Youth Fri, 09 Oct 2015 17:46:51 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 5 Steps to Crafting a Bold Youth Ministry Vision

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Before Jesus ascended into the deep blue Judean sky, He gave his final instructions to his young followers. He told them to carry out his bold vision by taking his even bolder message to the ends of the earth.

He even gave them a built-in strategy to do just that: Start in Jerusalem (where they were at) and spread outward until everyone everywhere has an opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the gospel.

The baton of fulfilling that bold vision has been passed down from one generation of believers to the next to the next. Now it is firmly in our hands ... or should be anyway.

How bold is your youth ministry vision? Do you have one?

Yes, yes, I know your vision includes your teenagers being discipled. But if you engage them on the mission given to us by Jesus, they can't help but turn into fully devoted followers of Jesus. Why? Because, unlike Bible studies and discipleship meetings, evangelism forces teenagers to put skin in the game. It allows them to risk their social equity—their street cred, so to speak—for the sake of the gospel.

So, with this as a backdrop, how do you craft a bold vision for your youth ministry?

1. Spend time praying for wisdom before you craft it. James 1:5 gives us one of those promises we can claim without hesitation in the planning process: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without criticism, and it will be given to him." 

Before you run to the whiteboard to write out your rough draft, go to the prayer closet and pray. Every powerful second spent on the front end of the planning process in prayer will yield unimaginable dividends to a bold vision that is tight and right for your youth ministry context.

2. Include all three target areas. The disciples' bold vision started where they were (Jerusalem) and spread slowly outward (ends of the earth). In between, there was the tough part of town (Samaria). And Jesus wanted His disicples to saturate all three target areas with the gospel.

I'll label it "across the street" (Jerusalem), "across the tracks" (Samaria) and "across the world" (ends of the earth). Each youth ministry needs a bold vision that has a local impact, a social impact and a global impact. Of course, you probably already have some sort of vision for across the street, but what about across the tracks?

A church in the suburbs impacted my gritty family for Jesus by reaching into the city and investing in our lives. Because their vision spilled over the boundary lines of where their mostly middle- to upper-middle-class congregation lived, many of the teenagers who came to our youth ministry came from the tougher parts of town.

And what about global missions? Are you consistently seeking to give your teenagers a vision of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth? This is more than just doing a service project in a third-world country. This means that whatever we have them do (build a house, install a well, feed the poor), they are doing what no government program could ever do ... and that is bring the message of hope to those our teenagers are serving. We need to "gospelize" our mission trips and make sure our vision for the world goes beyond meeting mere temporal needs.

Jesus gave His disciples a bold vision that entailed the local, the gritty and the globe. Our bold vision should encompass the same.

3. Clearly identify your "Jerusalem." At Dare 2 Share, we challenge youth leaders to define their own version of Jerusalem (we call it their "Cause Turf") by identifying the streets to the north, south, east and west of their church (and the schools within this area) that God has helped them see as their primary Cause Turf. This area of geography becomes their piece of the pie, their battle field and their playground. It is within these four streets that most of their local ministry outreach and disciple multiplication efforts will go.

4Make sure it's measurable in some way. My church recently made a goal to add 650 baptized new believers into the congregation over the next five years. I love it because it's measurable and it focuses on the church growing with disciples being made and multiplied, not just because more believers are moving into the neighborhood or coming from another church.

It's no different in a youth ministry context. We need some way to track the right kind of progress toward our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal.)

5.  Organize your entire ministry to accomplish your bold vision. Once you identify your vision, start organizing to accomplish it. Choose and train adult leaders who are modeling what you want your teenagers to become like when it comes to outreach and disciple multiplication. Choose student leaders who don't just set up folding chairs for the youth group meeting, but fill them with the friends they are seeking to reach for Jesus.

I'd love to hear your Bold Vision for your youth ministry. Put it in the comments section below and share your vision with other youth leaders! {eoa}

Greg Stier is the president and founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which is mobilizing teenagers across America to share their faith. Visit Greg at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Stier ) Youth Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:00:00 -0400
20 Interesting Facts About Today's Kids Youth Volunteers Need to Know

 Look into the lives of today's kids and you'll see interesting facts that are a reflection of their native culture. Here are 20 of them:

1. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.

2. They have never licked a postage stamp.

3. Email is "formal" communication, while texts and tweets are "casual" communication.

4. They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.

5. The announcement of someone being the "first woman" to hold a position has only impressed their parents.

6. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don't know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.

7. Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.

8. If you say "around the turn of the century," they may well ask you, "which one?"

9. They have avidly joined Harry Potter as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.

10. The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.

11. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.

12. Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.

13. Playhouse Disney was a place where they could play growing up.

14. Surgeons have always used "super glue" in the operating room.

15. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.

16. First Responders have always been heroes.

17. CNN has always been available en Español.

18. TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.

19. Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been Men in Black, not their next-door neighbors.

20. Amoco gas stations have steadily vanished from the American highway.

This list came from Beloit College. 

Dale Hudson has been in Children's Ministry for over 25 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 22,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a Children's Ministry staff team of over 50 and a volunteer team of over 2,600.

]]> (Dale Hudson) Youth Thu, 27 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
6 Ways Millennials Are Educating Their Church Theologically

Over the past few decades, the seeker-sensitive movement—and before that the church growth movement—taught us much about the importance of contextualization in the church.

The strengths of these movements included a relentless evangelistic focus and a willingness to question status quo methodology and some extra-biblical traditions. On the other hand, their weaknesses were exposed as well. There was a tendency by some to downplay the importance of biblical truths and theological education. The practical sometimes overshadowed the theological.

In recent years, however, I have noticed a remarkable—and welcomed—return by younger leaders to the fundamentals of the faith, basic theological education, and the deepening of doctrinal roots.

Recently I sat down and studied these trends and identified six ways millennial leaders in the church are increasing the importance and effectiveness of theological education in the local church:

1. Emphasizing the big story of the Bible. Millennial leaders understand the need for Christians to be grounded in the grand narrative of Scripture, and the resources they use range from chronological Bible reading plans to theologically robust kids' Bibles. The overwhelming success of The Gospel Project (video below), a curriculum that uses the storyline of Scripture to teach essential doctrines, shows that church leaders today see the need for theological education and are acting accordingly.

2. Utilizing a catechism-like resource with their kids. In the previous point I mentioned theologically rich children's Bibles, but it doesn't just stop there. Millennial parents are using other resources and even smartphone apps to teach theological concepts and lessons to their children at home. While they aren't typically formal catechisms, they emphasize building a foundation of correct answers to Biblical questions. The Big Picture question and answer section in The Gospel Project for Kids curriculum is just one example of a resource for this practice.

3. Study groups working through systematic theology. I know of several churches that have weekly study groups who cover basic systematic theology. This is not just donuts and devotions. These groups intensely study Scripture and theology and in many cases have seen an increase in theological education and evangelistic fervor.

4. A return to theological hymnody and songs. We've had Keith Getty on the podcast to discuss hymnody and trends in the worship services, but again, it doesn't stop there. Many Millennial parents are using time in the car with their children to reinforce biblical truth through song. Several musicians have responded to this trend with albums full of songs with lyrics made entirely of Scripture.

5. Recommended reading on church websites. Many churches no longer have an official library on their campus, but church leaders are still recommending books. Many church websites now include a "recommended reading" section that features a mix of devotional classics, theological books, and the resources that have been most helpful to the pastor and staff.

6. Church membership classes. This should not be a surprise to regular readers of this blog. As I've stated several times on the blog and in the podcast, the two main things you should communicate in church membership classes are information and expectations. And both of those must be firmly built on a biblical foundation of good theology.

There are surely other ways that churches are educating members with theological truths. I'd love to hear from you about ways in which you are doing this at your church. Please share them in the comment section below.

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer ) Youth Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Youth Pastor Equips Students for Revival

Real. Bold. Raw.

Youth pastor Tom Breckwoldt isn't so much about growing his teen gatherings as he is about presenting the gospel to young people.

"It's not about come and see; it's about go and tell," Breckwoldt says, and that's his whole philosophy in evangelizing teens, choosing to equip them to disciple their peers rather than handling the ministry alone.

His youth group—SWAG (Student Warriors Awakening Generation), part of Lake Mary Church in Lake Mary, Florida, which was started as an Every Nation church plant at a local high school—is igniting revival among campuses in Central Florida. Every Nation establishes churches and campus ministries worldwide.

"If you look at a herd of rhinoceroses, they're called a crash," he jokes, "and if you look at why they're called a crash, they can run 30 miles per hour and they can only see 30 feet in front of them. So I look at us like we're kind of like a herd of rhinos. ... We just go, and God just goes nuts through it!"

In nearly two years of activity, Breckwoldt has seen his students experience radical conversions and spread the love of Jesus to their families, adding their parents as disciples rather than the other way around. The radical conversions are similar to Breckwoldt's own story.

Saved only three years, Breckwoldt left a lucrative career in the fitness industry after a prophetic word to go into full-time ministry.

Lake Mary Church Pastor Shaddy Soliman, who led Breckwoldt to God and discipled him in the Word, encouraged Breckwoldt's evangelistic gifts by sending him out into campus ministry. Breckwoldt eventually took over the church's youth group.

When Breckwoldt took over, he said God told him how his story would change the face of the church by the way of the students. 

"He said, 'Tom, the way I'm using you to transform these kids, I'm going to use these kids to transform these parents.'"

There was a point when the parents of 80 percent of the students in the youth group didn't go to church, Breckwoldt says. "Through the student, God is using the heart to change the dynamic of the family, which is really unheard of."

In one year of operation, Breckwoldt went from ministering on one campus to five and ministering to more than 200 students weekly. He's seen more than 200 salvations in a local detention center and oversees 30-50 student one-on-one discipleships.

He's driven by a vision that came out of a fast earlier this year. In the vision, God showed Breckwoldt the book of Nehemiah and of walls being torn down and rebuilt.

"God just said, 'Tom, My walls have been torn down on the campuses, and I'm calling you to go back and rebuild them.' ... Everywhere I saw Jerusalem in the story, I saw campuses, and Nehemiah was just bold ... and God sent His army with him."

Now God's army is going with Breckwoldt's students. These are students who weren't just on the fence about Jesus—many were avowed atheists or even convicts in a detention center. But Breckwoldt and his students were unafraid of sharing the raw reality of the gospel, not by "Christianese" language typical in evangelism. As a result, the Holy Spirit caught fire in their lives.

"I just want to watch students go and spread it everywhere," Breckwoldt says. "Just wait a couple years from now. There's a revival breaking out on these campuses, and we're going to see it."

The ones often leading the charge are often the newer Christians, those who are totally open to going out and doing what God has called them to do.

Breckwoldt's model is to follow the Spirit and disciple.

All of the church's SWAG small groups are led by students, he says, because it's not about being perfect; it's about being willing.

"The Spirit of God, the way [He] moves through this ministry, it blows my mind," Breckwoldt says, "for Him to take such ordinary people."

Jessilyn Justice is an assistant news editor for Charisma Media.

]]> (Jessilyn Justice) Youth Wed, 01 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
11 Signs Your Church Youth Group Is Really Bad For Your Teenager

I write this in the context of having been a pastor for more then three decades as well as ministering in hundreds of local congregations. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly regarding youth groups.

I learned a long time ago that just because your local church has a youth group, it is not always in the best interest of parents to encourage their children to attend it. Also, in the case of functional Christian families, the parents have the primary responsibility of training their children—not the church youth group. (In cases where kids come in without Christian families behind them, then the church has to attempt to disciple them without parental aid, which is extremely difficult). That being said, whether your child comes from a strong Christian family or not, a youth group can be a blessing or curse.

The following are the signs a youth group is bad for your child to attend:

1. The youth pastor has no biblical depth and a shallow walk. I have seen the disastrous effects when the youth pastor merely "shares" the word but has no unction or depth in the word. The result is shallow instruction which does not provoke the young attendees to hunger and grow in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18). Furthermore, if the youth pastor is not grounded in the faith, you cannot trust them. In one instance I heard of, a youth pastor was caught kissing a young girl during a youth retreat. It is a mistake for a person to be appointed as the youth pastor merely because they have charisma and a good personality.

2. There are no guidelines or accountability regarding dating. There needs to be consistent monitoring and teaching on dating and proper male /female relationships. This is because the hormone levels of teens are at their peak during this time in their life and they can easily fall into sexual sin. When the biblical view of dating and courtship is not taught, sexual sin will abound because this is usually the end result of dating.

3. There are no standards based on biblical ethics and holiness. A youth group needs to have consistent preaching on holiness, repentance and standards of ethics. Without this there is a vacuum and the youth will adapt the ethics of the surrounding culture. I have heard of many churches closing down their youth groups because they became a haven for sex and drugs. This is what will happen without consistent powerful preaching on holiness. Grace without truth is a recipe for disaster.

4. The goal is a crowd without biblical discipleship. Many youth groups merely exist to fill up their sanctuary. Hence, the result is they develop a culture of entertainment. Every youth group should have a goal to draw young people in so they can disciple and ground them deeply in the faith. Crowds without quality is building a youth group on wood, hay and stubble (1 Corinthians 3:12).

5. The youth staff has no instruction or integration from the eldership and or lead pastor. Unfortunately I have seen many instances in which the youth leaders had very little interaction from the lead pastor and elders. In some cases the youth leaders did not want any accountability. The result is an isolated youth leader who builds a group according to his own vision and standards, which may contradict the standards of the congregation. If the youth leaders are not integrated into the general vision and life of the congregation that is a sign there is no real accountability. Also, the elders and mature church leaders should also be part of the youth preaching team to ensure there is proper balance in all these areas.

6. There is a huge generation gap with no honor towards older people and parents. Youth cannot minister to youth without the advice and interaction of mature adults. Best-case scenario is to assign certain parents and elders in the church to consistently monitor the youth group and interact and advise the youth leaders. Also, the youth leaders should encourage the young people to honor their parents and interact with them and not buy into the cultural lie of the "generation gap." (Of course young people who come out of dysfunctional and or abusive families need to be dealt with differently according to their situation.) In some instances, a group group can actually foster a culture of generational distance that can hurt parent/child relationships. This is very bad for your child!

7. There are no leaders or mature saints being developed. When a youth group exists for years and only few of the young people graduate to serve in the adult congregation (when they get older) then there may be a problem. Pointing young people towards Christian service and responsible adulthood is part of the calling of youth groups. Of course, parents are the main ones called to disciple and train their children—youth groups only have kids for a few hours per week.

8. Many or most of the young people have no walk with God. When you observe that few if any of the young people in the youth group attend Sunday services and serve God then there is a huge problem.

9. The youth are not encouraged to excel in school. Many young people in at risk communities come out of a culture of dropping out of school. A youth group has the incredible opportunity to break those destructive patterns by encouraging youth to excel in school. Youth groups need to aid young people in being successful in life, not just church life.

10. The youth group has a sordid history. In many cases, there is a history of drugs, sex and alcohol abuse within the ranks of the youth group. In some cases it is done outside the context of the church services and cannot be helped but often it can be part of the sub culture of the actual youth group. In some cases, the youth leader needs to be dismissed because they either tolerate this and or are oblivious and are unqualified to lead streetwise kids. Young people indulging in this kind of behavior in the context of the youth group need to be confronted and dismissed from the group is they do not repent.

11. The youth leaders tolerate bullying. Often young people will come into a youth group who are socially awkward, are bodily weak, and or look or act different from the rest of the youth. The youth pastor has a responsibility to keep an eye out for the well being of that young person to ensure there is no peer bullying. Furthermore, the youth pastor needs to ensure that there is a culture of love and acceptance for all young people who attend in the context of the previous guidelines.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York, and author of numerous books, including Ruling in the Gates: Preparing the Church to Transform Cities. Follow him on Facebook or visit him online at

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Youth Mon, 16 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
This Generation and the Church: Millennials Respond

Google "Millennials" and more than 9 million results immediately appear. They're a hot topic, being scrutinized from every angle.

Why? It's because the hope of the world hangs on their shoulders. But do you really understand this immensely portended generation?

"There's lots of chatter about what millennials like and don't like, why they are and aren't coming to church. But too often, much of this talk comes only from analysts who have data but little context, numbers but no names," says Glenn Packiam about the movie "Scissors + Glue: Messy Conversations That Shape Our Faith."

Unfortunately, there are a lot of disheartening statistics out there typifying the spiritual climate of the generation who reached young adulthood around the year 2000.

In the article "Have 8 Million Millennials Really Given Up on Christianity?" sociologist Brad Wright takes a closer look at the data and debunks the Millennial Hyperbole, "While the hyperbole might be a great way to sell books and get people to listen to sermons, I don't see it born out in the data."

Since a large percentage of our OneHope staff is made up of Millennials, I decided to survey them to put some names and faces with the data and perceptions. I invited them to respond to perceptions of the religiosity—or lack thereof—of their generation. And they had GREAT responses! We've got a sharp group here that is way brighter than I was at their age!

Millennials and the Church

According to recent Barna studies, between high school and turning 30, 43 percent of once-active Millennials will drop out of regular church attendance. "That amounts to 8 million 20-somethings who have, for various reasons, given up on church or Christianity."

A little over 1 in 3, about 38 percent, say they attend religious services weekly.

Millennials today are significantly less attached to organized religion than their elders were in their youth. In 2012, almost one-third of young adults ages 18 to 29 were unaffiliated with a religious institution, while in the 1970s only 13 percent of young adult Baby Boomers were unaffiliated. Young men are also much more likely to be unaffiliated than young women.

Calvin College Professor of Philosophy, James K.A. Smith gives a good contrarian balance when he writes, "Reflecting about the claims that millennial Christians are leaving the church because of her views on politics, evolution and the rest of the standard litany of grievances: And what exactly are we supposed to do with these claims? I think the upshot is pretty clear. Indeed, am I the only one who feels like they're a sort of bargaining chip—a kind of emotional blackmail meant to get the church to relax its commitments in order to make the church more acceptable? Could we entertain the possibility that Millennials might be wrong?"

We took the dilemma to our Millennial-aged staff, giving them a chance to share what they believe about the church:

"To be the church means to do that which you believe the church/church building is supposed to do, for example: Being the church means taking care of orphans and widows, being the church is meeting the needs (financial, emotional and physical) of those around you. Being the church is being Jesus with skin on—speaking Truth, showing favor to those who don't deserve it, having a heart full of compassion that moves you to act on another's behalf and helping others grow in maturity." —Tylena Martin Adudu

"The church is simply people who are committed to following Jesus. It's those who love Jesus and want to do life with Him—those who love God and love others. We often see the church as a building, but that's incorrect. The church is simply broken people, covered by grace, trying their best to follow a perfect, loving God." —Chelsea Hite

"I would explain it more as a family or a community. I believe the 20-somethings of today are interested in being part of something so I explain how my community of faith makes me feel welcome, received and loved. Those are things that are important to this generation." —Julia Wilson

"The church is a body of believers dedicated to serving their Lord, Jesus Christ, by advancing His Kingdom for His glory in every nation through the proclamation of His gospel and the enactment of His justice for a lost and broken world." —Jesse Daniel Stone

"The church is, keeping our eyes and ears open to the people around us, and trying to show them unconditional love in whatever way we can, wherever we may be." —Drew Blount

Rob Hoskins is the president of OneHope, an international ministry that shares Scripture with children and youth in more than 125 countries. For the original article, visit

]]> (Rob Hoskins/OneHope) Youth Thu, 08 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
4 Steps in Teaching Students to Share Their Faith

Evangelism can be weird for students. I felt like a salesman trying to share my faith when I was in school. And not just any salesman, but a salesman who sells things people don't know they want or even need.

A perfect example of this is the person at the kiosk booths at the mall. They pace up and down talking to people who aren't paying them any attention. Trying to sell them something they didn't even come to the mall to get is arduous.

I used to feel that way when I would have to go out and share my faith. I would think to myself, "These people don't want to hear what I have to say." It wasn't until I got older that I understood that it would always be about sharing something with people who don't know they need it.

Now, I personally believe God uses a lot of different ways to share His message through us. I will never say one way is better. Because in some way or another God uses them all. But in this post, I want to discuss evangelizing through relationship.

While I wouldn't say it's better, I will say it's my favorite when it comes to teaching students how to evangelize to their friends. Evangelism through relationships teaches students three things:

1. It reinforces the main point of the gospel, which is God's longing to be in relationship with us.

2. It helps students not see the person being evangelized as a project or a deal needing closing, but a person God loves.

3. It helps them speak through their own relationship with God, and from their own story and experiences that can't be disputed.

Therefore, here are the four steps I like to walk students through when it comes to sharing there faith with their friends:

1. Teach them to know the gospel. Have you ever lead someone to a destination you didn't know the directions to? I'm guessing your answer is NO. Well, it's the same when it comes to sharing our faith. You have to know how you got to where you are in order to show people how to get there.

2. Teach them to know their story. A lot of times students are paralyzed by fear because they don't know what to say. So I'll have students write their story out using a template if needed. And it will be about how God has changed their life. They will use this information to share the gospel. I've learned that people are more interested in hearing what God has done in your life, than just hearing what He can possibly do in theirs. So teach them to know their story.

3. Teach them to get to know their friends' stories. A lot of times we know people and are friends with them, but we never engage in any conversations concerning the issues of life. So it's important they know you care about the details of their life, because you are modeling how much God cares about them. Also, you have to earn the right to speak into their life, the same way people have to earn the right to speak into yours. We do that through getting to know who they are. Learning someone else's journey is the quickest way to grow in relationship with that person. Get to know their story.

4. Teach them to understand the gospel and how it intersects with their story. The gospel becomes more real once you understand how it applies to you. For the most part, we are most comfortable talking about ourselves. It's important that we don't just know the verses and the right christianized language. We need to understand the gospel in light of how it relates to our story. And there is a confidence that comes to the one who understands this point.

I hope this helps.

Aaron Crumbey oversees Pastoral Care for the high-school ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. 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, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church

"What do we do about our kids?" The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I'm a high-school pastor, but for once, they weren't talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying.

Each had a story to tell about a "good Christian" child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church's youth program, gone on short-term mission trips and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn't want anything to do with it anymore.

And, somehow, these mothers' ideas for our church to send college students "care packages" during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn't strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.

The daunting statistics about churchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches and in our youth ministries?

It's hard to sort through the various reports and find the real story. There is no one easy solution for bringing all of those "lost" kids back into the church, other than continuing to pray for them and speaking the gospel into their lives. However, we can all look at the 20-somethings in our churches who are engaged and involved in ministry. What is it that sets apart the kids who stay in the church? Here are just a few observations I have made about such kids, with a few applications for those of us serving in youth ministry.

1. They are converted. The Apostle Paul, interestingly enough, doesn't use phrases like "nominal Christian" or "pretty good kid." The Bible doesn't seem to mess around with platitudes like: "Yeah, it's a shame he did that, but he's got a good heart." When we listen to the witness of Scripture, particularly on the topic of conversion, we find that there is very little wiggle room. Listen to these words: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is: a miracle that comes from the glorious power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop talking about "good kids." We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them. In short, we need to get back to a focus on conversion. How many of us are preaching to "unconverted evangelicals"? Youth pastors, we need to preach, teach and talk—all the while praying fervently for the miraculous work of regeneration to occur in the hearts and souls of our students by the power of the Holy Spirit! When that happens—when the "old goes" and the "new comes"—it will not be iffy. We will not be dealing with a group of "nominal Christians." We will be ready to teach, disciple and equip a generation of future church leaders—"new creations"—who are hungry to know and speak God's Word. It is converted students who go on to love Jesus and serve the church.

2. They have been equipped, not entertained. Recently, we had "man day" with some of the guys in our youth group. We began with an hour of basketball at the local park, moved to an intense game of 16" ("Chicago Style") softball, and finished the afternoon by gorging ourselves on meaty pizzas and 2-liters of soda. I am not against fun (or gross, depending on your opinion of the afternoon I just described) things in youth ministry. But youth pastors especially need to keep repeating the words of Ephesians 4:11-12 to themselves: "[Christ] gave ... the teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ." Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples or even friendship primarily. He gives us to the church to "equip" the saints to do gospel ministry in order that the church of Christ may be built up.

If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a younger believer and lead a Bible study, then I have not fulfilled my calling to them, no matter how good my sermons have been. We pray for conversion; that is all we can do, for it is entirely a gracious gift of God. But after conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them. We have entertained, not equipped, them ... and it may indeed be time to panic!

Forget your youth programs for a second. Are we sending out from our ministries the kind of students who will show up to college in a different state, join a church and begin doing the work of gospel ministry there without ever being asked? Are we equipping them to that end, or are we merely giving them a good time while they're with us? We don't need youth-group junkies; we need to be growing churchmen and churchwomen who are equipped to teach, lead and serve.

Put your youth ministry strategies aside as you look at that 16-year-old young man and ask: "How can I spend four years with this kid, helping him become the best church deacon and sixth-grade Sunday school class teacher he can be, 10 years down the road?"

3. Their parents preached the gospel to them. As a youth pastor, I can't do all this. All this equipping that I'm talking about is utterly beyond my limited capabilities. It is impossible for me to bring conversion, of course, but it is also impossible for me to have an equipping ministry that sends out vibrant churchmen and churchwomen if my ministry is not being reinforced tenfold in the students' homes. The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church.

They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula. Kids from wonderful, gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it's also not a crapshoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.

The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God's work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children. Our work depends on you.

Jon Nielson is the college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He blogs at Something More Sure. For the original article, visit

]]> (Jon Nielson) Youth Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
How to Guarantee Longevity in Youth Ministry

Everybody likes guarantees, and in youth ministry there are few. But if you are hoping to stay involved in youth ministry in a local church setting for the long haul, I know the secret—the silver bullet—guaranteed:

Refuse to exit!

I've been traveling the local church youth ministry road for over 26 years, and there have been all sorts of times that I could have exited, "off-ramps" for which nobody would have argued if I would have taken them. But I refused to exit. And because I've simply refused to take an off ramp, I'm still on the road.

Some typical youth ministry off-ramps:

  • Graduating college and need a full-time role. Nobody would blame you for that.
  • Getting married and need to make more money. Nobody would blame you for that.
  • About to have first child and need a job with more regular hours.
  • Child No. 2 is on the way and my wife would like to work part-time.
  • Being burned by the church.
  • Feeling tired, on the edge of burnout.
  • Being successful and loved by the church so a "promotion" is offered.
  • Getting older and feeling a little out of touch.
  • Realizing how much money your friends in secular work make.
  • Failing, being fired or in someway becoming disqualified for a season.
  • The opportunity arises to teach, write or speak about YM full-time.

Why do men and women leave local church youth ministry? It's because they take an off ramp. There is nothing wrong with that.

Do you want to stay in youth ministry in a church setting for a long time? I can guarantee you a long youth ministry career in one simple step:

Refuse to exit!

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) Youth Tue, 02 Dec 2014 16:50:00 -0500
How to Test Your Ministry’s Structural Integrity

Building a healthy youth ministry is like stacking a house of cards—when one card is out of place, the whole thing falls apart. It's time to look at your ministry through the eyes of a home inspector.

Is your ministry up to code, or is there something undermining its structural integrity? Is it built to last, or will it collapse the minute you're gone?

A Rickety Ministry

Do you see yourself as your ministry's central component, with volunteers supporting your relationship with the students? Are you the hub, connecting the students with the volunteers and with each other? This flawed youth ministry structure creates a sandwich effect.

The students and the adults are the bread and the youth pastor is the peanut butter holding everything together. This creates a few major structural problems.

1. You become a barrier. First, you're actually separating the volunteers from the students. If you've focused all ministry resources on feeding a single relationship, between the students and you, then every other relationship will end up malnourished. Volunteers won't be able to connect with students on the deepest levels. So what? you think. Why do students need relationships with volunteers when they have me? That leads to the second problem.

2. You are spread too thin. A great youth pastor can only minister and mentor three to five students at a time. When your job is to reach every single student, you're setting yourself up for failure. Your time is limited, so a good number of your students will inevitably get left out.

3. What happens when you're gone? This issue could be the most devastating for your ministry as a whole. Yes, this includes weeks where you're on vacation—if you're the one holding everything together, nights when you're gone will feel unproductive. But a bigger problem looms in the future.

No youth worker stays with a single ministry forever. Be honest with yourself: could your ministry survive without you? It's nice to feel needed, but is that feeling worth the future implosion your ministry will experience the minute you leave?

Let's put that bleak scenario behind us and think about what a healthy ministry structure looks like.

A Stable Ministry

Here's what a stable ministry looks like:

1. You navigate and equip. As the youth pastor, you still play a key role. You set the vision and direction of the ministry. Like a helmsman on a ship, you're the one steering between dangerous reefs toward the safety of a harbor. And when you aren't casting vision, you're supporting and developing adult volunteers. More than likely, you have more experience working with students than they do, so your coaching and training will be invaluable to other adults.

If your ministry is a tree, you're the roots, grounding the ministry and feeding nutrients to the adult volunteers who are reaching out to students. You're still important, but you're no longer irreplaceable. That means that, even when you move on, the ministry will survive because the other major components will still be connected.

2. Adult volunteers build relationships with students. Your adult volunteers should be the ones building deep relationships with students. Help them fill appropriate roles according to their passions and strengths. They may serve the students through a logistic role, by discipling a small group or as a single student's mentor. They are the hands and feet of the ministry, so it's your job to make sure they know what to do and where to go.

3. Students connect with God. The end-goal of your ministry isn't about connecting yourself with students; it's about helping students discover God. The core focus for students should be growing a healthy relationship with their Savior. We want them to discover who he is and how much he loves them.

We want them to discover his unique plan and mission for their lives. You may play a vital role in that, or you may stay behind the scenes. Are you willing to step out of the spotlight so students can build better relationships with their Lord?

Doug Franklin serves youth workers through a ministry called LeaderTreks. He works with a team creating tools and resources enabling youth workers to develop students into leaders. His goal is to influence youth workers to challenge students and prepare them for leadership in the kingdom of God.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Doug Franklin) Youth Fri, 28 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500