Help Students Get Back To The Heart Of Worship

For a variety of reasons in the last 8 months my family and I have had the privilege to visit a combination of about 25 churches, conferences and retreats.   Each of them has had a unique flavor of what they define as “worship.”  To most this is a combination of the music played, the service brought, and traditions displayed.  We have read written prayers, sang hymns, rocked out with a “contemporary” band, and taken communion in a myriad of ways.  Here is what is interesting in our journey:

Worship Praise

1.  My children have been exposed to many approaches to teaching about Christ.

2.  EVERY single leader I have met loves Jesus, with a desire to lead their congregation in “worship.” (Whether or not the people they shepherd respond.)

We have heard it said that worship is more than music and singing, it is about a life poured out for the Lord.   I believe each of us connect with Him in different ways.  Worship to me is about taking the time for our total and complete focus to be on Him alone.  My children have come out of each arena and have learned to critique what they do and don’t get out of it.   I would argue this has little to do with worship and more to do about style. My son has expressed a couple of times,  “You can tell the pastor really cares about Christ, and sharing Him with us.”

This is a life lived in worship.  Their eye is to see the Lord first and foremost.

In this process my children had a chance to stand in front of a large congregation recently and ask a crowd of people they didn’t know, to support a cause they have started to support Haiti.  They hated it.  It pushed them to remember who they were in this for:  their comfort or their Savior.   My family has seen in their own lives ways they CAN worship the Lord.  Sometimes it is through singing or the Word, other times it is in service, always it is in the everyday learning to know Christ and bring the Good News to a broken world.

A couple of weeks ago at one church we were lead to sing something that is quite popular on Christian radio right now.  Afterwards as a family we discussed it.  My daughter mentioned,  “I like the song, but I don’t get why we were singing more about us than the Lord.”   Learning to see his face in every setting is a valuable lesson.  Too often we compartmentalize our worship and teach students to do the same.   We intimate,  “Here at church, or youth group,  the conference,  at camp,  in this setting this is where we worship God.”  While it is amazing to be in a gathering with other Believers “worshipping” it is hardly the definition of this word.  Instead 25 settings have taught us this:

Worship is about learning to be in awe of God in every setting, in every moment of every day. Can we teach this to the generation behind and ahead? How are you coming back to the heart of worship with your students?


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Are you Communicating the Wrong Message About Worship in your Youth Ministry?

Worship is More Than Music…

We all want to create a space where our students can meaningfully connect with God.  It’s why we expend so much energy on things like transforming summer trips, engaging Bible studies, and relational retreats.  It’s also why sometimes we send an unintended message to our students…

Serving Worship

Sometimes, in an effort to be more relevant and connectional with teenagers, we’ll create a student worship service.  We utilize examples and media in our messages that are more ‘student-friendly’; we engage students in a way that sometimes doesn’t happen in our regular worship services; of course we have an amazing student band doing to most current worship tunes from everyone’s favorite contemporary worship leaders, while subtly including music from other genres that they might even have playing on their iPods.

We do all that for an exceptional reason.  We want to soften the soil so the transforming message of Christ finds fertile ground in the hearts and minds of students.

Our unintended message is this:  Worship in the student ministry is better because we use better songs and YouTube videos.  We accidentally boil worship down to its simplest form – we get a sin immunization by singing music we like one hour a week.

Worship is more than a preferred music style.  It’s more than a relevant message.  And it’s way more than an hour in any given week.  Worship is life.  It’s an existence dedicated to maintaining and relaying to others a connection with God.

That connection comes through more than the media thrust upon us by well-intentioned organizers of what should be an experience designed to celebrate all that God has done through our week of life-worship in the previous 167 hours.

According to Romans, our lives are the worship service.  Conveying anything less than that to our students, intentionally or by accident, sells short the call of Christ and the command to live our lives as an act of worship…regardless of what the student band is playing on Wednesday night.

How are you communicating a lifestyle of worship to your students?


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How to Deal with Criticism in Youth Ministry: An Interview with Brian Berry [VIDEO POST]

Last week I caught up with friend and youth ministry veteran Brian Berry. Brian is the author of a NEW book called as well as In this video interview with Brian we took some time to talk about his new book as well as some great practical tips in dealing with Criticism.


You can pick up his book at , , or check out

Phil <><



Ministry is More Than a Service Project

We’ve all been there!  Our student ministry has gotten a little too inward focused.  Our students are a little self-absorbed.  We realize we although we are definitely not OF the world, we’re also not IN it!

Sometimes our first reaction is to schedule a service project.  We call Habitat for Humanity or make a mad dash for our local homeless shelter.  And if we’re real world changers, we might even make that a regular ministry opportunity we offer…

Youth Ministry Serving

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How to Create a Culture of Service in your Youth Ministry

Recently I videoed a bunch of the teens in my youth program and asked the ambiguous question:  “Why do you come?”

The overwhelming answer was, “I love to come and serve.”

This answer shocked me a little… From the answers I was getting, you would think I have this awesome structure where each teen is that learning service is beyond a one day “event” or trip. Instead we have been working on this “idea” far more than it feels like we have “done” anything. The question I was asking was,

“How did we arrive at a place where our students love to serve?”

I bet you’re wondering too… Keep reading!

youth ministry rake and run

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99 Thoughts for Volunteers: Interview with Danette Matty – [VIDEO POST]

Last week I was able to catch up with friend and youth ministry veteran Danette Matty! She shares great insights to her new book,

The Most Crucial Youth Ministry Discipleship Question???? Who’s Discipling You?

In the previous two posts we’ve look at youth ministry discipleship. Discipleship is more than filling in the blanks, and it can be messy, unplanned, and takes a lot of relational time. Today, I have a challenge for myself I want pass on to you too… Here’s why:

The way we are discipled will often correlate into how we disciple others… Who’s discipling you?

Discipleship Questions

So my challenge for myself and for you is simply this: In the coming weeks, I am challenging myself to create time and space to seek out Godly people in my life to help disciple me. It does not matter how old or experienced we are, we all need to look up to a ‘Paul’ in our lives who has the time to invest in us. I already have a few great guys who have invested in me, but if I am honest, my life and schedule has taken over recently.

As you look for people to disciple you, what should this look like? Here’s what I am looking for: 

1. They are available and have the TIME: We live in a fast paced world. Some of the most Godly men and women are ineffective because of one foundational deficiency: They are simply too busy. For you and I, I would seek out those people who are good time managers or have more time on their hands. Some of the best people to disciple you are in their retirement years because they have more time and will MAKE time for you. I know it might be awkward asking an older guy or gal to meet with you at first, but you will be blessed if you do so… Who at your church or in your community is strong in their faith and has TIME?

2. They help me dig into God’s Word and prayer: Years ago when I lived in the UK,  I met regularly with a guy called Chris who studied the Bible with me. I will never forget his passion, his knowledge, and the basic bible study skills he gave me. The way I personally study the bible and the way in which I help others study is because of Chris. What are you learning and what are you passing on?

3. They can speak into my family life: When I first arrived at my current church, I sought out a guy who teaches a number of our family and marriage classes. After a few coffees with him, I asked him to look out for me and gave him permission to check in with me about my family. To this day Bob has sought me out to meet for coffee on numerous occasions. We have dinner with him and his wife regularly and they have been a huge support to our family. We are learning from them in so many ways and are incredibly thankful for the Godly wisdom they provide.

4. Ask them to look for areas of weakness: I have always made it a point to seek out Godly leaders around me as a way to grow and glean from them. On the odd occasion, leaders like this will offer to help in some way where they see a need in my life. Years ago, a guy named Dan could see I was struggling as a young leader and offered to meet with me regularly so he could help me become more assertive and confident as a leader. I’ll be honest, at first it stung to hear that he could see I was lacking in a tender area of my life. Yet, after I gathered myself up off the floor from my crying, I agreed to meet with him. Dan was right about what he saw and I needed his advice… Who are are you letting in to speak truth into your life?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do as a leader is ask someone to look for areas of weakness and allow them in to help you…

Remember this key: The way I am being discipled with impact the way I am discipling others. It does not matter how old or wise I think I am, I am always going to need to have a ‘Paul’ in my life to disciple me, as I look to disciple the ‘Timothy’s’ in my life.

In the next 4 weeks I challenge you to seek out one or two Godly people to disciple you. Are you in?

Comment and let me know if you are? Let’s commit to this together!

Phil <><


What My Own Kids Taught Me About Youth Ministry Discipleship

I used to think I knew something about discipleship.   It was about pouring into students who were walking with Christ, and helping them grow.  Sure I would teach them to read the Bible, what church is all about, have a “Quiet Time,” you know the regular stuff you teach someone about what you do when you follow Jesus.  Then my own children started to grow up.

I went from pastoring a youth group to living with one.  My perspective changed radically.

Youth Ministry Discipleship Perspective

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Youth Ministry Discipleship is More Than Filling in the Blanks

Discipleship = learning to live the life of a Christ-follower.  It’s one definition and definitely not the only one.  But if we’re using this as a working definition for training up the next generation of faith-walkers, then we must assess HOW we’re doing that.


Looking at modern day youth ministry distresses me.  We’re sitting students in a room and talking to them for an hour and expecting them to absorb, by osmosis, the conviction and character it takes to follow Jesus in all areas of life.  If we’re especially organized, we’re even giving them an outline with some of the answer left blank – knowing that if they’re writing down the notes we’re giving, they’re truly being transformed. Continue Reading…

A Key to Getting Things Done: Do Less!

There’s always more to do in youth ministry isn’t there? Today I was reminded of a principle that I had learned a long time ago…But it was clear today that I had completely forgotten it:

Getting stuff done always takes longer than you think… Therefore, schedule less.

Youth Ministry To Do List

I know that reading the above statement could make you say, “Well duh, that’s obvious!” I am with you. It should be so completely obvious. But, when push comes to shove, if you are anything like me, I love to pack in as much as I can in my ministry day. I am ever the optimist of what I can get done and what can be accomplished by days end. Continue Reading…

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