Youth Sat, 20 Sep 2014 09:59:13 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 4 Reasons to Not Give up on Youth Ministry

We live in a church culture where some quadrants are starting to second-guess the value of youth ministry. Books, articles and blogs have been written decrying its effectiveness and calling out for action steps that range from small tweaks to a complete trashing of it.

And, yes, if we're honest, we all know down deep inside that something is wrong. Teenagers are leaving the church before or after they graduate. As Mike Yaconelli, one of the founders of Youth Specialties, said back in the day, the typical youth group has fewer seniors than juniors, fewer juniors than sophomores and fewer sophomores than freshmen. In the 11 years since Mike went to be with Lord, teenagers have become even busier and more distracted by technology and less impressed with the fun and flash of typical youth-ministry programming.

Something needs to be done for sure. Systemic change needs to happen. But I want to challenge you to take giving up on youth ministry altogether off the table of options. Here are four reasons I'm not giving up on youth ministry:

1. It gives a safe place for broken teenagers to be healed. There are those who say that the primary responsibility of raising teenagers to become men and women of God lies with their parents. And they are correct. But the problem is that most of the young people in America today now come from broken homes. Many of the parents in these homes are either not spiritually mature believers (or not believers at all), and so they cannot take the lead when it comes to the spiritual development of their own children.

I was one of those kids. Raised in a broken home by a single mom in a tough urban neighborhood, I didn't have a mom who could pour into me spiritually...because she wasn't yet a believer herself.

But thank God for a church that took me in. It took hundreds of kids like me in. The youth leaders in this church loved us, taught us and did what many of our parents were spiritually incapable of—discipled us.

Of course believing parents need to take the lead when it comes to discipling their own children, but unbelieving parents are incapable of that. An effective youth group can be a powerful change agent in the life of a teenager in these situations.

2. It provides an opportunity for Titus 2 relationships to be built. Titus 2:3-8 tells us, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."

In the first-century Jewish culture many girls were married off in their teen years so this passage was a call for older women (who could be in their 20s or 30s) to disciple the younger women (teenagers.) This passage also assumes older men are pouring into younger women ("similarly, encourage the young men...") In other words this passage is a powerful indication that in the early church men poured spiritually into teenage boys, and women poured into teenage girls.

This is exactly what happens in the healthiest youth ministries I've witnessed. Lone Ranger-type youth ministries that hinge on the personality of a single youth leader eventually implode. But youth leaders who raise up men and women to disciple teenagers in and out of the youth ministry context tend to thrive. And, of course, these same youth leaders are equipping believing parents to be central to this discipleship process as well.

Yes, this can happen in churches that don't technically have youth groups but, in my opinion, it is far less likely. Youth ministry provides a powerful context for these relationships to be developed and nurtured.

3. It gives teenagers the chance to connect with a like-minded tribe for a common cause. Something wonderful, exciting and a little dangerous takes place when teenagers gather with other teenagers. Pent-up adrenaline, idealism and twitchiness swirl together to unleash a hurricane of good (or, in some cases, not-so-good). But if harnessed and focused, this powerful cocktail can change the world.

Mormons have perfected the art of harnessing teen angst and adrenaline to advance the message of Mormonism. As I type these words tens of thousands of young missionaries are going door-to-door around the globe spreading the works-based "gospel" of Mormonism to the world. Say what you will about Mormon theology, but the Mormon philosophy of bringing young people together for a cause that seems greater than themselves and focusing it to advance a message is powerful.

I believe that the youth group should be a gathering place for Christian teenagers to be inspired to share the true gospel with their peers. It should be the place where a local and global vision of making disciples who make disciples is cast and actuated. The healthiest youth ministries I have seen use their youth-group meeting as a recruiting ground for campus missionaries who go back to their public schools and share the message of Jesus with their peers.

The energy in these youth-group meetings is palpable because the youth groups are filled with unbeliever cynicism combined with new believer excitement. These youth groups feel a little dangerous because they are pulling the tail of the lion by ripping souls from the domain of the Devil. But this tension creates a dependence of Jesus that ultimately overwhelms everything and everyone.

When youth groups are the primary gathering place for like-minded teenagers to accomplish the ultimate cause great things happen.

4. It offers teenagers a place to openly explore the Christian faith. Let's be honest, it's tough in a church setting for a teenager to explore their faith. After all, the action is on the stage and there's not usually a question and answer time after the sermon (although maybe there should be!)

But the youth group setting is typically much more fluid and interactive. This can be a great place of teenagers (both believing and non-believing) to explore the Christian faith more deeply. Years ago Dare 2 Share did a reality series called Gospel Journey Maui where we brought together young people from various faiths (Buddhist, Mormon, Jewish, etc), put them on a plane to Maui and had a week's worth of spiritual discussions and activities that we put on film. Thousands of youth groups across the United States have used this to create spiritual discussions in the youth group context. More recently, Youth Alpha put together a film series to explore these key spiritual questions as well.

But, whether it's Gospel Journey Maui, Youth Alpha, another curriculum or just asking great questions that open up spiritual discussions the youth group setting can and should be a safe place for teenagers to explore the Christian faith.

These are four reasons I'm not giving up on youth ministry. They're not the only reasons but these are the strongest ones in my book. I believe the best days of youth ministry are ahead. Actually, I'm convinced that the more confusing the world gets, the more broken families become and the more deeply the gospel is embraced as the solution the more we will need youth groups to be the centrifuge of community wide transformation one teenager at a time.

Have you given up on your youth ministry? Why?

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 Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
The Secret Sauce: How You Can Be a Successful Youth Pastor

You could spend months debating the best strategy for your group.

But the truth is, it doesn't matter ... if you're not around long enough to make it happen.

Culture change and systematic growth are things that take years, not months.

Does that mean that the secret sauce of youth ministry success is just hanging around for a while?


There is fruit to be gained from longevity, if you stick around long enough to pick it.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the length of time it takes to become really successful at something. His answer?

Ten thousand hours.

It sounds like a lot of time, but 10,000 hours is actually represented by just five years of full-time employment.

On average, a youth worker lasts about four years. Does that mean that too many of us are getting out of ministry just before we make it over that tipping point?

It's possible.

One lesson from Moses is this: Sometimes the only way to get across the desert is to keep walking.

It takes time—a lot of time—to truly understand and become a part of the larger community that surrounds your congregation.

It takes a long time to change the culture of your volunteers, students and especially parents.

It takes a very long time to raise up an immature bunch of sixth-graders into excellent upperclassmen and phenomenal leaders.

More than that, sometimes sticking around through tough times is just faithfulness to God for placing you in that position in the first place. Generally, I've found that this kind of faithfulness is rewarded.

Bottom line: The length of time you invest into your ministry might be more important than the strategies you choose to invest your time in. If you're looking for overnight success, you're not going to find it.

But ... burnout is the enemy of longevity.

This is the reason I study burnout and why I write the kinds of things that are designed to help you stay in ministry forever.

Jesus was in public ministry for three-and-a-half years. But for many of us, we pack up sometime before year two, frustrated with the lack of results we've seen. We begin by wanting to change the world and leave upset that it didn't happen as quickly as we would have liked.

That's why it's massively important to protect yourself, your family and your passion for ministry.

Because here's the thing: The greatest fruits of our labors are waiting for us just beyond the point when so many of us give up looking for it.

My prayer for you is this: Continue in the ministry to which you've been called. Seek Christ as the source of strength for your efforts. Then continue on again. Amen. 

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth-worker burnout. He writes at Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations—things like leading volunteers, managing money, and communicating effectively. He is the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Aaron Helman) Youth Tue, 02 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
6 Valuable Lessons for Youth Pastors

Being in youth ministry, I've had the privilege of learning a lot. And, I can honestly say out of all the things I've learned, there are some lessons that I feel will never cease to teach me.

When I started this list, I easily thought this could be a 10,000-word post, but no one would read a post that long. So, here are a few of the things I've learned that I think are valuable. I believe allowing God to grow me in these areas has made me a better youth worker.

Here are six lessons that I've learned. I believe others could learn from them as well:

1. Be flexible. Majority of our day-to-day tasks in youth ministry are very random. It isn't uncommon for my day to go from a brainstorming meeting, to a counseling session and then a hospital visit. Flexibility is one of the main ingredients to longevity in youth ministry, and it actually relieves the stress of ministry. Those who are a step-by-step, can't-miss-a-beat type of person usually don't last long in youth ministry. So be flexible.

2. Go the extra mile. Make things the best that they can be. Consider the task you are assigned as the bottom floor. When given a task or project, look for ways to save time and money. Sometimes that means making sure you don't have to make another trip somewhere or completing the whole task instead of just the part you where assigned.

3. Attitude is everything. It is super easy to get caught up in the craziness of ministry especially when you are seeing the less attractive side of ministry for the first time. It's important that you keep an attitude of thankfulness. This will require you to look past the craziness of seeing the not-so-attractive side of ministry, and focus on the life change that's taking place. Also, now that you are on the other side, you need to be aware of an attitude of pride and arrogance. It's impossible to know and learn everything there is to know about the ministry during your time there. Keep a learners attitude of humility.

4. It's not about you; it's about the students. This has everything to do with leading from a place of comfort. Serving students from a place of comfort ensures the inclusion of a few and exclusion of many. This is because you will most likely pour into, hang with, and allow to lead the students with whom you connect best. The ministry will be all about you, and most likely you will end up with a ministry where everyone looks out for themselves, if it's modeled in the leadership.

5. You are a leader first. Remember you are a leader first, and the authority you have to speak into their lives is only as strong as your leadership. Your friendship with students is important, but your role as a leader is more important.

6. Time with Jesus is imperative. Just because you work in ministry doesn't mean you are automatically being ministered to. You need to be just as active in the local church as the members. You should be serving in some capacity, attending Bible study or small group, etc. It is critical that you are spiritually filled. Your time with Jesus will be something you will have to protect.

It is so important that you continue to stay open to a lifetime of learning and growing in ministry. I think ministering in a way that pleases God takes a complete entire life span. So, keep learning and growing.

Hope this helps.

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 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Teen: Pastors, Spread This Advice to Parents

Every youth pastor out there has young people in their youth group. Hence the name "youth group." And those youth have parents.

This article is an open letter to them, the parents of youth, from a teen. It is your responsibility as youth pastors to forward this message.

Dear parents of teens:

We follow your lead. What I have to say may hurt, but I'm saying it out of love. Please hear me, despite my age, and take it to heart. The life direction of your teen depends on it.

Do you know more about pop culture or about God? Pop culture is not pro-God. It's more anti-God. Does it rule your teen's life? Does it rule your life? Do you know more about pop culture than you do about the Bible?

If you do, then why are you surprised that we are following your lead? Pop culture influences us. It does. Maybe that isn't a big deal to you. If it isn't, then you have a bigger problem than your teen does. We follow your lead.

Actions speak louder than words. You say you read your Bible every day, but is that true? Maybe you don't say it because you never do. If God is only spoken of on Sundays, then we will treat God as a Sunday-Only-God. He will not have an impact in our daily life at all. Why? It's because we followed your lead.

Spend time with us. You could teach us so much about God's Word, assuming you talk about God outside of Sundays. Time together is more important than buying us stuff. That's not the way to build a relationship. Talk with us about God and our relationship with Him. It's the commonplace talks about God with you that make a bigger impact on us then anything. It teaches us that God is more than just a Sunday thing.

Limit technology time. This one hurts me to say, but do it anyway. Limit things like our iPhone, computer and TV. Being a teen myself, I get annoyed by this rule at our house, and your teen will be too. But, trust me, I find stuff to do. I write a blog and create videos to help influence others. It gets me doing constructive stuff, which actually matters. Not just playing on Instagram and Tumblr for hours at a time. Help us be more constructive. Set some time-limit rules and actually enforce them. Good things come from it.

Make us read. Encourage us to read the Bible and try devotionals. But let me warn you, if you don't do that, then don't expect us to either. We follow your lead. And along with that, ask them to read other books. Personally, I love to read, but other teens aren't so excited about it. Show them how much better it is than gossip magazines. Show them the classics or, at least, The Maze Runner Series (which actually asks the question. Do the ends justify the means?). 

Make us learn Bible verses. You make us learn math, why not God's Word? This is one reason I think Awana programs are so great. Whenever we're in a tough spot, these verses will come to mind and help us remember what the Bible has to say about the situation. Hopefully, we'll really think about the verse's meaning. Remember this, garbage in—garbage out. God in—God out. This also goes back to point No. 1.

Talk with God every day. He wants to hear from you. It's not worthless, maybe you'll learn something, and we will do the same. As I said in point No. 2, we teens mirror our parents all the time. Monkey see, monkey do. Encourage prayer (at meals, at night and morning ...) and buy some teen devotionals at stores like LifeWay, which will help with point No. 5.

This is not the youth pastor's job. Sure he shares some good advice with your teens, but YOU have to make this last. Encourage us; help us grow. The youth pastor is not the coach. He is on your team. You are the coach, and you will be held accountable—not the youth pastor. Teamwork is key. But don't blame the youth pastor when we only follow your lead.

So, there you have it! Try these out, and I promise you'll see a difference. Now, we are growing up and getting ready to start a new chapter in our lives (as much as you moms hate to admit), we're becoming adults. So start early. Because one day we'll have to make our own decisions, choose our own paths. Your job is to steer us in the right direction for when that time comes.

My biggest advice for you as parents is: Get spiritually healthy first, because when you are spiritually healthy, then you do the right things. And we follow your lead.

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

For the original article, visit

]]> (Tiffany Sullivan) Youth Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
5 Ways to Keep Pastors’ Kids in the Church

Being a pastor, I have such a passion for pastors' kids. It's such a unique way to grow up—complete with unique pressures, unique benefits and unique challenges. Just like most things in life, it can either be a wonderful way to grow up, or a terrible way to grow up, and I'm pushing for the wonderful.

It is my goal to see every single PK (pastor's kid) in heaven, and it breaks my heart how many end up leaving the church.

Being a pastor and having kids, I've learned some tricks along the way for how to take care of my own children, and the other PKs in our church. And I'm excited to be able to share them with you today.

Here are some practical ways to care for the PKs in your church (whether they're your own or another pastor's):

1. Give them something to look forward to. This is something I try to do once a quarter. It doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant. Believe me, my kids don't expect a cruise to Hawaii four times a year. But it's a little something to keep them going when life feels tough. I think we all could use a little more of this.

Some things that have worked in our family are visits to grandma and grandpa's house, or a surprise trip to Chuck E Cheese. Every now and then it's something extravagant, like the trip of a lifetime to Dubai. But whatever it is, we love to give our kids something to look forward to.

2. Never talk about the ugly side of ministry in front of them. Just like any other job, ministry can be hard. There are interpersonal conflicts, just like any other field or relationship, and it is not always fun. As adults, we understand this. Even the children's pastor isn't perfect all the time. We're human, we're flawed, and so is our church. We understand that.

But for kids, that concept is harder to understand. The kids don't need to know when we have a disagreement with someone they look up to. They don't need to hear the details of budget cuts or someone getting let go. They don't have the perspective or understanding to process big changes or disagreements, especially when they involve people they love.

We don't vent with our kids, and we keep complaining around them to a minimum. Instead we celebrate wins and share hard times with them strategically and carefully. We try to remember how much our words about the church, and the things they see when we're not being careful, affect their understanding of God and the place where His people gather.

3. Never pressure them into ministry. When you love something, it's tempting to want your kids to love it too. But if you have ever been pressured into something, you know how much joy is zapped from something when you didn't choose it yourself.

Instead of pressuring our kids into ministry, we try to encourage them to find their own gifts and callings. We want them to do what they're passionate about, what God uniquely called them to do—not just follow in our footsteps.

4. Help them dream big. Each quarter, we have a dinner with all the pastors, their spouses, and every PK is invited. I started a tradition where, during that dinner, I give each PK a coin from somewhere I've been around the world. They think it's so cool!

I do it because I want to open up conversations about what exists beyond our country. I want them to start dreaming of the places they could go, of the countries God could call them to.

5. Show them they're valued. As a kid, especially the kid of a pastor, it's easy to feel like you don't matter. It's easy to feel like you're in the way, or shoved to the side, or just there because your parents were invited.

I try to get to know our PKs individually and to make each one of them feel special.

For every one of their birthdays, I write them a handwritten card that includes a gift card to Target. They can take that gift card and pick out their very own toy. I want them to know their birthday matters to me, and that I notice them. I want them to feel like an important member of our church body. Because they are!

Growing up as a pastor's kid isn't easy. It's full of unique challenges and struggles those kids didn't choose for themselves. With so many pastors' kids leaving the church as they grow older, it's so important that we take the time to see them and minister to them directly.

How can you serve your church's PKs this week?

Rob Ketterling is the lead pastor of River Valley Church, an ARC church based out of Minnesota's Twin Cities south metro area.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rob Ketterling) Youth Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
How Are You Engaging Parents in Your Youth Ministry?

The "nontraditional family" has become the "traditional" family. The U.S. census indicates that more than 3 million grandparents in the United States are raising their grandchildren.

I have found on some websites discussing the issue of "fatherlessness" that one in three children is born to a never-married parent. We are encountering parents who are aunts, uncles, friends, fostering or "house parents" in a group home. It's easy to get so focused on who the parent is not that I forget to see who the parent is.

When engaging parents, I was blaming "them" when the true issue was in my own attitude. It begins with respect and honor. When Jesus looks at us, 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. I had to shift the way I saw the home and embrace the fact that Christ wants every parent to be His.

Practically speaking, I had to figure out ways to engage the parent:

Sign 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 information. Also ask for the names of any other adults living in the home and their relationship to the student and the parent/guardian. (e.g., "stepfather" may actually be 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.

Do you even know them?

Do you show parents the regard they deserve? Not based on whether or not you think they are doing a "good job," instead knowing a student spends most of their time under the headship of their home. Help parents see themselves as who God means them to be.

Do you make sure to reach out and say hi? Have you walked to the door and introduced yourself? If you pick their child up, do you beep the horn and wait for the student? Or do you walk to the door and say a simple hello?

Try this "trick": Between you and your team, split up the list of your students. Once a month call home. Have a two- or three-minute conversation with the parent. Tell them why you love their kid. You have no idea how much this will get you "in."

Ask what they want

We create programs and agendas for parents based on an assessment of what we think they want (or decide they need). Often we are surprised when it isn't what they are looking for. Try brainstorming with parents about some things that will help them grow as a parent. Then offer ONE thing they asked for. Don't be upset at the "numbers" that show up. Just wait. You have listened, and it will go far.

Start at the beginning with parents, and don't be afraid to ask for more information. You may be shocked at how far this takes you.

What are you doing to connect with parents?

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, 07 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
5 Traits of Super Effective Youth Leaders

I recently had the privilege of spending a week with 50 amazing youth leaders from across the nation and their top student-ministry leaders. Lead THE Cause University is a week-long intensive that equips good leaders to become great leaders who make and multiply disciples.

Over this week of intensive training and interaction, I witnessed five marks that identified these youth leaders as outstanding. These are what make a youth leader super effective when it comes to advancing God's Kingdom in and through their sphere of influence.

1. Super-effective youth leaders lead with prayer. I've seen it again and again and again. The youth leaders who make the biggest impact on Earth relentlessly aim their prayers toward heaven. As a result God gives them the wisdom they need to keep moving forward step by step with the Spirit toward building a truly effective youth ministry.

This was obvious last week at LTCU. The youth leaders who are seeing the most progress, both in discipleship and evangelism, are the most persistent in prayer. Maybe that's why Paul told Timothy, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. ..." (1 Tim. 2:1). When we pray first and program second, what we program is the right stuff, delivered in the right way resulting in the right impact.

2. Super-effective youth leaders set goals. Before  youth leaders and their students can graduate from Lead THE Cause University, they have to set and write a GREAT goal and a strategic plan to accomplish it. One of the highlights for me this last week was watching youth leaders labor over these goals that centered around their students' advancing the gospel in their circles of influence. Again and again I witnessed that the top youth leaders have very audacious, very specific and very inspiring goals that fit their youth ministry context and drive their youth ministry efforts.

3. Super-effective youth leaders are super relational. Ain't no doubt about it: The best youth leaders are really good at relationships both with their adult volunteers and their teenagers. At the core of it, these youth leaders really like being around teenagers. Instead of draining them, it energizes them. Now don't misunderstand. This brand of relational youth leader is more of a great coach than just a great friend to the teenagers under their care. But this kind of coaching relationship runs deep and strong between student and leader because the youth leader is willing to do what it takes to help these students win in life. As a result these teenagers play hard for their coaches and are willing to do amazing things because of their investment in them.

4. Super-effective youth leaders merge evangelism and discipleship. Vibrant, healthy youth groups are led by leaders who refuse to segregate evangelism and discipleship. Instead they look at getting teenagers to share their faith as a kickstarter to discipleship and evangelism as a natural outflow of discipleship. They put teenagers in the "spin cycle" between D and E and are talking about both all the time. The result is that these teenagers are living out their faith publicly and passionately. These teenagers become much hungrier to pray, worship, dive into the Word, and listen closely when the youth leader teaches because of the risks and rewards of engaging their circles of influence with the good news of Jesus.

5. Super-effective youth leaders lead from the front. Part of the week-long experience at LTCU was taking teenagers out to the streets to put into practice what they've learned in evangelism. This can be an intimidating time, but we've witnessed firsthand that the youth leaders who lead best set the pace when it comes to evangelism. They lead the way by example. Sometimes these youth leaders do not consider themselves to have the "gift of evangelism," but they all know they have the mandate to evangelize (Matt. 28:18-20), and they take it seriously.

But it's not just in evangelism. They lead from the front in prayer, worship, studying the Scripture, feeding the poor, and helping the helpless. They set the pace for their teens, and the teenagers follow their youth leaders as they follow Jesus. As the ultimate "youth leader" said Himself, "The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher."

There are other identifying marks that great youth leaders exemplify (adaptability, faithfulness, humility, etc.), but these five markers stood out the most to me. From your experience, what are some other marks of super-effective youth leaders?

For the original article, visit

Greg Stier is a husband, father, preacher, 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

]]> (Greg Stier) Youth Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Ed Stetzer: Connecting Students to God’s Mission

When we begin talking about mission, many people think of mission trips. That's not a bad thing. One of my most formative experiences was a youth mission trip among the poor in Prestonburg, Kentucky.

Mission trips can be helpful to us in considering the mission of God and potentially can lead students to think more deeply about their roles in the mission. However, mission (not plural) is bigger than trips, but not so big that students cannot understand it or be involved. If students can learn algebra at school, they can learn theology at church. If they are learning theology but not putting it into practice, we are failing them. Maybe we haven't challenged our students enough in terms of missional living.

Mission (not plural) is bigger than trips.

To help them understand mission and put it into practice, we need to consider what the mission is, how we might point students toward it, how they can begin being involved right now, and how we can prepare them for an entire life on mission.

What Is Mission?

Definitions matter when we talk about mission (I'll have a more extensive blog post on this subject on Monday). If we want students to be involved in something, we have to know what mission actually is.

God is a missionary God. As believers, we need to understand what God desires and what He is doing for His purposes in the world. Then we see how Jesus engaged in and called us to that mission—and we join Jesus in His mission. The obvious question is: How can we engage students in the privilege of joining Him in that mission? First, we have to help them see the two aspects of it.

God is a missionary God.

The mission includes gospel proclamation—sharing the good news of the gospel through many means, including cross-cultural missionaries, outreach campaigns, church evangelism, student events, one-on-one gospel sharing, and many other possibilities. It also includes gospel demonstration, where we demonstrate the implications of the gospel lived out in our lives by caring for the poor, the hurting, the marginalized and more.

As Christians, we are sent out with these two facets of mission because that is how the Father sent Jesus (John 20:21). More than 40 times, Jesus indicated the Father had sent Him. Then near the end of the Gospel of John, at the culmination of Jesus' earthly ministry, He says, "Oh, that stuff I've been talking about how I've been sent? Now I'm sending you" (my paraphrase).

So, How Was Jesus Sent?

Two passages in Luke may help us from the two big categories of how we are sent by Jesus into the world. Now certainly these are not the only categories, but they can help us better understand all the others.

Jesus Came to Serve the Hurting

In Luke 4, Jesus announces and inaugurates His public ministry by saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." In this, He identifies His mission with the Old Testament reference to the great and wonderful day of the Lord, particularly contained in the Book of Isaiah.

Jesus came to bring freedom for captives, sight to the blind and minister to the hurting. Simply put, Jesus came serving. If we're going to join Jesus on His mission, as John 20:21 tells us, we are going to serve the hurting.

Jesus Came to Save the Lost

Yet Luke 4 is not the only (or primary) place Jesus articulated His ministry. In Luke 19:10, Jesus clearly said He came to share the good news. He said, "I have come to seek and save the lost." Jesus came serving, but He also came saving.

This means much more than simply praying a prayer and being saved. Yet the promise that Paul later would write in the Book of Romans, "Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (v. 10:13), reminds us that, before Christ, men and women are dead in their trespasses and sins, but having heard the good news of the gospel, they can by grace and through faith receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus came bringing that message, that saving message, to a lost and hurting world.

Perhaps the easiest way to sum it up is this: Our mission is Jesus' mission. We join Jesus on His mission—what He modeled and what He sent us to do—in our case, showing and sharing the love of Jesus. How do we get students involved in that?

Later this week, we'll look at how this practically applies to how we lead students in living on mission.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stezer) Youth Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
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