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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When (Almost) No One Shows Up

almost no one shows up_768x480

Found at Youth Specialties Blog

written by Matt Larkin

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a gathering of youth workers from smaller churches. We were having a discussion about issues that specifically relate to ministry in a smaller setting, and the issue that much of the group seemed to be struggling with is what to do when only one or two students show up. While many of us have never struggled with this problem, for those serving in smaller settings with groups of five to ten students, there may be weeks when almost all of your handful of teenagers have something going on. So what do you do when you’ve planned for ten and you get two? Or if you’ve planned for six and you get one?

First of all, there are few more deflating things for youth workers in any size church than planning an event—or even a weekly meeting—and having fewer students than you planned for. All that planning, time, and money can just kind of feel as if it’s going to waste. Also, if you’re working through something like a multi-part series that you want all your students to benefit from, you really want to make sure all your students are there. There are numerous reasons why almost no one showing up can be deflating, but we’ve got to press on through those moments. And there are definitely some things we can do to make sure those weeks of only one or two students will be fruitful and maybe even uplifting for us, too!

  1. Use the great relational opportunity God has placed in front of you.

It may not seem like it, but when only one or two teens show up, God’s just given you a really neat opportunity that youth workers in larger churches rarely get. You have the opportunity for some great one-on-one time with students—take advantage of it!

  1. Make plans that can be effective even if the whole group doesn’t show up.

Small-church youth workers have to be particularly adaptable. You’ve got to be able to make plans that’ll work no matter the group size. So, pick games that will work as well with two students as they will with eight. Create back-up plans so you can accommodate the fluctuating size of your group.

  1. Keep the quality high no matter who shows up.

When only a couple of kids show up, there’s always going to be a temptation to just phone it in—especially if you’re feeling discouraged. Avoid that temptation. Make sure that even if only one or two teens show up, you’ve put everything you can into making that event or youth meeting the best one they’ve ever been to.

  1. Stick with your long-term plans.

If you’re working through a multi-part study or have set long-range goals, don’t sacrifice them just because a few students are missing. If you jump ship on your plans with the students who do show up, you run the risk of making them feel less valuable than the kids who aren’t there. So keep your long-range goals intact, and keep working through your long-term plan. God knew who was going to be there when you prayed through that plan in the first place.

  1. Whatever happens, don’t forget that God has called you to wherever He has you.

It’s common—especially in small church ministry and especially after a down week—to start to question your calling. You’ll start to wonder if you’re really cut out for youth ministry or if you’re doing something wrong. But, especially after the down weeks when almost no one shows up, don’t forget that God called you to where He has you. Even if it doesn’t always seem like it, and even through those down weeks, God has called you there for a purpose.

It may be years before you know the impact that one-on-one Wednesday evening had on that student. But it’s those times when our plans fall through and we feel deflated that God often shows up and uses us in ways we never expected. Stay the course. Remember who called you. He may be doing things right in front of you that you won’t want to miss . . . even when almost no one shows up!

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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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Don’t miss out on YEC!

Early registration ends October 31st!


We are only a few months away from the 2015 Youth Evangelism Conference December 27-30 in Louisville, KY.


At YEC, we will hear powerful messages from Jefferson Bethke and have workshops led by Paige Clingenpeel. We will also have an opportunity for participants to go into the city of Louisville and serve.

Don’t miss out on 2015 YEC! 

Early registration for YEC ends October 31!

Register today to lock in early registration rate of $300. Any registration received after October 31st will be $350.

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2016 Ministers Conference: Preaching to Disciple Millennials

Are you a youth or young adult minister, leader, volunteer or someone who loves young people?

I have an event you might be interested in attending.

The Pastoral Development Team is hosting the 2016 Ministers Conference January 12-14th, 2016 at Brenthaven Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Brentwood, TN (near Nashville, TN).

The theme for this year is: “Ears to Hear: Preaching to Disciple Millennials”

You might be thinking…I’m not a pastor or ordained minister, why should I go to a preacher’s conference.

Well, I think one thing any youth or young adult leader does typically on a weekly basis is speak to young people. You might lead Sunday School, or Sunday Night Worship or Wednesday Night Bible Study but typically at least once a week you speak to young people.

And I bet the goal of that talk or lesson is to disciple young people into a richer faith in Jesus Christ.

We could all benefit from learning more about how best to communicate to the young people God has entrusted us with.

At this year’s ministers conference the keynote speaker is;

Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka


Columbia Theological Seminary

Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education, Presbyterian Church USA

While Rodger Nishioka teaches in the area of Christian education and practical theology, he specializes in ministry with youth and young adults. Prior to his joining the faculty at Columbia, Rodger served for 12 years as denominational staff in youth & young adult ministry for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rodger received his undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University, his master’s degree in theological studies from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, a Doctor of Divinity degree from Austin College and his Ph.D. from Georgia State University in Atlanta. He has published several articles, chapters, and books largely focused on ministry with youth and young adults and the educational ministry of the church as spiritual formation.

Dr. Nishioka will preach for one of the worship services and share three lectures:

  1. Who Are Millennials?
  2. How Do We Preach with Millennials?
  3. Resilience: Survival Skills for the 21st Century

In addition, there will be pre-conference workshops, sermon writing workshop and service opportunities.

It would also be a great chance for us who minister to young people to connect.


$95 Ministers                   $55 Probationers

$55 Spouses                     $95 Others

Fee includes : Two meals, materials and some of the costs for speakers’ and preachers’ expenses.  Other expenses are supplemented by Our United Outreach contributions.


Scholarships, full or partial, are available to assist with registration costs.  Please request assistance at the time of registration.


Baymont Inn and Suites

111 Penn Warren Drive

Brentwood, TN 37027


$79.99 King bed or Two Queen beds

Ask for the “CP Ministers Conference” rate.

You can register online now by clicking here

Hope to see you in January!

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Help Equip Your Students To Talk About Their Faith

Over the past several years, numerous studies and books point to the same truth. And for many of us youth workers, anecdotal evidence reinforces this truth. What is this truth?

A lot of our students are pretty inarticulate about their faith.

Many of the students in our youth ministries have a hard time explaining their faith. They struggle to put their faith-essentials into words. Faith makes a difference in their lives . . . they just have a hard time explaining why.

I believe the inability of our students to clearly and logically talk about the basics of their faith lies at the root of many of the surface issues concerning our teenagers’ faith.

After all, if teenagers can’t articulate the basics of their faith, isn’t it because they don’t know the basics of their faith? If they can’t talk logically about what they believe and why, doesn’t it point to a serious foundational issue in their faith development?

I believe as youth workers we have to do a more effective job of two things:

  • teaching our students the foundational distinctives of their faith, and
  • helping equip them to articulate, or explain these basic faith elements.

Here are a few ways I think we can take steps toward helping accomplish these two things:


Over the years, I’ve found it’s not safe to assume that knowing and applying the Bible happens in every youth ministry. There are youth ministries that place a premium on fellowship and relationship over a knowledge of the Bible. While these elements are vital in discipleship, if serious Bible study is not taking place in your youth ministry, you aren’t offering anything the World isn’t already offering. Your students have friends outside of the church. And many have nice, caring adults somewhere else in their life. But your ministry may be the only place they can come to discover God’s words to them.


Theology is simply the study of God. So, do you help your students do this? What if you took six or eight weeks to talk about the character of God? If you’re thinking this type of study won’t hold your students’ attention, you’re seriously handicapping the role of the Spirit and the living nature of God’s Word. How can your students talk about the distinctives of their faith when they aren’t being taught them?


What if you took a page out of the more liturgical-based denominations and crafted some really simple phrases that capture the basic biblical concepts you want students to know? Phrases such as, “There is one God who exists and is the Creator of all things.” Easy, right? Yet it’s a core faith distinctive. As these themes come up in your Bible Study, you could take the chance to reaffirm them. You could encourage your students to familiarize themselves with the phrases so when it came time to talk about their faith, they do so through simple phrases backed by deep biblical truth.


Not discussion. Dialogue. Create moments for your students to talk about what makes their faith distinct with you and with each other.


What if you could create an environment where your students’ un-churched friends could come and have a talk about religion? Not in a pushy or manipulated way. But in an open conversation where your students and their friends engaged in discussions about the nature of faith and religion. Do it away from church in a small group. Whatever it looks like, the more you can help your students talk about their faith (in an environment where you can follow up with them and correct and redirect as necessary), the better they will become at doing it.


Your students need to know that you place a premium on them talking about their faith to others. Ask them about it regularly. Highlight students who are doing a great job of it. Create the expectation that faith-discussions should be a part of their lives. Are these steps the only answer? Of course not. And they aren’t a fool-proof method, either. But they’re a start. And it’s too important a concept not to address.

What are some additional concepts a youth worker might implement to help students know and articulate their faith better?


Ignite.YEC.LogoHelp your students ignite their faith at the 2015 Youth Evangelism Conference in Louisville, KY December 27-30. Click here for more details. Early registration for YEC ends October 31st!

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A look inside the new Faith Out Loud

I’m so excited to share with you the new Faith Out Loud! FOL began in 2011 with the idea to develop a youth curriculum by Cumberland Presbyterians for Cumberland Presbyterians. Over the past 5 years, we’ve strived to create the best curriculum we can and that is still our goal. Over the past 6 months, I’ve personally reached out to many folks who use or have used FOL to get their feedback. Using that feedback and some new ideas I’m very excited to tell you about FOL Year 5!

This week we released to new FOL books:

Superheroes and Extraordinary

IMG_0873 IMG_0872

The previous Faith Out Loud lessons came in one book, each with 13 lessons. The new Faith Out Loud comes out in different books based on subject/topics.


FOL Superheroes contains 6 lessons and FOL Extraordinary Christians contains 6 lessons.

Lesson from FOL Superheroes on Batman and Punisher
Lesson from FOL: Extraordinary Christians on Corrie Ten Boom


Each lesson will begin with a title page that scripture and theme for that lesson.




Each lesson contains a leader portion that includes sections on Connecting to your Students, Explaining the Topic, Theological Underpinnings & Applying the Lesson to your Own Life.

A look inside the leader portion of FOL: Extraordinary Christians







Inside the lesson you will a Leader Prep section, including resources that will help you in preparing for the lesson.

A look inside FOL: Superheroes






The lesson itself includes Get Started section to help you kick off the lesson, Listen Up and Now What sections that help engage your students through scripture reading, discussion questions and relevant activities and Live It section that closes out the lesson.

A look inside a lesson in FOL: Extraordinary Christians
A look inside a lesson in FOL: Extraordinary Christians






Also, many of the lessons come with Just In Case and Digging Deeper section that helps you as the leader as you lead the lesson. We’ve also included a little area for you to add your own notes.


It's even a different size now!
It’s even a different size now!

Another big difference to FOL Year 5 will be the cost. We will be lowering the cost of individual books and our yearly subscriptions as well. We know budgets are tight and it’s hard to buy youth curriculum. So we are lowering the cost on our entire FOL curriculum. In the past, our yearly standing orders cost $215 for 52 lessons. Now, you can get all 8 books, 52 unique teaching lessons for your youth group for only $120! If you aren’t interested in FOL Year 5 subscription you will still be able to purchase all 8 books separately as well. All lessons are available for download as well.


Back cover of FOL: Extraordinary Christians
Back cover for FOL: Superheroes


We are so excited about the new Faith Out Loud and we hope that you will be too!




For more information about Faith Out Loud or to order the new lessons go to our online web store by clicking here.

Special thanks to Joanna Wilkinson for her beautiful design work and the writers of Faith Out Loud!

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The Pinch: Do Unto Others

the pinch
The Pinch is a new segment on the blog that will feature simple lessons you can use in a pinch.
Watch the video (click on the link below)
What reaction do you have watching this video?
Read Luke 10:25-37 or Luke 6:27-31
Your group has probably had an experience of mistreating someone. Spend time discussing those experiences and how we are to treat folks as followers of Jesus.
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