenches Youth Worker & Biggest Loser Applicant).  Oh and special surprise guests that might be musically inclined, super funny, or just some close ministry friends!  Rick Lawrence (Editor of Group Magazine) will host, & Toby Rowe (of Group WorkCamps) will co-host. Together they’ll expand on the topic of “Youth Leaders at Risk”, and how to combat the struggles of ministry, life, and health in order to personally draw nearer to Jesus.

Be sure to join the LIVE Q&A portion of this event when you arrive at   PLEASE INVITE your volunteers, fellow church staff, youth leaders, area pastors—even your parents! We’ll do our best to get to each of your questions.

To watch LIVE at 12:30pm MST on September 12th, 2011 click here or go to

Making Parent Meetings Worthwhile: Part 2

In my previous post I talked about the importance of creating effective meetings for parents in our ministries. The world of a parent is often stressed, over-scheduled, and overloaded with information from countless places. Our ministries are just one of many things parents are considering during their busy week. Therefore, it’s crucial that at certain times of the year, we create worthwhile parent meetings that effectively communicate and partner with parents.

So, here are some additional things that I find helpful to make parent meetings worthwhile:

Continue Reading…

Making Parent Meetings Worthwhile: Part 1

For many of us, we are already in full swing of the Fall season. Programs are getting kicked off, students are back in school, and schedules have launched into hyper speed!

One particular group of people who are stretched and stressed are the parents of the students we work with. As a result of the crazy season, it is easy for them to overlook or forget about everything we do in our student ministries. Therefore, it’s imperative we do two things: First, don’t take their lack of understanding of our programs personally… They are just very busy. Second, it is crucial that we do everything to partner with them and help them understand the who, why, what, when, and how of our youth ministries.

Here’s what I do: 

1) Create a Parent Meeting at Least a Month into the Fall: I used to get frustrated by poor turnout when I scheduled meetings either at the end of the summer, or right at the beginning of the Fall. Instead, I look for a late September / early October meeting. A later meeting with a larger number is better than an early meeting with only a few showing up… And, promote the snot out of your meeting… I’m even considering giving away Starbucks gift cards to get them there… (It sure would work for me…)

2) Connect Them with Each Other: When we have our meetings, I try to find ways to connect parents with each other. Whether it is a small ice-breaker or asking them to talk to one or two others at the front end of the meeting, it is crucial. The parents at our meetings could well become some of the best support for each other over the school year. When parents begin to share their stories with each other, they realize they are not alone. This is crucial!

3) Connect Them to Serve in the Ministry: Use the meeting as an opportunity to sign-up parents for anything and everything! (Obviously, it has to be something you can actually give them to do). When parents find a place to serve and belong, they develop a healthy ownership of the ministry. Whether it is bringing snacks, phone calls, administration, or helping with large events, use the meeting as a way to get them involved. By including them in serving them become owners of our ministries. We want to move parents from being onlookers to owners of what is happening… 

4) Cast Vision: Just like students, many of our parents come from different churches and backgrounds and therefore have lots of opinions on what our youth ministries could look like. It’s important that we cast vision in a clear and compelling way that will get parents excited about what God is doing.

5) Share Your Heart: This is not the same as casting vision… This is the time where we lay our passions, hopes, and dreams out there for them to see and hear. Parents are looking for a good vision and plan for their kids, but they also want to know that the leader is passionately committed to go the extra mile for their kids. This is a particularly challenging step for young leaders, since it means making ourselves vulnerable and exposed. However, my experience tells me that parents will go the extra mile for us when they see our hearts and hear our overflowing passion for their kids.

Next post: More tips to make parent meetings worthwhile, including partnering with parents, and follow up after the meeting…
Phil <><

12 Tips I Give My Volunteer Youth Workers – Part 2

In my previous post, I posted 6 of the 12 tips I give my leaders to help them be effective in their ministry. Here are the next 6…

As I said yesterday, some of these have been “borrowed” from friends, and some are my own specific tips. All in all, I hope they are tips you can use for your volunteer meetings and trainings, or training manual…

7. Be a Leader – Not their friend:  It’s a trap many leaders can fall into: Trying to get students to like them by being their friend. They already have lots of friends who give them bad advice; they need you to be a leader in their lives.

8. Be a Leader – Not a Chaperon: A chaperon will stand outside looking in at the group – Leaders are invested in the group and have relationships with the students. Be invested…

9. Be a Leader – Not a Parent: If you have a student at FUSION and they are acting out, don’t be the parent. Let another leader know, and let them handle it. It will save embarrassment and also give you the night off of parenting…

10. Find Contact Time Outside of FUSION: Students will really know you care when you send them a postcard (available in the black cabinet), Facebook them, show up to the last 15 minutes of a game, text them. If you have 30 minutes a week, you can easily do this…

11. Read Phil’s emails: The more plugged in you are with events, meetings, and latest happenings, will help you communicate events better with students and help you to know what is happening as a whole.

12. Check the website: For calendar, videos, teaching plans, curriculum, and training documents. These are all here to simplify your ministry and save you time with phone calls, emails, and text messages to Phil.

There you go… So what you add to this list? What tips do you give your leaders?

Phil <><

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