A Message To Youth Workers Who Are Struggling

A Message To Youth Ministers Who Are Struggling

I talk to a lot of youth ministers who have been doing youth ministry a long time. 10 or 15 or 20 years. And the more I talk to these youth ministers, the ones who’ve really been in the game a while, the more stories I hear of people who at one time or another were completely disillusioned with youth ministry.

They were worn out, beat up, and frustrated. Over-worked. Under-appreciated. And deflated by the general sense that what they were doing may not matter that much in the lives of many of their students.

But, you know what? Instead of walking away they stuck it out. And here’s the cool thing: In so many of these stories, the individual WANTED to leave. He or she wanted so badly to call it quits but didn’t because he or she didn’t feel like God was giving him or her permission to do so. Through prayer, these folks realized that God had not released them from their call. And so, they stuck it out. They GUTTED it out. Sometimes they struggled for years. But now, these youth workers are 3 and 5 and 10 years removed from their low point, still doing youth ministry. Still impacting lives.

You cannot imagine how common this story is. I hear dozens and dozens of iterations of this each year, story after story of men and women who traveled through the rough times and made it through without giving up. The craziest thing is that for many of these folks their situations didn’t change. But their perspective did.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that these youth ministers are my favorite ones. There is a richness and depth to them and their ministries that only comes from persevering through the tough times. They have an amazing perspective on life, faith, and ministry. They are collectively the best youth ministry resource I know of.

Are their youth ministries perfect now? Do they feel fully appreciated? Are all of their kids spiritual giants? I doubt it. And I bet they’re not immune to the occasional period of doubt or frustration.


So, take encouragement today from their example. If you’re in the midst of a trying season, don’t give up yet. Pray and listen. And don’t make a move until you know it’s God’s will. God may very well be leading you away from youth ministry. But He may also be leading you to suffer through a period of real trial because He has much, much more to teach you. And He knows that the trials are what will strengthen you for a future of powerful, meaningful ministry.

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5 Characteristics Of Healthy Discipleship In Your Youth Ministry

But, I think there are some common characteristics of healthy discipleship no matter what context you’re in.

As you read these, ask yourself to what degree you see them in your youth ministry.

1. Gospel Focused
No matter how you teach the Bible, or what you’re teaching, it must be taught through the lens of the Gospel. When we make our Bible teaching too much about application, or cultural relevance, or entertainment, we fail students. The good news of God’s rescue plan for humanity, as fulfilled in Christ, must be the foundation of your teaching efforts.

Too often we make our Bible teaching about doing. Do this. Don’t do that. Right actions won’t make disciples. But consistently bringing our students face-to-face with the Gospel will.

2. Relationally Centered
Relationally centered as opposed to program, or event centered. Think about the relationships Jesus formed with His disciples. Life was shared. It wasn’t Jesus merely dumping information on His followers. There was real relationship. Jesus and His disciples shared life together. It was reciprocal, too. Jesus allowed His disciples choice moments to see His frustration, His concerns . . . the human side of “fully God, fully man.”

We have to embrace the relationships we have with students, not as a means to an ends. We must truly share our lives with them, just as we ask them to share their lives with us.

3. Community Oriented
Healthy discipleship is relationally centered (focus on the individual), but fully embraces the gift of community (focus on individuals). I think this is one area where youth ministers are very effective. We have some built-in advantages working with teenagers, to be sure. But, it’s still a vital component of healthy discipleship.

4. Outward Reaching
You probably already create opportunities for your youth group to serve. Maybe you do mission trips, or volunteer at a retirement home. That’s awesome. Keep doing it. But, I would encourage you to break free from the “youth group wide,” program-centered approach, and to intentionally empower smaller groups of individual students to seek opportunities to impact their immediate world.

Leave it up to them to decide how it looks. But create the expectation that this type of outreach should be happening.

5. Multiplication Empowering
Plain and simple, if you’re doing discipleship the right way, your students will begin to desire to draw other people in. Some of these students might be fringe members of your youth group. Others will be their peers who do not have a saving relationship with Christ. Your role is to help guide and encourage your students to bring these outlying students into your community.

The “front door” of faith for this generation of young people is probably not an invitation to church. Instead, it’s an invitation to belong to a community. It’s “belonging before believing.” The logic behind this is pretty simple . . .

While a non-believer may say “no” to church based on preconceived notions or bad prior experiences, it’s much harder to say “no” to being truly accepted as a part of a community of peers who are daily living out the Christ-life. How much more authentic (and comfortable) is it for this individual to then be welcomed at your youth group when he or she already has a relationship with a group of students? It’s a paradigm shift, for sure, but one that I personally think is both true to the biblical example and where we find ourselves culturally.

And if you’re looking for a really nice (and FREE) resource on discipleship, check out our FREE e-book, “The 6 Traits Of Biblical Discipleship.” CLICK HERE to download it.

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Soul Care: Gazing at Trees

Article found at YouthWorker

Nicolas Herman was born in 1614 in eastern France. His family was extremely poor, which forced him to join the army. During his time in the Thirty Years’ War, Herman had an unusual experience. Staring and gazing at a tree with no leaves or fruit, somehow Nicolas intuitively sensed God’s redeeming grace and love, knowing the tree eventually would spring forth with new life—and his life could be transformed the same as the tree’s.

Nicolas Herman is known today as Brother Lawrence.

Following his death, friends put together his letters and crafted the writings into a book, which is today one of the most popular and profound books ever written, The Practice and Presence of God.

Brother Lawrence’s journey began as he focused on a tree, doing the hard work of silence, prayer and a radical discipline of thankfulness. As Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen of the monastery, he came to see the beauty of seeing Jesus in every moment.

Practicing the Presence of God

Whether working in a kitchen, preparing a sermon, or cleaning one’s house, Lawrence believed no matter how big or small the task, “we can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

Concepts such as being prostrate on the ground, gazing at trees, listening for Jesus in the now, all can be difficult. Or maybe we have made it too complex. Try this: Go outside and simply listen to the birds chirping. While you’re in a boring meeting, start looking for the presence of God. As you wake up, shower, wash the dishes, and get ready for bed, see Jesus in every moment.

Brother Lawrence writes, “I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world.” Now, personally speaking, that is hard, to see only God and me.

Yet, there is something to it. Matthew 17 records the Transfiguration narrative in which Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the mountain alone…that is until two great leaders of the past show up, namely Moses and Elijah. Peter thought it would be a good idea to honor Jesus, Moses and Elijah when suddenly a voice from the cloud spoke. “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Fear gripped the disciples, and they hit the ground. Jesus told them to get up and have no fear.

I love verse 8: “And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

They saw only Jesus. It seems as if this Bible passage is what Brother Lawrence was speaking of: the ability to tune out all distractions, all hindrances, and only see Jesus.

Is this a hard thing for you do? Why not try an experiment when you wake up tomorrow morning? Set your heart and mind to see only Jesus. Start with baby steps. Ask Jesus to be present. Invite Him to the breakfast table. Read a devotional. Sing in the shower. Abstain from talk radio on the way to work. Slow down. Settle down. Meditate on a passage of Scripture. Take a slow walk in the woods. A famous line from Dallas Willard says, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Eliminate hurry, ruthlessly.

How do we care for our souls? How do we eliminate hurry? I suggest you begin with gazing at a tree. Somehow, in a mysterious way, end up only seeing Jesus. As Brother Lawrence indicated, our souls only need Jesus.

David Olshine is the director and professor of Youth Ministry, Family and Culture at Columbia International University in South Carolina. He is the author of the new Studies on the Go: James, 1-2 Peter and 1-3 John (Zondervan/Youth Specialties).

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A Free Discipleship Framework For Your Youth Ministry

Found at YM360

The process by which teenagers grow to become more like Christ looks a little different from church to church, doesn’t it? There are some similarities, of course. Some common elements you’d expect to find. But, the actual nuts and bolts of how this happens looks a little differently. But, we all want the same outcome. We all want to see students grow in their faith. We want them to become authentic Christ-followers. In a word, we want them to become disciples.

But what does a disciple look like? How would you define the end goal? The great thing is that we don’t have to try to pull this answer out of mid-air. The Bible has a lot to say about this.

A few years ago, we did a fun exercise. We read through the Bible looking for descriptions of disciples. We wanted to see the picture Scripture painted of what a Christ-follower looked like. As we compiled verses and passages, some common characteristics began to emerge. And as we distilled them further, we landed on six specific characteristics, or traits that all disciples have.

Over the years we’ve taught them in youth ministry workshops and in small groups, both with teenagers and adults alike. And these traits have helped us in our own lives think about our growth as Christ-followers. And because we think they’re a really helpful way to think about what we want our students to become, we want to share them with you, too.

We’ve put together an e-book that passes along these six discipleship traits and challenges you to consider how to implement them in your youth ministry. Our hope is that you can utilize this picture to see your grow closer to Christ, becoming more authentic followers as a result.

To download your FREE copy of The Six (Biblical) Discipleship Traits, simply CLICK HERE.

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4 Ways to Support Parents as School Kicks Off

Article was written by Michael Bayne and found over on parentministry.net

It’s that time of the year…school is back in session all over the country. Maybe you have a few days of summer left but for most parents their minds are focused on one thing…school! Many parents are excited about getting back into a normal routine, some are pumped about a calmer house during the day, but some parents are stressed about the upcoming challenges. The new school year comes with many new challenges as kids step into new classes, connect with new friends and adjust to new challenges. Parents often take on that same stress!

There are some simple things that we can do for parents to support them as we kick off the new school yea. I am betting you are getting ready to kick off your new ministry goals for the fall so why not think about parents! Here are 4 ways you can support parents as you kick off the new school year.

  1. Intentional Encouragement // Recognize the challenge and send parents notes or emails that encourage them and give them some resources as they work toward the new school year. Encouragement goes a long way when it comes to connecting with parents. Be a voice of support and courage in their lives!
  2. Parent Meeting (Vision casting time!) // New school years open up your best time to host a great parents meeting. Cast vision for the ministry you lead but also lean into the parents with some great ways they can get better at parenting. Parents are used to attending meetings in the new year so leverage this time to gather them together and cast your vision for the year ahead.
  3. Clear Communication // Make sure that every parent you serve has easy access to what is going on in your ministry and to the ways you want to partner with them. Make sure you communicate as well as you can so when that busy parent needs info they can get the right info quickly!
  4. Prayer // Cover your parents with prayer as a pastor but also invite your volunteers to intentionally cover families with prayer. As ministry leaders, we can never forget that God’s strength and wisdom is what every family needs more than our programs and plans.

I am sure you can think of 10 more things you can do to support parents right now. Pick a few and make sure you think about the parents you serve as they kick off the new school year!

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Summer is Winding Down…Are You Ready?

Blog found on Youth Ministry 360 written by Andy Blanks

Part of interacting with youth ministers around the country (and around the globe) is that calendars vary pretty widely. For some of the youth ministers in the ym360 Community, Summer is just getting into full swing. But for many of us, the new school year will be starting in the next two to three weeks. (YIKES!) For those of us who find ourselves in this position, it’s time to really start thinking about what’s coming.

For those who find the school year rapidly approaching, you have just enough time to do some of those things you’ve been meaning to do since May but for whatever reason, haven’t.

Consider this our friendly reminder to take the plunge, and get to it!

The start of school represents so much opportunity as we minister to students, but before the time comes, here’s a loose list of things to help you get in the swing of kicking off the new school year:

Bible Study Stuff
• Are you thinking ahead for your sermon series for this year? You’ve still got plenty of time to begin blocking out passages, topics, and themes.
• If you utilize curriculum, have you purchased your curriculum for the Fall? The sooner you do it, the sooner you and your teachers can familiarize yourself with it, making any necessary changes, and beginning your preparation.
• If you need to get curriculum to your adult volunteers, you need to go ahead and get hoppin’!
• We would love to help you with this. We’ve got some great options to choose from if you’re looking for weekly curriculum.

Adult Volunteers
• Have you gotten your team together (however “team” looks for you) and set some goals for the upcoming year?
• Have you started the process of finding those last few adult volunteers you need for this next year?
• What are you going to do for your adult volunteers to get the new youth ministry year kicked off from a training perspective? What plans do you have to help them be excellent in what they do?

• Who are the students that have fallen through the cracks this summer? Those kids with whom communication doesn’t come as easy? Why don’t you make it a priority to contact them and set-up a time to meet with them before the year?
• Have you shared your vision for the new school year with your key student leaders? Have you asked for their input on any changes or insights that might be needed in your ministry? Now’s the perfect time to set this ball in motion.
• Have you followed up with your students on any experiences you’ve had together this summer? Maybe it was a mission trip, or a summer camp. Do you need to reach out to a student you’ve forgotten about or put off?

• What’s your plan to engage parents in a discipleship strategy?
• How are you planning on bringing them alongside your efforts to lead and teach their children?
• Not only is now a great time to be thinking about it, but to also to be making contact with parents about the upcoming school year.

• Is your Spring-cleaning long overdue?
• Could your youth room need a new coat of paint?
• Is it time to throw out that old couch?
• Need to de-clutter your office? A clear workspace is such a symbolic way to start the new year. Maybe you could even rearrange or redecorate to signify a new start to a new year.

Admin Stuff (Ugh)
• Have you put together your youth ministry calendar yet for the Fall? Copied in the football games for the high schools in your community? Put down your retreat dates? If you do it early, you can email it to parents and volunteers before the year starts.
• How do your roles look? I know, it’s not fun. But if you can get a hold on them now, you can save yourself some stress when school starts and things get really busy.

OK, there’s a start! What did we miss? What would you add? What is still left on your list to do to get ready for the new school year?

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Books Worth Reading: Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry



Books Worth Reading

Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry

By Andrew Root



Andrew Root has authored and coauthored some of the most engaging and important books on youth ministry in the last 10 years. Here is another one of his engaging and thought provoking books. Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry is the third book of four from a series entitled A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry.

four book series


Book one: Taking Theology to Youth Ministry

Book two: Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry

Book three: Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry

Book four: Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry


In this series of books the reader follows the narrative of Nadia, a youth worker trying to understand and teach students about God, the Bible, Salvation and Mission. Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry focuses on Nadia discovering what it might look like to teach youth the Bible today.

It’s a book worth reading because:

–  It’s narrative helps to unpack the theological in a more engaging way

–  It’s brief in size (114 pages) but deeply insightful

–  It builds up a model of teaching the Bible that may actually get your youth reading their Bibles.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who cares for young people and desires them to have a reason to engage the Bible.

Read more about this book and the series at AndrewRoot.org/Books.

Got a book worth reading? Leave a comment below or email me nwheeler@cumberland.org

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What to do for Seniors?

Here we are just a few weeks away from high school graduations. For many youth ministers we are looking for a gift to give them at Senior recognition Sunday or perhaps thinking about a special service for our seniors. In the past I’ve hosted a cook-out for seniors only, I’ve purchased Bibles to give them or one or two books that made an impact on my relationship with Jesus. I’ve also done several Sunday evening programs that was a charge to those seniors to continue on in their faith as they transition out of youth ministry. I wanted to highlight something you might consider using or purchasing as you ponder what to do for the seniors in your ministry.

The Senior Super Pack

Created by Download Youth Ministry

“The resources in this bundle are all products of the result of 4 years of trench-tested and continuously refined work. It is a part of what we call our “Sticky Faith Initiative” (inspired by the fantastic book and research put out by Fuller Youth Institute: www.stickyfaith.org). Everything is yours to copy and adapt. By providing the Word documents and sample PDF’s… this is a resource that is ready for you to easily make it your own.

To build a better bridge between the High School and College Age years by walking with students for 18 months from January of their High School Senior year through their first year post-grad (college or career) to help ensure a faith that “sticks” beyond Student Ministries.

1. Senior Series (a 4 week sermon series for seniors)
2. What Happened/What’s Next? The Grad Edition (a journal to process HS and life in college)
3. The Great Co-Mission (big church service to honor graduates)
4. Grad Letters (don’t buy them a book, make them a personal one)
5. Adopt-a-Grad Program (a ready-to-go, easy-to-copy program where adults in the church adopt graduates for a year)
6. 52 Grad Texts (send 1 a week while they’re at college)
7. Gradstagrams (25 ready-to-go graphic Instagrams)
8. Senior Exam Game (fun trivia game)
9. Yearbook Quotes Game (another fun game)

Be sure to make them your own and have them work for you. In the end, the author’s desire and prayer is that they will help you find ways to see more students who walk out of your ministry at graduation without walking out on God in the years to follow.”

What types of things have you given or done for your seniors? What about this year? Share in the comment section below.

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Creating Space For The Artist

Article written by Whitney Brown

“In the beginning, God created…” This is how our story begins. God created. God took the chaotic, dark void and out of it brought light and life and order through creation. That is, by definition, creativity. We are created in the image of a creative Creator. Should the church not reflect such fundamental and expansive creativity? The Body itself surely does! Our leaders, our congregations, our youth groups all encompass people with various gifts and abilities, people who learn and communicate most effectively in various ways. For those who connect best through hearing a sermon or lecture or by reading and studying or by serving, avenues for connection already exist within the church. However, there is a great need for attention to be given to those who connect in other ways. It might be impossible for leaders to set apart a space to fully embrace each person’s gift—not every church can have a fully stocked art studio, a gallery, a recording booth, a concert hall, a theater, etc., but we can provide outlets and opportunities for those with gifts not always recognized by the church. In so doing we gain a better understanding of exactly what it means that we are one body and “individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Colorful Artist

Image by Ian Sane

For the artist, whatever their art may be, it is more than a hobby; it is a means of connecting and communicating. The potter is immersed in the clay, bringing form from what was once a lump of gooey dirt. It is a messy, beautiful art. And isn’t that where we find our faith? Somewhere amidst the mess and the beauty…or the beauty within the mess? There is something about plugging into our passion that connects us to God in the most intimate way. Writers through words, painters through a brush, actors through comedy and drama, musicians through melodies and harmonies—it is that deep connection with the Creator, that form of communication God has instilled within us that can reach even beyond simple words and phrases, even when that would have been enough. And for those who do not consider themselves artists, who has not heard a song or seen a work of art or read a passage that connected with something so deep within them, they could say their very soul was stirred?

How can we bring more of this soul stirring into the life of our churches and ministries?

Step 1

Acknowledge the need. Connect with your artists and hear their thoughts and needs.

Step 2

Create a space. Perhaps it’s a shelf, a desk, a trunk, a cabinet, or a Rubbermaid bucket in the corner. Perhaps your artists are ready for more and there is even an extra room available. Gather materials—papers, canvases, pens, pencils, paints, books, brushes, cameras, instruments, etc. Let the supplies be available, and inform people of their location. Show me a blank canvas someone is not eager to paint.

Step 3

Incorporate various creative aspects into your lessons, sermons and activities. If you are talking about potters and jars of clay, by all means let us see, touch, and fully experience what this is about! If you are telling a parable or a narrative, bring it to life. If you are studying wisdom literature, what would we say if we were to write our own? Psalmists, do we have praises? Do we have laments? Ask your “creative minds” for ideas, or look to scripture itself and examine the ways creativity has been put to work and used to enhance understanding since the very beginning.

May we be encouraged as we take these first steps. May God prepare our hearts for the stirring of our souls. May this be only the beginning, and in beginning, may we create.

CC licence used for image from Ian Sane

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The Case for Student Leadership

By Aaron Ferry

Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

I have been a part of numerous retreats, camps, and conferences where we have heard and used this particular passage as a means to encourage our young people to take ownership in their faith and be leaders in their churches, schools, and communities.  But then we leave those experiences, come back home and unfortunately too often we allow that excitement, encouragement, motivation, and momentum to slip through the cracks after a couple of months and we are back to the way things were.

I have also heard in the church setting that these young people are the future leaders of our church.  True.  But why can’t they be leaders in the church today?  The church is theirs today, not just in the future.  So student leadership and developing student leaders is a good thing.  Well actually, it’s a great thing, not only for your church, school, or organization, but most importantly it’s a great thing for the young person too.

Developing student leaders is not only positive for the young person but also for your particular organization.  Developing young people as leaders enables and provides them with opportunities to put on display their gifts, talents, skills, and interests while also learning to develop a new set of skills and learn from the peers and mentors.  Placing and nurturing young people in leadership roles gives them a more hands-on experience and opens up opportunities for them to communicate, work, plan, organize, and make decisions as part of a team.  Developing and encouraging young people to voice and share their ideas will give them more ownership in the events and programs that they attend.

Student leadership can definitely strengthen and improve the programs in your organization.  Young people will offer and add new ideas, life, energy, and excitement to the programs.  As a part of the leadership teams in your organization, the young people will have an opportunity to be more involved, grow, and learn new life skills that will transfer over into their college and adults careers.

So as ministry leaders, why don’t we develop and establish planning teams and ministry teams that involve our young people.  Get your young people involved on the current ministry teams and committees in your church.  May we begin to ask questions of the young people such as, “What are your interests?  What would you like to see happen in our program?  What do you see as your role as a member of the body of Christ?”  May we be a people who hear the voices and cultivate the gifts of our young people.  May we encourage them to share their talents, gifts, and skills as to strengthen the body of Christ today and nurture that voice so it continues on into the future as to be advocates for the young people of tomorrow.

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