Conversation_mattersIf you didn’t get to read the first part click here. I just got back from summer camp and I’ve been hearing all week about all of the amazing conversations that happened. So in this post I really wanted to go practical, and give you a few ideas to noodle on. Now, all of these are a work in progress, but the main objective is to get students conversing intentionally. So here are a few ideas I’ve been working on:

  • One-on-one – One of our values in student leadership is that every student is known. Every meeting we take the first 25 minutes and students pair up with another student they don’t know so well. I give them some questions to ask each other and some things to pray about for each other. At first I thought 25 minutes was to long but come to find out, 25 minutes isn’t long enough. I literally have to interrupt their time together. Every meeting they rotate. Goal: Model community for the rest of our youth group.
  • 10 x 10 - Once a month during our large group time we break off into groups of ten for ten minutes. We separate students by grade. We play a fun game that has to do with names and we all share an interesting fact about ourself. At the end if someone remembers everyones name in our group, they win a gift card. Goal: Everyone in the group will know someone by name, and everyone in the group will be known by someone.
  • Meet and Greet – This is an idea for some of your core students. You create a list of core students/student leaders who wouldn’t mind hanging with a first timer or a student who just hasn’t been able to get connected. This is an intentional way to get students conversing and connecting. Remember, we connect through conversations or some form where we have to interact with each other. Goal: Help students feel like they belong and are known.
  • To Know or Not Know – This is a great small group ice breaker. Pair up students with a list of things to know about each other. Give them time to go over and answer the questions. Bring the group back together and then drill one about the other. The winner is obviously the one who remembers the most. Have the two contestants write down their answers and reveal them at the same time. Goal: Just a fun way to get students to know each other.
  • Act it Out or Hum it - It’s like the game celebrity. Gather up the groups favorite celebrities, movies, and songs from the group. Write them down on small pieces of paper and put them in a jar or hat. Create two teams that will go head to head. The deal is you either have to act it out or hum it.  Five points for every correct answer. Each turn you have to choose to wither act it out or hum it before you pick from the hat. 5 points for each correct guess. After each round each student has to say why the choose that celebrity, song or movie. Goal: Help students find some commonality with each other.

I’ve learned that none of these things work without the intentionality of your leaders. Students feed directly off of the excitement and involvement of those leading. So your leaders must catch the vision that conversations matter. The truth of the matter is conversations are born around discussing the normal stuff of life. Relationships are born when commonality is found between two people. Remember these are just ideas made to be picked apart and added to and subtracted from. The goal is to be more intentional about the conversations that are being had at youth group and small group because it matters.

I would love to hear any ideas you may have.

Hope it helps,


Someone actually did this.

It’s called “The Infinite Cat Project.”

infinite_catFirst of all, I hate cats.

Hang on… “hate” is a strong word.

Allow me to clarify.

I hate cats.

For all the reasons that have already been covered by stand-up comics, as well as the fact that when I was eleven a cat attacked me.

I’ll tell you what, though… he did catch some amazing air when I defended myself.

Allow me to clarify.

I hate cats.

That said…

this is brilliant, right?

It got me thinking…

what is something I’m up to that someone else hates?

How can I get them to look at it from another angle and end up saying, “This is brilliant, right?”

What is that “thing” for you?

How could you share it from a new, creative angle and gain a new hearing?

My husband and I got pregnant with our first baby almost immediately after getting married. It was a quick move from single, to married, to having a family in ministry. Within just 3 years after marriage, there were five of us. From the start we have understood that taking care of our marriage and our family is vital. It can be easy to be “off doing ministry” for others while forgetting to be a good steward of those at home.

We have found that if we do not make the time to take care of those at home ministry is lost. All that our talk about “family focus” becomes null if our own family doesn’t know their importance. I have friends who have one parent who “stays at home,” are able to create their own schedules or home school. My observation has been that they can make space during the day for kids especially, that we just don’t have. Financial needs have dictated two paychecks in our home. I wish I were called to homeschool. It lasted for my kiddos and me less than 24 hours. It can be especially difficult when one of you are in “paid ministry” while the other is working a “secular job.”

So what ARE some practical things you can do to create family time?

Jesus and then Marriage:

Find time with Jesus just because you love Him. Focus on your spouse BEFORE you focus on your kids. Make sure your marriage is healthy with Christ at the center. If it is not, then having a conversation about family is wasted.


Learn our kids:

You may have heard of the “Love Languages” or personality tests. These are great tools to help understand how your children best feel loved and cared for. Different kids have different needs, ways of communicating and methods they feel cared for.


“Sacred” Family Time Once A Week:

This is time set aside where your only focus is on being together as a family, more than a meal,  several hours where you have fun and just get to know each other as a family.


Sitting Down Time:

It might be impossible to have a full meal together with the schedules in your family. We tried breakfast for a while and none of us were awake. The point is to take at least 30 min a day when you are openly communicating with each other as a family.


Start young and keep it up.

I used to think that there “would come a day when my kids would be too old for…”  Now that my children are  mostly teens we see they need and want us more than ever.  Start habits when they are babies that open lines of communication and keep it up. We “tuck our kids” in to bed. It’s different than the toddler years, but this is now often the time of day our kids know they will get our full attention.


Vacations and Holidays:

It’s important to say it again: Taking an extended time with my family once a year is essential. It’s when we remember we like each other It doesn’t have to be something huge or expensive. Just take time. During holidays when ministry seems to want all of our time, create spaces that let your kids know they are more important than your “responsibilities.”


Electronic Limits:

Is there a time of day when everyone is “docked” and you are all disconnected from technology?  This one takes more discipline for some of us than others. All of us need to stop multitasking and connect with those we live with for a few moments each day.

The point simply is to FIND time as a family. Those we live with need to know they are more important than any of the other people we “minister” to.

- Leneita

YM_pc try it banner

Quit Wine-ing?

 —  July 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

This generation likes to whine.

No surprise, right?

Apparently Millennials also like to “wine.”

teen-drinking-wineAccording to, Millenials are changing the wine industry:

The Millennial generation, which includes the youngest legal drinkers, is consuming more wine than previous generations when they turned 21, and the industry is taking note….

“Historically, wine has been marketed to older generations and came with a huge pretense,” says Melissa Saunders, owner of wine importer Communal Brands. “But this generation is blowing all of that out of the water. They don’t care about the pretentiousness of a wine, they want something that is authentic and speaks to them. This is a huge marketing opportunity.”

Many cultures allow teenagers to drink alcohol at younger ages than America does. That’s not necessarily slowed down parents and extended family from slipping kids “a sip of wine” at weddings or other celebrations.

What do you make of this?

Recently a good friend of mine told me I couldn’t “feel” her pain. She is in her mid-30’s in full time ministry and single. I was engaged by 24, married at 25, babies by 26.

She’s right I happened to get married and have kids pretty quickly. However, I started working in some form of ministry very young, and I know what it’s like to be single, and in ministry.

I know what it’s like to have people walk up to you and ask,  “When you will be next?” when they hear of the engagement of anyone in a 5 mile vicinity. In America we do not have pre-arranged marriages, so I was never sure how to “make this happen.” At the same time everyone thinks you have all the free time, so you can just be the one to “drop your life” when “something needs to be done.”

There seem to be plenty of books out there (especially for us girls) about how we are supposed to make Jesus the center of our lives then we are “ready” for our spouse. This is what I was taught. If I could just “Kiss Dating Goodbye,” and be about the Lord, then my husband would come. It was almost like he was locked behind a door, that would get opened when I had enough faith in Jesus. The problem of course is that we are pursuing Christ while having one eye open on the moment we arrive at enough “Jesus time” to “deserve a spouse.”

Us “married in ministry” folks do a miserable time at helping a lot of times. I  have realized as my friends reach over 30 I don’t always know how to be supportive. The reality is that all of my friends, who aren’t married, would like to be. Yet, at the same time, I know we can’t wave a magic wand and our “prince” shows up. How many of us have heard stories of parents and grandparents who knew each other for like a week and then planned a wedding soon thereafter, only to go on to be married for 50 years? So in our idiocy we start looking around for viable options of other “singles” for you. You date someone for like a minute and we want to talk about the wedding. We mean well, but we are not always helpful.

Part of the solution is that we realize unmarried does not equal undead. Paul himself talked about ministry and singleness being a good combination. You can’t just snap fingers and “get married” so living like you need it to come along any sec can just be frustrating. So my “single” friends know that for now they do just focus on where Christ has them and then see if/when a spouse comes along. So I guess this article is really to us married folks. We need to back off, and for now, let the single be single.

God has each life… He really does…



(yawns, stretches)


My computer drives me crazy on a daily basis for this very reason. Sometimes it locks up because I’m multi-tasking beyond its memory capabilities. Other times it takes a long time to process a video I’m downloading or creating.

You have this in your life, too.

Your smartphone that never seems to operate as fast as you want it to. The cashier doesn’t get you through the line as fast as you want. Your route home in traffic is slower than normal for no reason that you can tell.

And then there’s generational lag.

Watch this video and see if you can relate at all to being in a room full of teenagers and yet being off in some category of the conversation:

What is that category for you?

For example, as hip and in-touch as I assume I am, I’m always amazed at how little I know of who’s who at music/teen awards ceremonies. How have you ever felt like that over something in culture… or simply in terms of what’s happening in your student’s lives?

How can we reclaim our lag time?



Honestly, I can’t remember how our small group discussion ended up here. All of a sudden a very animated 16 year old yelled,

“I hate it when adults tell me I have potential.”

“Why?”  I inquired.  In my own mind that is a great word that helps others understand that we were made for more.

The boy continued, “Well,  first of all I mostly hear the word from teachers or my parents when I am getting lectured. It never really seems positive. Also, I don’t ever feel like I am allowed to make mistakes. It’s like everyone just thinks I am a mess. When I do something right, it’s like that was wrong.” I wanted to make sure I understood. “So what I hear you saying is that you feel like people just think you can’t get ever get it right? When you do that is just a deviation from the norm. What you want is people to see that you are really not trying to mess up. It just happens sometimes.” (Yes, I used the word deviation. Yes, I had to explain what I meant by that.)  His eyes went wide, “Exactly! It’s like when adults say “potential,” they can’t see I’m trying.”

As I listened “between the lines,”  I realized this young many was saying,  “Help me don’t talk at me.”

So in those moments when we need to call a student to “more,”  how do we? For the reason we throw words like “potential” around is often because we feel our students are either going down the wrong path or are just plain apathetic.

What’s the approach?

 Make Sure They Know WHOM They Belong To:

1 John 3:1a tells us,  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  I asked some students recently “Do you know what it means to be God’s child and the benefits that come with that?”  None of them could give me an answer. They would describe themselves as “Christians” and had grown up in the church. We must help them know when Salvation comes we now belong to Jesus, learning to live in that.

Let Them Mess Up and Wrestle with the Hard Stuff:

Our role in a teen’s life is to help them know what following Jesus looks like. We also need to recognize that sometimes they may wander. Other times they turn around and want to know,  “Why does following Jesus look like this?”  Many times they are trying to figure out what being with Jesus means. When we see destruction ahead our role is to tell them what it looks like, and how to avoid it.  Then we need to trust they will ask the right questions and stay on the narrow path.

Walk It Out:

Here is how Christ modeled reaching our “potential:”

I will do it  - You watch.   (Miracles performed, life lived, lessons taught.)

You do it  -  I will watch.  (Sending out of the disciples twice while he was still on earth to cast out demons and spread the good news.)

You do.  (Jesus sent them out.)

“There is nothing sadder to those of us who disciple kids, when we see you get stuck and not want to change,”  I told this boy. “We can see Jesus wants you to lead where you are now. So many times we see you walk away, and it hurts our hearts. We use the word “potential,” because we see you choosing to turn away from who the Lord is calling you to be. However, I want you to know that all of us, me and the other leaders, we haven’t reached our potential either. Being all Jesus wants us to be takes us into eternity. Potential doesn’t have to be a bad word, it all depends on how we spin it.

Do your students have “potential?”

…and I don’t mean parents. I’m talking grandparents, the old ladies in the women’s group, the crotchety dudes who grumble when students wear hats in the Sanctuary. The answer to the title question? Of course they do!

Can you believe that I STILL run into YP’s who say their counselors really shouldn’t be older than college-age? I consult with search committees who still describe their perfect youth pastor as a guitar-playing, b-ball throwing, surfboard-skimming, young married dude whose wife will also serve FT in the YM (for free, of course).

So as we’re all recruiting volunteers for the new school/youth ministry year, do yourself (and your students) a big favor: start with older people in your church. The secret? Ask them the right questions. Put them in the places they feel comfortable, where they can use their giftedness. Oftentimes, we frighten off potential older volunteers (who have time available and are WAY more dependable than many other vols) by our approach: too fast, too quickly asked, too confusing, too big, etc.

Older people can do more than just bring cookies. Here’s a list of volunteer roles older folks can fulfill in your YM:

1) Closet Coordinator: Every youth room has a supply closet that needs a mom’s touch.

2) Weekly Supply Organizer: Get your SS teachers s what they need by having a team get the SS rooms ready.

3) Garage Sale Gurus: Have a list of upcoming supplies/props the YM will need and put these folks on the hunt.

4) Prayer Partners: Have each student in your YM prayed for daily by an older person.

5) Divine Design: Your youth room is a MESS! Have someone come in once a month and straighten it up!

6) Data Divas: Many older folks are computer savvy. Have them keep your student data/attendance up-to-date.

7) Craft Coordinators: There is a segment of your students who are the creative, artsy, crafty type and someone to teach crochet (or whatever) would be cool.

8) Paperwork Police: Yeah, why not lesson the chaos for the adult chaperones at events or when leaving on a trip by bringing in a few folks to collect the paperwork? Can’t hire an admin? Schedule older vols for a few hours each day.

9) Who-knows-who: Older folks know a lot of people and they know others in your church that can help with what you need. Put them on your recruiting team.

10) ADULT COUNSELORS!: Of course older people can be a part of your team in face-to-faith ministry with students. The best way I can share this precept is from a friend of mine, Amanda Berger, who is the president of a ministry to girls called Soul Sisterhood. She runs “girls only” camp weeks and for the last 2 years, she brought a Camp Grandma on staff and has had HUGE positive results. You’ll hear from her on a few days and then a few days after that? You’ll hear from the Camp Grandma herself. Stay tuned.