Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 3: Volunteers

In my previous post I talked about how a successful ministry goes hand in hand with a leaders who care well for their own family. Today I want to talk about the importance of caring well for volunteer leaders and supporting a healthy family focus for them too. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own and busy lives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them too…

I could start by telling you what I do to promote a healthy family focus for my leaders, but I will let some of them start by telling you instead: Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 2: You

Yesterday I began a five-part series reflecting on why it’s important to be family focused in our student ministries. I also gave a quick snapshot of how I keep this focus. Today I want to continue this focus by looking closer at one aspect I mentioned in my previous post:

IT STARTS WITH ME (OR YOU): In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 1

Today I am beginning a five-part series on family focused student ministries. In the last few years I have intentionally changed my focus of ministry to focus on the family as a whole. Here’s why:

Every student that we see in our ministry is part of a family system and is impacted by the health of their family. Given that we typically will have only a few hours a week of contact time with our students, I have had to realize that my impact on my students is greater when I can impact and support the whole family.

In addition, students value relationships and family more than ever. Many of them have been raised in a world of broken families or have seen the impact the of broken families in their friends. Out of this brokenness, they are desperate for answers as they look to their future. Therefore, it is imperative that we not only look to support their families with healthy family focused ministry, but we also look for ways to model healthy family through our own lives as volunteers and paid youth workers.

In the next four days I will take a look at how I am attempting to model and support healthy family ministry for myself, my volunteer leaders, my students parents, and for my students. I don’t claim to have all the answers, I am simply on a journey to discover the answers. Here is a snapshot of where I am going this week:

For Me: In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. He insists, “if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church”? In the same way, as a church leader, I have to realize that healthy family ministry starts with me and how I model health for students and their families. It’s crucial that I understand how my ministry will reflect my own life and family…

For My Volunteer Leaders: My volunteers have families and are an example to our students on a weekly basis. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own. The time they volunteer in student ministry is over and above their work week, is over and above their family time, and ultimately takes them away from their families. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them…

For My Parents: Families are busy, stretched, and stressed. Everything I do must be intentional about helping families – not hurting them. The way I schedule, the way I communicate, and the way individually support parents should be a passage to helping them (and ultimately helping their kids). Again, if I can impact parents positively, I am helping my students for the long-term. If however, I choose to lead a silo ministry that runs incredible programs, I might feel like I am helping students, but in reality I am not.

For My Students: Many of the students in our ministries come from broken homes or difficult situations. Statistically many of them are living with only one parent and have seen divorce. It’s important that I see the big picture of my ministry as a model to these students who need to see how a dad / husband acts and lives. In the same way, many of my students need to see how a mom / wife acts and lives through the example of my wife. It’s vital that my students get the inside scoop to myself, my wife, my kids, and the way we live… Scary thought?

In the next four days I will be exploring each area and brainstorming the ways that I currently support families and how I hope to support them in the future.

Phil <><

Why Does God Allow Earthquakes?

This weekend many of our students might be thinking (or asking) the question, “Why does God allow natural disasters like the one that hit Japan and much of the Pacific?

A few weeks ago I did some searching for some good articles that go some way to answer that question. Here are a few sites I found useful that might be helpful to you as you tackle this question with your students:

Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters?

Do Natural Disasters Disprove God’s Existence?

Why Would A Good God Allow Earthquakes (mp3) – This is a short and to the point podcast from responding to the recent earthquake in New Zealand. It gives some good basic scientific background too.

These are just a few that I found a couple of weeks ago. If you have any good links, I would love for you to comment! In the meantime, I hope this helps youth workers as they tackle this tough question…

Great Conference! Looking forward to 2012

SYMC (The Simply Youth Ministry Conference), was brilliant for all the reasons mentioned in my previous post. I took a team of adult volunteers who had an incredible time and grew in some great ways!

I am excited for next year! Here is a quick video promo for the conference for next year. Check it out:

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5 Reason I am Excited for SYMC 2011

On Friday I head to The Simply Youth Ministry Conference with a group of my friends, (and some of the most incredible volunteer youth workers I could ask for). I am super excited for this conference and it has come at a crucial time for me. Recently I took an emergency trip back to the U.K to support my family there. I returned tired, drained, and emotionally spent. This conference could not come at a more valuable time.

Here are 5 good reasons I am excited for this conference:

1) SYMC is AUTHENTIC: I have been to this conference over the last few years and I always find the people, atmosphere, and speakers to be so real and authentic. At some conferences you can get the idea that certain people have “arrived” as youth ministry “rock stars”.  At this conference, the speakers actually sign an agreement that requires them to be “on the floor” with everyone. No green room, no hiding, no “them and us”. It’s about speakers meeting with “in the trenches” youth workers like you and me…

2) SYMC is JESUS CENTERED: You would hope that would be the case (and it is)! For me, what makes the difference for this conference are the worship times. Rick Lawrence and his team do an incredible job of helping create some wonderful times to reflect, refuel, and focus on Jesus.

3) SYMC is IN DEPTH: SYMC has been intentional about creating environments where youth workers can have greater discussion, greater access to the speakers, and greater focus on specific areas of ministry. This is perhaps best displayed in the tracks and half-tracks they offer. The tracks are two day / 8 hour workshops focused on one area of ministry. While that might seem too much for some people, I prefer this over a smorgasbord of workshops that give me a great deal of information and ideas, yet leave me walking away with very little concrete application… With that said, they also many great stand alone workshops to choose from that have a discussional atmosphere and invite questions that truly apply to our contexts. It’s more of a conversation than a presentation… This, I believe, creates greater depth…

4) SYMC is ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS: From the hundreds of sack chairs all over the place to the seminars being set up with tables for discussion, the whole conference points towards connection and relationships. Again, the speakers are available to talk to and every youth worker can be a part of a “connect group” that focuses in on their stage of ministry, or a particular area they wish to work through. From the previous few years at this conference, I have many good friends in ministry who know me well and connect with me continuously throughout the year. It’s about ongoing relationships…

5) SYMC is INNOVATIVE: The people behind this conference are not content to continue with the norm of what has gone before. The conference in many ways stands for the shift that we are all seeing in youth ministry. As SYMC has developed over the years it has led the shifts and patterns of youth ministry and has led the way in tackling the newest and best ways to reach the next generation of students…

Finally, the conference is sold-out… Enough said!

Phil <><

Love Wins? Teaching Students How to Deal with Conflict?

If you are on twitter regularly and follow some of the well known theologians and church leaders, you would not have been able to escape the major trending topic from last weekend. For now, I don’t even want to mention names, only to say that a certain pastor, writer and speaker,  was the number trending topic in the U.S.A on Saturday evening.

Why all the talk and trending?

This pastor has a book coming out soon and has an accompanying video promo for the book. But, why all the fuss? Well, without reading the book, but watching the video promotion, some prominent church leaders and theologians were quick to attack the theology of this individual… Before we knew it, this guy was a top trending topic as many of us debated, commented, and attacked the theology of the video promo (and probably many of his past best sellers).

Now, let me be clear, I am not here to give an opinion (and I do have an opinion about the matter). However, I want to address the way church leaders went about voicing their disdain. I also want to tie this into our youth ministry world as I think it means everything to understand the ramifications for the future of our students and the church…

1) Is Twitter Really A Place for the Pillars of our Church to Criticize other Church Leaders? Whether we like it or not, this guy is a pastor of a prominent church and still represents the Bride of Christ. Is it right for us to air our “dirty laundry” in public like this? Could there have been a different way? Is it more about “being right” or is more important to protect the Bride of Christ?

2) Being Too Quick to Attack Only Devalues the Message. To be honest, a big part of me was thinking, “come on guys, you have not even read the book and you obviously have an agenda concerning this guy.” Instead of listening to the arguments, I was just ticked that judgments were being made without good explanation… The argument became devalued since their judgment seemed premature…

3) If we have a Problem with False Teaching, isn’t it better to Deal with the False Teaching rather than the Individual? If we genuinely have an issue with someone’s theology, isn’t better to address the error of teaching than attack the individual? Focusing too much on an individual can make a blurry argument. False teachers will come and go, but false teaching itself is our real problem.

4) If we have a Place of Leadership, we must Consider the Ramifications of our Comments. I am deeply concerned by the actions of some prominent figures in the church who I had respected for years. Their place of leadership in the church directs the thoughts and ideas of so many. Instead of following Matthew 18 when dealing with disagreement, their public comments created a frenzy of debates and attacks within the church… Not so good.

So, how does this all relate to Youth Ministry?

1) As Leaders, We Must Consider Our Speech And Actions In Every Domain. Our students are watching us and are following our lead. When they see and hear us gossiping and attacking others in the church, they will likely follow suit. Consider your church today; How many comments and attacks come from grown ups who once were in our youth ministries?

2) We Must Be Careful What We Post. Students, parents, leaders, and friends are watching our tweets and Facebook updates more than we know. Why? They look to us for leadership and direction and want to get the inside track on how to follow Jesus. Nearly every week a parent or student comments to me about something I posted. Therefore, we must consider the implications of every post and comment. If you are like me, I lost a lot of respect for certain church leaders last weekend and it’s vital that our followers do not lose respect for us. More importantly, it means everything that our comments do not take people away from our Savior.

3) As Leaders We Must Teach And Model Healthy Conflict and Disagreement.

Matthew 18 could not be clearer:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Matthew 18: 15-16

In our churches and youth ministries we must teach and model healthy conflict. Not only should students see us following Matthew 18, but we should constantly remind them that this is the best option Jesus gives for dealing with disagreements in the church. Too often students learn from the church to gossip, get back, or hold on to hurt. It’s important that students in the teen years are challenged and encouraged to learn God’s way of dealing with conflict.

Finally, how are we doing in this area personally? How are we dealing with conflict in our churches? What areas can you and I work on this week? Let’s be real honest, it’s easy for me point to the twitter debate from the weekend, but it means everything that I examine my own actions above all. We might not post opinions and attack individuals publicly on twitter, but how often are we doing so in our churches?

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…

BOOK REVIEW: “In Transit” by Tim Ciccone

“In Transit” is an excellent book by Tim Ciccone, who is a youth worker with 17 years of “in the trenches” experience. His book should be read by anyone who is looking to transition to a new ministry, has recently transitioned, or is wondering if it is time to change ministry. In addition, it’s a great book that can help youth workers to solidify their calling and vision to continue well in their present calling…

I read this book a year after transitioning, but I  still found it incredibly valuable to reflect on lessons learned as well as consider how to stay strong for the long haul.

“In Transit” is split into four easy to read sections that are highly practical and full of personal stories of transition: 1) The New Call 2) Saying Goodbye – Saying Hello 3) What’s Next? 4) Hope for the Future.

Perhaps the best aspect of this book is the way in which we are challenged to ask pertinent questions of ourselves before we look to transition into another ministry. Tim takes us through step by step questions and reflections to allow us to see the bigger picture of our situation. So often, we could consider a move for the wrong reasons and we misinterpret tension in ministry as a reason to leave. Tim also gives brilliant insights to building solid foundations when starting out in a new ministry role. Perhaps the quote that stands out to me the most is:

In your first 120 days, don’t change a thing… this is a time for you to spend 98 percent of your ministry energy focusing on new relationships, not new programming…

Whether you are starting your first ministry position, or are veteran youth worker, this book is a must read!

Phil <><

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