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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The Pinch: ReTHINK Cyberbullying

the pinch


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


First, take the time and read about this incredible young lady and her innovative plan to curb cyberbullying.

15 Year Old’s “ReTHINK” App aims to prevent cyberbullying.

Now, head on over to ReTHINK and check out more about the app.

You could go a number of ways with this lesson.

You could focus on cyberbullying and the real consequences it has on young people’s lives. Find a story online of cyberbullying or use this one or this one and have a discussion on kindness and grace. You could take some time to share these 11 facts about cyberbullying and then have students download the ReTHINK app (only android phones, sorry iPhones) or become a ReTHINK ambassador at their school.

Another lesson would be how young people can change the world. Share about Trisha Prabhu and how she didn’t just hear about cyberbullying but decided to use her talents to do something to stop it. Talk about ways your students can use their talents to help others.

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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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Youth Evangelism Conference Registration Now Open!


Register now for the 2015 Youth Evangelism Conference featuring Jefferson Bethke and Paige Clingenpeel!

Join us for the 2015 Youth Evangelism Conference December 27th-30th in Louisville, KY. YEC was created to engage youth and adult leaders to learn about and to practice evangelism. Join with youth and adults across the denomination for an incredible three-day event to ignite your faith!

JeffAt YEC this year we will hear powerful messages from Jeff Bethke. Jeff, is a popular speaker, writer and New York Times bestselling author of the book “Jesus>Religion.” He has a compelling story of overcoming a painful childhood of poverty and a broken home, and this gives him a unique perspective on the grace of God and the work of Jesus in his life and the lives of others. It is this perspective that has catapulted him into the national conversation regarding religion and spirituality, allowing his message to connect at a heart level with an audience ranging from atheists to nationally recognized religious leaders.

paigeWe will also have workshops to deepen our understanding of sharing our faith led by Paige Clingenpeel. Paige, has combined her psychological training as a Licensed Counselor with her passion for youth ministry as a national speaker. She is the Director of Content at the parenting site Trends and Teens, and continues to provide therapeutic services to local teens and their parents. Paige lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with her husband and four kids!

During YEC, participants will have an evangelism immersion experience where students and leaders will go out into the city of Louisville, KY to practice servant evangelism. Our hope is that YEC 2015 will ignite the faith of youth and adults leaders to go back to their towns and cities to share the love of Jesus Christ.

YEC is for 7th graders-college freshman & adult leaders

Click here to Register Online

The registration fee for YEC is $300.00 by October 31st and includes programming, a three-night stay at The Galt House, 4 meals and t-shirt.

After October 31st registration fee is $350.00

Click here for more information on YEC and promo material.


For more information contact Nathan Wheeler @ nwheeler@cumberland.org or T.J. Malinoski @ TMalinoski@cumberland.org


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The Pinch: Word Maps

Word Map - purity

By Dusty Luthy

New Hope (Paducah) Youth Director

One of my favorite things to do in a group setting is to dig into scripture in a deep, meaningful way where everyone, regardless of spirituality, can participate.

Word Maps are one of my favorite tools to do this – and one of the most low-maintenance activities I do. I start with a circled theme word in the middle of a chalkboard, dry erase board or large newsprint and hand out related scriptures to different groups of kids. Our youth group at New Hope is on the large side, so three groups could have 8-10 kids each with one fairly meaty scripture or two shorter scriptures per group.

Each group then looks up that scripture, then reads it out loud and discusses what stands out to them. Then, we come together as a larger group, where each group shares their scripture. After reading the scripture, we then add words to describe/strengthen/explain the core word on the board, creating a bubble map. Use colored chalk or markers to make it eye-appealing.

Everyone is able to contribute, and because they’ve already discussed the scripture in a more intimate setting, they feel more comfortable sharing with the larger group. Using different Bible translations is also helpful to get a fuller use of language. At the end, the numerous bubble words help root the theme word in the youth’s brains so it has a more lasting definition.

Time needed: 30 minutes

Some themes to get you started:


1 Samuel 15:22

Psalm 100

Isaiah 29:13



Philippians 4:8

2 Timothy 2:21

Titus 2:11-14


Other themes to try: prayer, love, patience, sacrifice, Jesus, truth.

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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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CPYC 2015 Day 5 (Journey)

CPYC 2015 Good As New BLOG
Hello everyone. My name is Megan, and I am from the Murfreesboro Presbytery in Middle Tennessee. I am a rising college freshman, so this is my last year as a student at CPYC.

When I began to reflect on my last full day at CPYP, I thought heavily about the theme of the day, which was fittingly called “Journey”. The eighteen years that I have spent on my journey have had its highs and lows. There have been those good and wonderful times that you would not trade for the world, but there have been times of negativity and darkness, too; the kind of darkness that would drive a person to desperation and self-destruction. My journey of life has not been easy to trek. In fact, I have struggled for the longest time trying to outlast and overwhelm my personal demons. My vices, as dark as they are, have had a strong presence and have hurt me greatly over time. However, my virtues have patiently and faithfully stood by my side, never wavering or wandering away from me. This conflict is common for all of us.

As I remembered all of the events of Thursday, I noticed a rather strange coincidence. As a journey is something we all have to tread with our own feet, we use our feet to carry ourselves quite literally through life. Yet, on this particular Thursday, it was my feet that had suffered the most during the day. My feet were covered in blisters and calluses from all the walking I had to do this week. The shoes that I wore were not fit for long distances or repeated walking, so my feet turned shades of red and purple from the agitation. Since I am also a clumsy human being, my feet sustained injury after injury. From blindly walking into objects to tripping over the smallest of cracks in my path, my feet (and my shoes) were bloodied and bruised, swelling and aching.
When I looked down on my feet and saw how ugly and sore they were, though, I was surprisingly joyful. Yes, my feet were tattered and torn, but the pain subsided when I understood how much strength and faith it took to take a step forward in the world. I had realized that, even if I were to voyage on foot without protection, without incentive, for the longest of days and nights, I have my faith and my spirit to rely on and shield me from all harm and danger. As Psalms 8:6 says, “You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” By dedicating all of my actions and works to Him, I devote my life’s journey not only to Him who has given His life for mine, but also to all of my friends, family, and loved ones, whomever they may be. I can brave the harshest paths and stand against the most difficult toils and tribulations with Him. By holding His hands, my hands can serve Him. By following His feet, I may pilgrimage for His glory and grace. My spiritual journey will be delivered to Him with all of my mind, body, and soul; and I am satisfied with all that I have been granted in life, both the negative and the positive.

My time at CPYC has ended, but I wish all of those I have made contact with the best that life has to offer us. For all those involved for making CPYC, I thank you with the utmost sincerity. For the future participants, I urge you to make the most of your experiences when you are youthful, for these memories will become what you cherish the most. I give my salutations to CPYC as my personal journey enters into a new and gleaming chapter of living.

– Megan Wharton
Cookeville CP Church, Murfreesboro Presbytery TN

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me”

We journey every day without realizing it. Every decision is a step in a journey, and though I don’t cherish every decision I’ve ever made, they each have led me through my journey. I don’t think that a few bad decisions are detrimental, because if they got me to where I am now, I’ll be alright. Sometimes my feet hurt and the directions seem to make no sense, but when I finally stop looking at my trail and the long and winding road ahead, I realize how majestic the scenery around me is. I love my life. I’m grateful for my journey.

I was incredibly lucky to have a vulnerable and loving small group, and their insight steered me along my journey to a place where I am more comfortable with God. Maybe I cannot understand Him (which I most certainly cannot), but He is still loving, merciful, and present in our lives. Asking questions provoked honest answers, answers that caused serious thinking.

Worship was powerful. As we did all week, we sang renditions of hymns, which I personally loved. Then came the skit. It was a skit I’d seen many times before, the classic church camp skit of evil things portrayed as people physically holding a child of God away from Jesus (also being physically portrayed), and Jesus breaking through the evil to restore peace back into His child. This time was different, and it was powerful. It began with God showing His daughter how to move. A beautiful thing. Then came the evil things—pure darkness, money, drugs, and body image. The evil that struck me the most was body image. Being a teenage girl, it is always relevant. In the skit, the girl portraying body image circles God’s daughter, scowling at her figure. Then, most intensely, signals her finger down her throat, and the daughter follows suit, hypothetically throwing up to fix herself. One of the evils approaches her, and the daughter is shown how to hold a gun. After about 10 intense seconds of shaking and holding the gun formed by her two hands, she runs back to God, only to be thrown back multiple times by the evils. God then reaches her, and holds back the evils. Peace is restored, and the God shows His daughter how to move once more. Jill Carr then gave a powerful message about our journeys, and it even included congregational singing of the band Journey.

All clichés aside, the people on your journey make all the difference. The relationships formed at CPYC ensure a companion-filled journey. It’s an accepting environment where every person is cherished for who God created him or her to be. We see that our journeys are different, but more importantly, we recognize we are all in fact on a journey. None of us have reached a destination, and none of us will travel alone.

Praise be to our God who guides us on a journey. Praise be to our God who sends us people to accompany us, encourage us, inspire us, and cherish us. Praise be to our God whose hand follows us through every step along the journey.

-Claire Temple
Brush Hill CPC, Nashville Presbytery

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CPYC 2015 Day 4 (Touch)

CPYC 2015 Good As New BLOG
How important are hands? Well, I mean, you carry things with them, you talk with them, you direct people with them, some people use them as language and communication. Hands can be used to build up or tear down a person.

Coming to CPYC has definitely changed my perspective about how I use myself in the world and by God. At first, I didn’t think that hands were all that important, but at the end of the day I realized just how important they are.

In my small group we talked about just what kind of bad hands can do, and how much easier it is to go to war and kill someone and walk away than walk into a town that hates you and say, “I’m here to help you.”

God has called upon us to shake the hand of the stranger and enemy.

Personally, if I see someone I don’t know I try to avoid them. I go out of my way to walk around them. I shouldn’t though. God has called upon me to reach out to that person if not with my voice, my hands.

Jesus once told the disciples to love your neighbor as yourself. Someone then asked, “Who is my neighbor.” Jesus replied with the parable of “The Good Samaritan”. Like the Samaritan, we are to reach out a helping ad loving hand to everyone. The stranger, the enemy, the world.

Hands. Hands can guid you. Hands can help you. Hands can save a life. The world often misleads us to use our hands in destructive ways, but God says to use them constructively. I have learned, on this day at CPYC, that hands truly are important.

Being a first year CPYC participant, I have learned more about myself and the mission God has set for me. I thank the staff and God for showing me what it true and what is not.

Thank you,

Molly Stokes
Bethel CPC, Covenant Presbytery

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