Youth Fri, 25 Jul 2014 04:56:28 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 5 Thoughts on Student Leadership

A lot of times when we think of student leaders, we think of the students who are the elite of our ministry. And that is completely false.

Student leaders are simply students who are committed to serving a cause greater than themselves. My prayer is that our students simply learn to serve like Jesus. So here are a few random thoughts that I've been noodling on that has been pushing us in that direction:

1. Grow together. Asking students to do and be things you aren't doing or being is the easiest road to a revolt within student leadership. Instead, take them as a whole with you included on a journey of growth in serving like Jesus.

2. We are all in the same boat. I got a great idea from one of my veteran volunteers. He gave me the idea to create a struggle sheet. This sheet listed the things that we as Christians struggle with. I had them fill it out anonymously. Once they were done I collected them all and shuffled them. Then I passed them back out, with each student receiving someone else's sheet. I then begin to say "if this struggle is on your sheet raise your hand?"

Hands begin to go up with each struggle mentioned. Then I let them know that we are no different than the students we are committed to serving. They struggle with the same stuff we struggle with. My goal was to change their perspective on thinking that we were some how special or better than anyone else. I also wanted to create a level of compassion within them, for the students we will serve.

3. Setting expectations. Not for the sake of having rules, but for the sake of serving others and becoming better followers of Christ. No one is expected to have it all together, but you should expect them to pursue the growth that draws them to serve and be more like Jesus. Set expectations and expect them to meet them.

4. Create something worth being a part of. This generation isn't just looking for change, but to be a part of a movement. They are looking to be the catalysis to helping the less fortunate or speaking up for the voiceless. Remember "Kony 2012″, "Bring back our girls" or "Blackfish"? I believe students latched on to these causes because of their longing to be a part of something.

There is no other mission on the planet like showing, and sharing God's love to the world. It's the greatest most important cause/movement ever. I want students to join in on the movement that changed my life when I was 17. This generation is hungry to be a part of something life-changing. So make it worth it.

5. Personal growth. Student leaders need to grow as a person and also in their walk with Christ. Even though we encourage getting involved, we definitely don't want them just jumping on the bandwagon of causes. We want them to understand that their influence is important, but it also can hinder them without personal growth. Growth in influence and authority without spiritual/personal growth leads to ego growth and narcissistic leadership.

My goal is for students to simply serve like Jesus. I want their title to remind them of their commitment to serve and not just lead. There you go, just a few random thoughts.

What has been a struggle for you concerning your leadership program for students?

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Aaron Crumbey) Youth Wed, 02 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
3 Disciplines Every Youth Leader Needs to Succeed

Over the last 25 years of full-time ministry (as a church planter, youth guy and para-church director), I have seen all sorts of youth leaders. Some are like falling stars; a bright streak of light that is brilliant but short lived. Others are like sunrises, slow at first but brilliant with time.

The youth leaders with longevity and impact are not always the flashiest, but most have at least 3 common disciplines they consistently exemplify:

1. The discipline of prayer. Youth leaders worth their salt know where the shaker is. They know it's not found in the latest youth ministry idea books but in the very throne room of God. These youth pastors lead from their knees so the decisions they make are sound, not silly.

The discipline of prayer these youth leaders live by is rooted in consistent immersion in Scripture and a passion to live out their faith authentically. Like Paul in Philippians 3:10-14 these leaders are not perfect (nor do they claim to be) but they are surging forward toward the goal of being who God called them to be, all the while finding their strength in Jesus to get them there.

2. The discipline of fitness. When I use the word "fitness" I don't mean just sweating on a treadmill in a gym or flipping kettlebells over their shoulders in their basement. I mean a general lifestyle fitness that extends from the youth leader's own physical health to relational health to learning and to rest.

Speaking of Jesus in his development years in Luke 2:52 Luke wrote, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Jesus grew fit educationally, physically (how else could he have endured the horror of the cross?), spiritually and relationally.

Youth leaders who finish the marathon of youth ministry victoriously must strike the balance of overall lifestyle health. Struggling personal relationships, a lack of reading widely combined with fast food clogging your mind and arteries is a recipe for burn out (and a heart attack!)

Mixing in some cardio and weight training every now and again won't hurt either.

3. The discipline of intentionality. Effective youth leaders are intentional youth leaders.

They are intentional about mission. They are not in youth ministry just to exercise a standard program. They are locked into a church for a specific mission, to make disciples who make disciples. These youth leaders know their prime directive is from Jesus himself, to "go and make disciples of all nations" starting in their "Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth."

They are intentional about planning. They take heed to Solomon's wisdom in Proverbs 21:5, "Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty." These youth leaders understand the importance of spending time prioritizing their calendars with the "big rocks first" before the gravel and sand of lesser things takes up their schedules.

They are intentional about excellence. Effective youth leaders don't just plan well they execute well. They do this through hard work and effective delegation. They gather around them an excellent team and lift up a standard of high quality from programming to people. What they lack in budget they make up for in sweat equity, creativity, persistence and prayer.

They are intentional about evaluation. These youth leaders don't just do a series of events, talks and programming and just keep chugging along. They take time to ask the hard questions like, "How well did that go?" "What were the outcomes?" "Did it needed to be done at all?" and "How could we have made it better?"

These are three of the disciplines I have witnessed effective youth leaders incarnate over the long haul. What are some of the other disciplines that you think should be added to this list?

Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He's the President of Dare 2 Share Ministries which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Stier) Youth Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Be Careful About Youth Generalizations

My son calls them, "Awkward conversations with adults."

In an attempt for adults to make conversation with a teen boy the first question they often ask is, "What's your favorite video game?" It becomes uncomfortable for him because he finds himself saying, "Umm, I don't really like video games." If he was able, he would be outside all the time playing a competitive sport, preferably football.

Sure he plays video games at a friend's house, but the closest he comes to video games are "app-based" games. He absolutely hates these conversations.

It happens to all of my kids. My 15-year-old is smart, a cheerleader, passionate about photography, loves reading (especially anything dystopian), and Jesus. She will tell me, "Adults keep trying to put me into boxes; can't I just be in all of them?" It's not just one; it's ALL of my kids that feel this way. My youngest admitted (with guilt) the other day that sometimes youth group bores her because she doesn't want to sit and listen to someone talk. My oldest thought she could never fit into the group at church with other college-aged students.

Recently, I have read several articles making broad-brush strokes about the younger generation. The irony is that my four kids don't fit most of the statements that are being made. Come to think of it, many of the students I work with don't either. I am finding that my own children, as well as others, are getting turned off by the statements that infer what their generation is and is not—even when these statements are "positive." It even makes them feel like they don't really fit into church because they are different.

My own kids have tried youth groups, they now avoid because they are told, "All middle school students are ... " And guess what? They don't feel that way about themselves. It actually makes them feel like it is just one more place they are on the outside looking in.

We talk so much about "inclusive community," while we compartmentalize students. I wonder if this is one more reason why students leave the church? We try so hard to help them belong, while pushing them away. There are similarities in a mindset, but we must remember everyone is NOT the same.

Recently my daughter was asked to write a persuasive essay for school. Her friends wrote about political ideas or why you should like a certain television show. I asked her the question, "What are you passionate about?" She came up with three things: Photography, Reading, and Helping Inner City Families.

She decided she would write about "Why the Church Should Support Inner City Families." Her teacher didn't like it. It takes work for them to really figure out what they are "passionate" about. Not every student knows, or some know and don't think their passion is worthy.

Inadvertently some of the systems in place to support our students sometimes make them feel like their passions are "dumb." Now my daughter has a choice. Stand up for her cause, or succumb to the feeling that her passions should be different.

Her first response was, "I should have just written about photography." We often state this is a generation of "innovators" who want to figure out their own way. Yet, the challenge comes when they are not really at a place in life yet where they understand what that means.

I just think we need to be very careful as we embark on this new decade of youth ministry. My generation loved the movie, "The Breakfast Club," because as a teen we knew exactly which "group" fit us. Those days of "all these types of kids are like this," are over.

Instead, students pride themselves on being a little bit this and some of that. It's becoming downright dangerous to make assumptions about students just because they are urban, suburban, rural, multi-ethnic, rich, poor, middle-class, athletic, nerdy, artistic, fat, skinny, and everything in between.

For the only common thread is they feel isolated, and like there is "no one else like them." What they don't see is we all feel awkward, misplaced and insecure from time to time. We are actually alienating them when we decide who they are based on a new statistical analysis.

I guess in the end I am wondering if we will do the work it will take to really get to know our students?

Instead of trying to program to what they "should" be, can we reassess on a constant basis?

What about you? If you are honest, do you lump your students together?

Leneita Fix is the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family-focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County in New Jersey and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Leneita Fix) Youth Thu, 19 Jun 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Teen’s Advice for Youth Group Leaders: ‘Train Us’

Kids these days need encouragement, mentorship, and lots of love. And sometimes, youth group is the only love they get.

So, you need to make sure you're taking advantage of this small window of opportunity in this fragile area. So, grab your chai tea latte and get ready to officially have your mind blown.

1. Connect is the key word.Commenting on our Facebook post or Instagram picture is not good enough. If that is your only or primary source of connection, then you get a C grade at best. I'm grading on a curve here. In truth, you might even get an F. You need to get to know us, pray with us, and not be just a youth pastor but a friend. God said fellowship was huge. So, don't try to avoid this, because that conversation you said you were "too busy for" might've flipped a life for Christ.

2. Don't devote everything to platform stuff. Don't get me wrong—music, guitars, lights, they can be awesome. But don't let it overshadow the ministry. If that's your No. 1 priority, then you're obviously missing the point. When that is No. 1, your youth group becomes nothing more than an entertainment outlet masquerading as a ministry. Your youth group should be a ministry with a side of entertainment, not vice-versa.

Now, I understand you want to reach our generation with the style we are interested in. I get it. I agree with you. We love that type of atmosphere over, say, traditional hymns. I also know connecting is more important than a great show and so do you.

The best way to figure out if you are going off course is to ask your youth group to grade you. Have them fill out a question card. Ask them point blank if they think you put a bigger emphasis on your platform program rather than connecting. This will take courage because no one likes to hear they have strayed from the primary goal, but it is a healthy thing to do. If your youth group thinks you think your platform program is the most important thing—then it is. Time to change.

3. Communicate with parents. You may think this isn't big, but it definitely is. Let them in on what God is doing throughout the group. Answer questions and always be available to talk. I mean, this is a team effort. You and parents are working to enrich these kids with Christ. So, be a team player. You're not the Lone Ranger.

4. Learn our name. This doesn't include "Big Dude," "Hon," "My Man," or anything else you think of when you're too embarrassed that you forgot our name. Yeah, we know when you have forgotten our name. The sweetest words a teen could hear from a youth group leader is their name. Remember it and we'll seriously appreciate it.

5. Don't play favorites. Let's be honest, everyone leans toward people who have the same interests as you. But not everyone likes sports, or music, or books. So, go out of your comfort zone. Don't always stick with the people who like what you like. Jesus hung out with criminals and sinners, out of his comfort zone I bet. Set an example.    

6. Small Group Leaders are crucial. You can't talk to every single kid every single time.You need people to fill that gap. Pick men and women who love God, and honestly show it. And don't just pick "yes-men" who nod and smile anytime you speak. That's creepy if you ask me. Listen to their ideas; they might be good, even if they are not yours

7. Talk deep—get real. We are teenagers now, so it's time to stop the "Jesus Loves You" and "10 Commandments" stuff. Many of us are approaching college, where our faith will be tested. Avoiding the harder talks, the deeper stuff, is like sending us off to war without a gun. We may remember that Jesus loves us, but that will not do us any good after a professor tells us there is no God and we are not able to rebutt it. Help us. Train us. These discussions will most definitely strengthen our faith. It'll make us think about who God is and who we are as a Christian. Don't be afraid; just go for it. Equip the saints. That is your responsibility.

All living things grow and multiply. This includes your youth group. Growth is a sign of health. Healthy things grow and multiple. Unhealthy things shrink and die. Focus on making your youth group healthy and watch it grow. Focus on lights, camera, action ... it will grow for a season, but in time all unhealthy things shrink and die.

So, there you have it. I honestly think this will help get more youth to come and experience God's great love, which is mega awesome! But, you can't do this alone.

Like I've said, this is a team effort. So get as much help as you can. Pray for his guidance and strength when things aren't going the way you want, because that can and will happen.

Remember, God is the final way to make your youth group grow. Without Him, there's no point. Not to youth group, not to anything. He is the center and circumference.

Tiffany Sullivan is a middle-schooler who likes writing, acting, singing and writing blogs. Diagnosed with scoliosis in 2012, Tiffany loves Jesus and has made it her mission in life to witness to others and bring them into God's Kingdom. You can check out her blogs and videos at her website at


]]> (Tiffany Sullivan) Youth Tue, 17 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400
4 Issues on Which to Educate Your Leaders

As I continue to love on students and family through pastoral care, there are some things that I've had to become knowledgeable about. Because students and their families are dealing with these issues and in order for me to really care for them, I need to educate myself.

So, I thought I'd share few of the issues with you. I am by no means an expert in any of the issues I list. My goal has been to know enough to understand what it is I'm dealing with so that I can respond better.

1. Mental Illness. There is such a huge stigma when it comes to mental illness, because we automatically associate mental illness with a lack of smarts. Therefore, people are afraid or ashamed to talk about it. Well, I had to educate myself on the topic, so I could view and pray for my students struggling with mental illness in the right light.

Sometimes I think we can tack on things and misdiagnose students based on what we think we know about the student and what's really going on. I always push parents to seeing a professional, but that doesn't negate my responsibility to walk with the student and family through the process. The crazy part is that out of all the kids that are struggling, only 20 percent are being diagnosed and treated. It makes me want to know more, because I most likely have students and families who are dealing with it on their own.

2. Self Harm. The Huffington Post came out with an article not to long ago that said self harm was becoming mainstream thanks to the Internet. I've definitely had more conversations concerning this topic then I would like to in my own ministry. I had to become knowledgeable about it so that I could minister and care for our students who are struggling in this area. Because even though I send them to see a professional, they still need support as they go through this journey of healing. Again, I need to know what I'm dealing with because I want to be able to care and pray for my students very specifically. I created this for my leaders.

3. Suicide. It's the second leading cause of death for ages (10-24), and the third-leading cause of death for college-age and youth (12-18). There are 5,400 attempts a day by students in grades 7-12. What's interesting is that 4 out 5 teens who attempt suicide give warning signs. Which makes me want to know what to look for, and have some guidelines on how to respond.

4. Abuse. In youth group, a lot of things come out concerning students. I want my leaders to know what to do in case abuse is found out. Even more than that, I want them to know the signs to look for in students who they think may be being abused. There are mandated reports so it's crucial they understand they are bound by law to report abuse.

I think sometimes we shy away from these types of issues, because it's like opening Pandora's box. But in Matthew 9:12, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." Studying Jesus' ministry here on earth leads me to believe that He was all about blowing the door off of Pandora's box. He spent more time with those who struggled than any other people group during his time on earth.

I had to open my eyes to the fact that the majority of my students are probably struggling with something. And I can't be so occupied with doing ministry that I neglect those who are in need of being ministered to. I have to care about these students just as much as God does. They need community and people praying for them just like everyone else and maybe even more. Just a thought!

What are some other things we need to educate ourselves on so we can minister to our students and their families better?

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Aaron Crumbey/Saddleback Church) Youth Fri, 06 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400
5 Signs of an Excellent Youth Leader

As I travel down the youth ministry highway, I get the privilege of encountering a lot of excellent youth leaders along the way. As I speed along, it's hard not to notice the signs of youth leaders who are truly making a difference:

1. Yield. Excellent youth leaders are fully yielded to God in their own personal lives. For them, their personal consecration to God is their top priority. They take the challenge of Paul in Romans 6:13 personally: "Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness" (NIV).

Sure, these youth leaders are working hard to produce talks that are impacting, small groups that are effective and a youth ministry model that rocks. But their top priority is their own walk with God. These youth leaders know that they can only lead their students as deep as they are willing to go personally.

2. Detour. "Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means 'son of Timaeus'), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'

"Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'

"Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.'

"So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

"'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him.

"The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.'

"'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road" (Mark 10:46-52).

Jesus took detours from walking down the ministry road before Him to help those who needed it. Great youth leaders do the same. They keep their eyes and ears open to the silent cries of the hurting teenagers they encounter along the way. They make the time to love the unloveable and introduce them to the life-transforming power of Jesus.

3. One way. Youth leaders worth their salt teach an unpopular message in a culturally effective way. They preach Jesus as "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). This brand of youth leaders share an exclusive message (Jesus is the only way) in an inclusive way (all are welcome to believe in Him!).

This exclusive message is unpacked in Acts 4:12: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." The inclusive way is seen in Colossians 3:11: "Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."

Youth leaders lovingly, strategically and boldly preach faith in Jesus based on His death, burial and resurrection as the one and only way of salvation. But they do it in a way that welcomes all who accept Him through faith.

4. Rest stop. Excellent youth leaders make time to rest, relax and reset. During these seasons, they can have time to pray unhindered and seek the direction God wants them to go without a multitude of distractions vying for their attention.

Jesus took time to get away to pray. He took several "rest stops" on His ministry journey to get refueled by the Father. This is clearly demonstrated in Luke 5:16: "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."

When's the last time you took a DAWG Day (Day Alone With God) or just went on a prayer walk at a nearby park (leaving your cellphone in the car, of course), just to rest a bit in the loving arms of your heavenly Father? To be a youth leader who is effective, you need to be affected by the reenergizing power of your heavenly Daddy.

5. School zone. The youth leaders I know who are getting it done have a heart for the schools that their students attend. They know that this is the mission field that God has placed their students on and are relentlessly equipping them to be missionaries there.

Some youth leaders become assistant coaches, teacher's aides and tutors just to be in proximity with their students, all the while encouraging them to live out their faith and reach other students for Jesus. By the way, if you need some great resourcing in mobilizing your teenagers to reach their schools for Jesus, check out It has a ton of great tools (including many from Dare 2 Share).

These are five of the signs of excellent youth leaders. What are some other signs that should be added to the list, and why?

Greg Stier is the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Stier) Youth Wed, 28 May 2014 19:00:00 -0400
5 Traits Leaders Should Model for Students

I firmly believe that ultimately, as leaders, we lead by what we do whether we want to or not. We can be leading and speaking in one lane and living in another.

Little do we know that our students, over time, do more of what we do and less of what we say. So it’s important we continue to grow spiritually, following Christ as we lead others. It’s important that we are investing in areas of leadership that we would love to transfer on to our students and allowing those things to live out in our own lives first.

Then as we lead, teach and mentor, we will see those things lived out in the lives of our students. So here are a few things I want lived out in my life so they can be lived out in the lives of the students that God has trusted me with:

1. Perseverance. A lot of times God calls us to do things that challenge us to trust Him. He challenges us to say "I can" when we think we can’t. So we need to model perseverance in trusting God’s timing and calling instead of our own.

2. Humility. We need to remember that James 4:10 says if we humble ourselves, then God will exalt us. We also need to remember that Luke 14:11 says if we try and exalt ourselves, we will be humbled. Being humble is a state of being and not a position. Humility is not selling everything you own and living as a poor person. That is actually pride, because you are trying to buy humility by doing something. We need to model humility, which is simply knowing that God’s grace has you where you are and nothing else. We must live that out.

3. Character. Your character shapes the leader you become, so your students need to know that building godly character is mission critical. You lead out the character you’ve developed or the lack thereof. We need to model godly character.

4. Patience. Our students need to understand that patience is more then just waiting. Having patience helps you lead and make decisions with balance. Patience is really a lost art in our culture today. is the perfect example. It offers a button called “Buy Now With 1-Click.” Just click it right there on the same page and buy it.

They want to make sure you don’t have time to think if this is a smart choice. They want to help you buy on impulse versus your purchase being wisely thought out. The faster we can have it, do it, use it, own it, see it, take it and eat it, the better. Patience helps you lead and make decisions apart from your impulses. We need to model patience.

5. Compassion. One reason why compassion is important in leadership is because Jesus modeled it. Matthew 14:14 says, “When Jesus saw the crowd He was moved with compassion and healed those who were sick.” There are so many takeaways from this verse, but the one that sticks out the most is that compassion has the ability to move you into doing the unthinkable. It takes a courageous, bold person to be compassionate. I can just imagine Jesus freaking people out completely as He walked through the crowd, just healing people left and right. We need to model compassion.

We can teach these things a million different ways with great conviction, but the real question is, can we live these things out? It’s not enough to just teach.

So, what am I missing on this list? Which one is the hardest for you to live out?

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Aaron Crumbey) Youth Mon, 14 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
The 2 Questions Ministry Leaders Need to Ask Over and Over

If I ask you why you care for the students who are in your youth ministry, you will probably say something about helping them growing in their faith. I inquire, “OK, who do you want them to be?” You say something about them being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Yet if we are honest, when we take a step back and look at how we run our ministries, it is not always with the end result in mind. We plan a calendar, take trips, run small groups and do activities.

Some of us will say our focus needs to be on helping parents disciple their children; others say we need to build student leaders, do outreach, share the gospel or simply pour into our youth. However, I would contend there are two questions that should drive everything we do in our ministries:

1. When a student leaves us, what will they look like? I, of course, am not talking about their voice and body changing into an adult. Let’s say a family enters your church and has a baby. This baby grows up in the church through all the ministries and then graduates, leaves home and heads out into the “real world.”

Who is that young adult? Is he or she a fully devoted follower of Christ? What does that mean? Do they read their Bible every day, tell others about Christ, pray often and enter the mission field? How is everyone in your church working together to see this happen?

The time of the “silo” between nursery, children, youth and adults needs to be over. What are we doing to work together to grow our children? Let’s stop starting over every time our kids enter a new phase of life. Instead, let's see each of us as part of their journey into their lives as someone taking the world for Christ.

2. How does what we are doing influence who they are becoming? The second question has to do with our programming and approach. There was a time when I would say the main question we needed to ask before embarking on anything was, “How does this build a relationship?” That is still vital, and it’s a great filter. Yet still we have a tendency to make plans based on who is standing in front of us today, not in the future.

When we plan this way, we run everything we do through a sieve of purpose. It helps us know what not to take on and what might need readjusting. So you take students on a missions trip yearly. Why? How is this part of the journey in the Lord? What do you need to do to get them ready or to follow up with them afterwards? Are you teaching them about service and why that matters when they are 8 or 9 years old and again and again before the trip ever happens? This helps with equipping parents and growing the body of Christ as a whole.

These are not questions we can ask once, but often. I contend they should be asked anytime the church does anything. At least quarterly, sit down as a full staff and see how you are working together.

It doesn’t really matter if a student jumps in when they are 5 or 15 years old. When we do ministry this way, we are all about moving with Jesus all the time.

Are you asking these questions?

Leneita Fix is the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family-focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County in New Jersey and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Leneita Fix) Youth Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
4 Things Kids Hate About Your Teaching

I have been teaching and speaking for a couple decades now, and I am still growing. While I have not figured out how to give a perfect talk week after week, I do have a list of misses to avoid when teaching.

Here are four areas that might seem obvious but aren’t. We might get caught in the moment, rely too heavily on our skills or think we are doing a better job than we are. A sad truth is, students don’t often complain about these things—they just vote with their feet. How are you doing in these four areas?

4 Things Kids Hate About Your Teaching

1. Too long. Here’s one piece of teaching advice I received years ago: “Brandon, if you end early, it doesn’t matter how bad your message was, they will love you.” While I don’t think this is a teaching rule to live by, I understand what the person who told me this was trying to communicate:

  • I am trying to build trust with parents, and getting out 10 to 20 minutes late works against that.
  • I would rather have students get one or two points they understand than sit through a long talk and remember nothing.
  • Short attention spans. Enough said.
  • We are gathering to make Jesus known, not to show off amazing speaking skills.

Suggestion: Get an app like SpeakerClock or T-Zero. You could also have a clock visible to the speaker. I like having one of these in the celling.

2. Too boring. I am not one who pushes entertainment of edification, but let’s not use discipleship as an excuse to communicate without creativity. I have heard too many teachers say something to the effect of, “It is God’s Word; that should be enough.” I know God’s Word does not need my creative touch to be better at communicating its truth. Jesus was perfect and gave the best illustrations. That being said, I do not expect teens to love God’s Word as much as I do.

In a college class on teaching, we were discussing the “learning pyramid” and how lecture style was the least popular and least effective form of communication for learning and retention. A classmate abruptly said to the professor, “If it’s the least helpful, why is it the only way you teach?” The teacher responded, “This is not a class of practice. It is a class of delivering information.” (That professor is no longer there.)

Suggestion: If you have a hard time coming up with interesting stories and illustrations, get help. Read more books, blogs and news. Start collecting compelling stories in an app like Evernote, and tag each story. Try illustration books, videos and websites like these.

3. Too much rambling. Ever go off on a rabbit trail? You’re talking, and you feel like you are saying something, but you have left your message for another topic. Maybe you are just talking, and you don’t know why or what you are saying.

I often write out my talks. This does two main things: It keeps me focused (no rambling), and it helps with time. If I only say what is on my script, I am not going to turn a 30-minute message into a 50-minute talk.

Suggestion: I like writing my talk with MS Word on my Mac, saving it to Dropbox, and opening it on my iPad with iAnnotate. Play with the font size on your document before you send it to your iPad, as you want to be able to see it without squinting and losing your place. Be careful, though. The downside to a script is that you are tempted to read it. Know your message well enough that you are not tethered to your iPad and that you are not awkwardly reading it word for word.

4. Too unconnected. "What does this have to do with my life?" Here is a blurb from the article "The Problem With Youth Talks" by Rick Lawrence (read the whole post here):

“Learning loses its value the farther away it gets from practical life application. My least favorite (but often used) teaching strategy is when speakers pelt people with broad imperatives ('We all should be praying more') that are divorced from the practical 'hooks' that would help people take the first steps toward change and growth. You are the bridge between 'what/why' and 'how.'”

Whether our talks are applicable or not is determined by the people we’re leading, not by us. Lots of times we assume what we’re offering is applicable because it’s applicable to us. The question to ask is, "What’s applicable to the people I’m leading?”

Brandon Early has been serving in youth ministry for nearly 20 years and is the director of student ministries at Valley Church in Des Moines, Iowa.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brandon Early) Youth Thu, 13 Mar 2014 19:00:00 -0400
4 Questions Every Youth Minister Should Ask

Every Tuesday I eat lunch with our children’s ministry pastor, Steve Adams. I do it for three reasons: He’s a good friend, he's an extremely strategic thinker, and every youth pastor needs to be in cahoots with the children’s pastor.

Last week, while I chewed on a bunless chiliburger (yes, chili burgers are totally healthy if you exclude the bun), Steve shared four key questions he asks about his ministry on a regular basis. Pretty simple stuff, really, but I suddenly realized it had been a while since I asked these types of questions myself. And I think they are worth asking.

1. Why does our ministry exist? This probably isn’t one you need to ask over and over, but have you ever asked it? Knowing why your ministry exists helps determine just about every other decision you make.

2. Where are we headed? You may actually want to ask this question two different ways, one as an assessment (“Are we heading the right direction?") and one as a point of clarity (“Where are we headed? Here!”).

3. How are we going to get there? Once you know where things are headed, you need a strategic plan. Aiming for a target is good, but the target is impossible to hit without some arrows in your quiver. Going on a grand expedition is exciting, but it could be frustrating without a map!

4. Who can we bring along? Not “Who do we need to help us?” (which is a good question, but that’s a task question, not a leadership question). Instead ask “Who can we bring along who will learn from this, grow from this, and as a result help multiply our ministry and the kingdom?”

Steve keeps saying he’s gonna write a book about church/team leadership. I sure hope he does because it will be a good one! But until then, I’ll just keep stealing his thoughts and creating blog posts about them.

Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4 percent of his time.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Kurt Johnston/Saddelback Church) Youth Tue, 25 Feb 2014 17:00:00 -0500
How to Empower Student Volunteers

I recently wrote about the value of student volunteers and how we can create an environment that helps them stick. One post generated an excellent comment by Scott Kinney at Seacoast Church. This guy doesn’t blog (to my knowledge), but he should.

Here is Scott’s comment:

“We treat middle school and high school students as if they were adult volunteers. They go through the orientation process, shadow along side a current volunteer, then when they are ready, we give them their own small group or area of ministry to lead.

"We also have a program called Nerve2Serve here at Seacoast that teaches 3rd–5th graders the importance of serving in the church, in the community and in the world. I have seen over time that kids who start out fully committed to serving when they are in elementary school have turned into some of our best volunteers in high school.”

This single comment is chock full of great guidance for kids’ ministry leaders when it comes to empowering student volunteers.  

We can all agree that when students are challenged, they can rise to the occasion. So, how do we create an environment that challenges students?

Scott mentions three things that clearly communicate to student volunteers they have something to offer.

1. Orientation

Scott takes all his students through an orientation process just like adult volunteers go through. This is smart because it gives the student equal opportunity to hear the vision and direction of the ministry. Students have something to offer toward the vision. Inspiring them with the vision only helps them more.

2. Mentoring

Pairing student volunteers with qualified volunteers helps them learn the ropes and understand how to do their role. In our kids' ministry, our most successful students are the ones who work with great volunteers who give them meaningful tasks. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here.

However, I’m challenged by Scott’s comments to bring more students in as elementary small group leaders. If we do this, we have to have a better system for mentoring to ensure we don’t place the student in a no-win situation.

3. On-Ramp

I love Scott’s on-ramp to serving, Nerve2Serve. And I’m totally stealing it.

The idea of fostering an attitude that serving is an aspect of worship and is just as expected as attending a worship service or spending time in the Word? It’s just smart. This is going on my “must do” list for 2014. Thanks, Scott!

Here is where I want to foster growth in my student volunteer team in 2014:


What practical tools do student volunteers need? Because of their lack of experience, most student volunteers I know are not experts in managing a gaggle of kids. Some things are simply learned through parenting experience. And these guys aren't parents ... yet. So, what unique training opportunities (outside of mentoring) can I give them to help them learn these room-management skills?


I believe students should be equally involved in appreciation and training events alongside every other person that volunteers in kids’ ministry. However, I also think there is value in creating community within the group of students that serve. Does that mean hosting an annual event that appeals to our student volunteers? Possibly.

What about you? How do you empower student volunteers to serve in kids’ ministry? What on-ramps have you created to bring students onto your team?

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children’s ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Gina McClain) Youth Mon, 24 Feb 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Do Your Students Understand When You Talk About Jesus Stuff?

Last week I had a really interesting conversation with a group of freshmen. It all started with this question from one girl:

“So, in church, they’re always talking about asking Jesus into your heart. I’m not even sure I know what that really means.”

The rest of the group nodded in agreement. These were not “unchurched” students leading the discussion. Instead, they were youth who go to church regularly and even attend a Christian school. My first thought was who I could blame for their confusion.

Then I realized the issue was not if they were being told the story of Jesus, who He is or what salvation is all about. They knew the answers to these questions. It got me thinking about the deeper issue.

Have you ever used any of the following words in your talks or Bible studies? Temptation. Flesh. Righteousness. Justification. Sanctification. Identity. Fellowship. Witness. Testimony. Pride. Lust. Modesty.

The problem, of course, is that we have an entire language we speak in our Christiandom. We expect students who have never been to church to struggle to keep up. However, the ones who have grown up in Sunday School should know this stuff.

I would contend that we don’t often stop to explain what we mean when we are building the foundations of the faith. The same students who didn’t understand what “Jesus in their heart” meant could give me all the facts of how to come into a relationship with Christ.

They knew about the crucifixion and the resurrection and the implications of it all. Too often we can set it up so our students can memorize the words without really knowing the definitions. We think Bible stories are merely about the details of who, what, when and how. Even if we might give a description of the concept, are we pushing to help them know the application?

The older they get, the more they think they should know and the more embarrassed they become to admit they don’t. So they keep up appearances until one day the words crash into their doubts and we wonder why some (not all) are running from God.

This is not the first time I have had a conversation like this with students. It started years ago when I was passionately preaching about the need to put Jesus first in our lives. Instead of excitement, I got a bunch of blank stares when I made the statement, “We need to die to self.” I stopped and asked, “Who knows what that means?”

There was a lot of clamoring. A couple of people made the obligatory statement: “I know, but I just can’t explain it.” The reality was they had no clue. I found they had heard this idea often while no one had stopped to make sure they were getting it. I realized how often I need to take it one step further and ask:

“What does that mean to you, for you, and in your life?”

That was the day I adopted the above questions as a part of everything I do in all of our programming. Blank stares rarely are about boredom. More often than not they come from confusion. The issue isn’t in our language; it’s that we aren’t explaining it. The freshmen I spoke with understood the concept of salvation, but what it meant to belong to Jesus was something they had never taken the time to unpack completely.

I challenge you to dig this week with your own group. Ask them if there are some words or ideas in the church or in their faith that they are afraid to admit are baffling. Would you be willing to change the way you teach?

Do you think this is an issue or not?

Leneita Fix is an author and speaker and the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Leneita Fix) Youth Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:00:00 -0500