The Pinch: Humble Plastic Bag

Your old plastic grocery bags could be helping someone

the pinchThe Pinch is a new segment on the blog that will feature simple lessons you can use in a pinch.

Check out the awesome people at Faith Westwood UMC in Omaha, Nebraska featured on Yahoo! who are using plastic grocery bags to create sleeping mats for the homeless population in Omaha.

Incredible, Uplifiting Use for Old Plastic Bags: Sleeping Mats for the Homeless

You can go in several different directions after reading the article:

  1. Talk about homelessness in your own community and what you can do to help.
  2. Talk about taking care of the environment and others.

You can even use the resources provided in the article and start collecting plastic bags in your church and start making sleeping mats.

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Introducing Stir




A resource to stir one’s faith imagination

Welcome to Stir.

When I began as the coordinator of youth and young adult ministries for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, I wanted to create a resource that would inspire youth and young adult leaders faith imagination. Lots of curriculum out today does a good job providing content for leaders to use but I wanted to create something that would stir their creativity and imagination. A resource they could use the way they desired not just the way it was laid out. A visual resource that would inspire the young people in our churches to live out their faith in creative and imaginative ways.

That resource is Stir.

This Stir will focus on God’s Creation: Good, Broken, Redeemed.

God’s Creation will be explored through three elements:

Head: How We Think- Our thoughts and ideas shape how we see God’s creation

Heart: How We Feel- Exploring how we experience God’s creation

Hands: How We Move- Responding to God’s creation

In addition, Stir: Creation will include a leaders only section that will focus on Sabbath.

What will make up Stir: Creation?

Stir: Creation will consist of 4 parts:

Good, Broken, Redeemed and (leader care) Sabbath

Each part will include two videos:

1 teaching

1 visual storytelling/liturgy

It will also have a leader guide with talking points about each part, discussion questions and activity suggestions.

What We Need to create Stir: Creation

This is a new project that currently has zero funding. So here is what we need to make Stir a reality.

We need to raise $5,000 to create Stir.

Video Production: $2,500

Filming and Editing of all videos in Stir: Creation including travel costs for filming locations

Curriculum Writers: $1300

Writing scripts for each video, writing talking points, discussion questions, activities

Curriculum Production: $1200

Creating logo and art for Stir: Creation leader book, first order of physical copies, vimeo video web hosting

If all goes according to plan our hope is to have Stir: Creation ready by August 2016.

If we are unable to reach or exceed our fundraising goal we will use contributions to create portions of Stir: Creation.

Ways you can help us make Stir: Creation

Contribute to our campaign. If you think Stir: Creation is a great resource and would like to see it the best way to help us do that is by contributing to our campaign. We cannot make Stir without your contribution. Please check out the perks to see what you get when you contribute to our campaign.

You can also help us by sharing this campaign with other youth leaders, teachers, pastors and folks who might be interested in a resource like Stir.

Join our Facebook page:

Thank you for reading and helping us make Stir: Creation a reality!


Nathan Wheeler

Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Logo created by Hannah Pahl:

Video created by Tim Jarvis:

Music by: Isla Vista Worship

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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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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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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

Got a book worth reading? Leave a comment below or email me

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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: 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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The Pinch: We Need to Talk About Racism

The Pinch is a new segment on the blog that will feature simple lessons you can use in a pinch.


Picture by JamieSkinner00 on Flickr CC License 

From Ferguson, MO to SAE at University of Oklahoma, from #blacklivesmatter to #SAEhatesus we need to talk about racism in our youth groups.

In the youth ministries I’ve been a part of I’ve witnessed blatant racism by students. I’ve overheard “jokes” that students tell. I’ve also seen it be unconscious, not understanding that what they are saying is racist.

This one time at church camp, a white girl said in jest to another student, “Get your cotton pickin hands off of me.” She meant nothing by it and everyone laughed but when I mentioned to her the context of what she just said, she was horrified and apologized.

I’ve also witnessed students rally together to fight against racism. Just recently in Memphis, Central High School students gathered to march in commemoration with the 50th anniversary of MLK march in Selma, Alabama.

Our denomination is in the midst of discussions to unify our two denominations. One of the most glaring differences of these two denominations is skin color.

We need to talk about race.

It’s not enough to wish racism away, we have to be proactive with our groups and discuss this issue. You might even think about bringing your group to Memphis to experience the National Civil Rights Museum.

But this is the Pinch…so…

Below you will find several resources to help you talk with your youth groups about racism, prejudice and discrimination.

Do you have any good resources? Any comments? Share them in the comment section below.

Resources to use for lessons dealing with racism

Institute for Youth Ministry at PTS: Talking Race With Youth

The Source for Youth Ministry: All Equal in God’s Eyes

More Than Dodgeball: Stereotypes Part 1 & Part 2

Youth Worker: Blindside

Youth Ministry: District 9

If you are looking for a lighter introduction to your lesson think about using this video: Racist Coffee by Julian Smith

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The Pinch: From One Second To The Next

The Pinch is a new segment on the blog that will feature simple lessons you can use in a pinch.

From One Second To The Next is an haunting documentary by Werner Herzog about the dangers of distracted driving. Distracted driving is at the top or possibly the leading cause of deaths among teenagers. We don’t spend a lot of time discussing distracted driving in a real way but it needs to be something we talk about with youth.

Watch the documentary with your youth group and discuss.

If you are looking for a more formal discussion you can download a discussion starter over at simply youth ministry.

From One Second To The Next Discussion Starter

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DIY Lent Calendars

Article by Joanna Simmerman

lent calendars

Lent is one of my favorite times of the year. Lent is a 40 day time of preparation, of getting ourselves ready to welcome and receive the resurrected Jesus into our lives on Easter Sunday. Lent is often a time of sacrifice. A time when people chose to give up something that they enjoy or feel entitled to so that they can focus their attention on Christ and share, in their own way, with the sacrifice that he made in going to the cross for us. Lent can also be a time of focus, choosing to give time and attention to developing a better relationship with Christ and with our neighbors.

To help youth get the most out of this season, I like to make scratch-off Lent calendars for my church. These calendars have a daily activity that is designed to help youth get the most out of this season of Lent by bringing them closer to God and their neighbors. I usually give these out to the whole congregation for each family to take one, but most of the activities are specifically designed for youth. These calendars take a bit of work so unless you have a small group, you will need to recruit some volunteers to help or have a special time when the youth make their own calendars and then take them home to use.

First you need to make your calendar. I start with 40 activities that are a mix between a food related fast, a social media or entertainment fast, a Spiritual activity, a way to connect with/show love to your neighbors, and doing good deeds.

Next you print out your calendars and attach them, along with a heading explaining how they are to be used, to scrapbooking paper to give them a sturdy and decorative border. For the scratch-off paint to work you must have a slick surface under it, so I like to cover the calendar with contact paper. You can also use tape on just the activities for each day or a laminating machine if you have access to one.

Now it is time to paint your calendars. To make the scratch off paint you need to mix two parts metallic paint to one part dish soap. Paint over the activity for each day but make sure to leave the date visible. You might have to use more than one coat of paint until you cannot read the activities underneath.

When you hand out your beautiful calendars, make sure to explain to the youth that each day they should scratch-off the paint and then do the activity listed for that day. I like to also use Facebook or some other form of social media to follow up each day with a short explanation of why that day’s activity can help draw youth closer to God or their neighbors and provide a space for the youth to talk about their experiences with that day’s activity.

Below is an example of a calendar made for Lent in 2014

lent calendar example 2014

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