I worshipped at Asbury First UMC this morning in Rochester, NY. I’d been here all weekend helping their youth ministry vision for the future through a staff transition. I was SO busy in my moments that I almost missed the God moment.

Rumor had it that Communion Sundays run way long at AFUMC. I had stuff to print out for the YM mtg after church, so I planned a quiet escape before communion was served. I needed to move things along so I could beat it to the airport before the impending snow flurries. I had things to do and I could get communion next week!

So there i was, waiting to bolt. The Words of Institution had been spoken, the liturgy was being sung and I had my coat in hand ready to dart out the side door as soon as the choir moved.

And then it happened.

A homeless man started down the aisle from way in the back. He was making a beeline to the altar rail. All eyes were on him because no one else had moved yet. The elements were still being distributed. It was too soon!

But he was anxious to get there. He was excited. He wanted his piece of Jesus and so when the pastor whispered “we’re not quite ready,” he said, “that’s ok, I’ll wait.”

In this formal, high-church, liturgical setting, a homeless man was served first. Society’s last went to the front of the line and I was privileged to witness it.

I can’t tell what outnumbered what: the smiles or the tears among the many watchers. But I knew I wanted me some of whatever the homeless man was having. I was fed like I hadn’t been in awhile.

And I almost missed it.

(And still made it thru the snow to BUF)

When I read Josh’s poll about ministry education it got me thinking about who I am and where I have come from. It got me thinking can I integrate my lessons learned from the past to make me a better student pastor?

Now I have a varied background when it comes to how I got to where I am now working with students from grade 8-young adults (18-25). I started volunteering in ministry as soon as I could, when I was in Jr high I helped out with Sunday school, as I progressed to high school I helped out with junior high students when I moved on to college I began to help out with high school students.

My education is also a bit of a mess if you looked at it on paper. I spent time in Bible school obtaining a Diploma in Christian Studies at which time I decided to take time off of school to work in full time camp ministry. I eventually returned to school to take a Wilderness Leadership certificate. My thinking was if I have more technical experience I would become a better outdoorsman. After returning to camp ministry for a brief period I believed God was calling me on to something different. I worked for 3 years in the death care industry, learning simple lessons from working with people grieving. After this I ended up going to school to become a Paramedic, and right after I finished my practicum, training and licensing as a Paramedic I landed in my current position. Now I am working full time with students but also working on my Masters in Christian studies with an emphasis on Biblical exposition.

Now I am sure if a lot of churches looked at this they would laugh and move along in the pile of resumes that came into them for a position, but where I have come from gives me a lot to stand on.

My Christian studies are used daily as I teach and preach, these skills are closely tied to my job. It is without question in my mind that some type of biblical training whether formal or informal greatly helps one in their ministry.

My time in camp ministry and taking wilderness leadership has given me the unique opportunity to take students into the outdoors and use nature to teach about God. I take students whitewater rafting, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, my goal is to even do a canoe trip or a multi-day wilderness excursion.

Working in the death care industry helped me understand working with grieving people. Now I am not a gifted counselor but students are going through a lot, and sometimes they are grieving. With having experience in this area I can feel comfortable talking to them. I might not know what they are going through but I can navigate through this area of trouble.

Training as a paramedic is useful. At All-nighters I have dealt with concussions, cuts, breaks, sprains and the list will continue to grow, with my understanding of first aid and medicine I am equipped to hand these injuries and it has given me a lot of credit with parents. I would encourage you if you don’t have any first aid, take a class it will increase your credibility with parents in your church.

It is hard to see for many how my journey has ended up where I am at along the road. But when I look at it, I see areas where I have unique strengths that help me in my ministry. I also see where God has taken me to help patch up weaknesses to make me a better servant.

Please take some time and share where you have been. I think it would be encouraging to hear the stories of how God has tailored each one of us to be the servant we are today.

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.comor Twitter: @CorbinKyle.

As a kid I used to dream big, and you probably did too. Not NHL or NBA big. I’m talking hero to thousands big! Someone who would receive global recognition for their efforts and heroism. As I grew up these dreams changed and altered to varying degrees but more or less, I always wanted to be a hero. If I heard on the news that there was a devastating Tsunami with millions injured or political wars over economic crises, I often dreamt of being the one to come up with a solution and being recognized as, you guessed it – the hero. Or, on road trips with family I would stare outside the window watching telephone pole after telephone pole with a glossy look on my face not paying attention to what I was looking at but letting my imagination run wild. Dreaming of someone in need of a knight in shining armor, thinking of those who needed a savior. Wanting to be like Spiderman or Superman there was something in that desired victory. Heroism wasn’t something someone told me to think about, it was just there. It is just there even today.

Why bring up this desire for victory? Because it is likely that many students across the world have these same desires. I have been in church for many years now. And I want to submit this notion that the victory of Christ at the moment of the Resurrection should not be highlighted solely on Easter Sunday. In my studies I’ve come across a picture of Jesus known as the Christ Pantocrator. Pantocrator in Greek simply means “Almighty” or “All-powerful” and the image is one that emphasizes the all powerful victory and strength of Christ at the destruction of sin and death at the Cross and Resurrection. Students who desire victory need to know that they can live in Victory - Christ’s victory. The yearning for victory and the success of the greatest victory is exampled in Jesus Christ. Preaching victory is preaching the Gospel. Students of all ages need to be reminded that the greatest victory has been accomplished and as we dream of victory, the reality is we can have victory in Christ.

If a students desire or vision for victory is never encouraged how does one expect that student to walk victory in their life? If there is no constant reminder that Jesus is victorious, what encouragement do we have to be victorious in a fallen world? The victory of Christ is central to the Christian message. If Christ has not been raised, Paul would argue, then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins; in other words, we have no victory (1 Cor. 15:17). As a kid, the desire for victory was always there but I constantly dwelled upon what my victory could look like for my name, fame and glory. That desire for victory in light of the work of Christ enables students to walk in confidence for the name, fame and glory of Christ. The desire for victory is present within us all. Lest we forget that Christ actually was, and is, victorious.

Ryan McCurdy serves as a volunteer at Revolution which is the Youth and Young Adults Ministry at Christian Life Assembly in Langley B.C. You can follow him at Twitter here. 


One of the joys of working with youth is how spontaneous and creative the ministry can be. It feels so free flowing and easy going. Most youth pastors cherish this aspect of the ministry, but there is another side that a lot of us youth leaders fear and struggle with: administration.

The stereotype for youth leaders and youth pastors is that they are wild, free-for-all types who lack organizational skills. Often, this stereotype is closer to the truth than we’d like to admit. Yet this is unfortunate because there is power in being organized. Some examples from Scripture come to mind. Joseph’s knack for planning caused Egypt to become the most powerful nation on earth. Nehemiah organized the impressive construction project of rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem. Paul led a network of churches that spanned hundreds of miles even before the days of technology. None of these great feats could have been accomplished with a leader who was disorganized.

I know that organization is a skill that comes easily for only a handful of people. But it is something we all must address. An organized youth leader is able to accomplish more because he/she is on top of things. Events go more smoothly because they are well prepared for. Less students fall through the cracks because we can track their participation. Growth is easier to measure. Volunteer leaders become more dependable because they are not always frustrated. Students are better cared for because you know where they are it. Teaching is more well-rounded because you have a scope and plan for your material. There is a whole host of benefits to being well organized.

If you are not very good at being organized, you need to learn from or delegate to someone who is. It is too important a skill to be careless with. Here is a list of questions to help you get thinking about being organized:

  • Is your event schedule planned at least three months in advance?
  • Do your volunteers have job descriptions?
  • Do you have mission, vision, and value’s outlined on paper?
  • Are you keeping track of attendance?
  • Do you have a way of contacting parents at a moment’s notice?
  • Are you aware of exactly how much money you’ve spent from your budget, and on what?
  • Have you set any short and long term goals?
  • Are you keeping track of your Bible teaching so that you can confidently say you are teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)

Hopefully these questions will give you an idea of where you need to improve organizationally. It might feel at first like the task is too daunting, but the truth is that once you do the hard work of putting the right systems in place, being organized is a lot more enjoyable than winging it all the time. It is freeing. So get organized and get ‘er done!

Jeremy Edgar is the Youth Pastor Bible Fellowship Church in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, Canada


Authentic encouragement is an important part of a successful youth ministry.  Here are some tips to effectively encourage students.
Don’t just tell a student that they rock.  Tell them why they rock.  The more specific you are the more encouraging it is to the student.
It’s very easy to sound condescending when you are trying to be encouraging.  Make sure that you are not talking down to them, and be aware of your tone. When in doubt practice the statement with yourself or another adult leader to test if it is condescending.  I know that may seem weird, but it is better than inadvertently being condescending to a student when you are just trying to encourage them.
Students can tell when you aren’t being sincere.  Don’t try to fake it, mean what you say!
Middle Students are the students who are not the rough students, but also aren’t the really outgoing talented ones.  These students are the most neglected, and need the most encouragement.
This is not the time to talk about yourself, or sneakily brag about yourself.  This is all about them and for them.
You may be the only person that ever encourages them.  So go in with that mindset with every student, because it may be true.
Make encouraging a common practice in your life.  You may not be a natural encourager, but the more you do it the easier it gets.
Derek Parson is the youth pastor at Shippensburg Church of the Nazarene in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  He has a youth ministry blog:www.youthministrycafe.com.



Helping your child make wise choices about sex and dating requires more than just one chat. It’s about building bridges of ongoing dialogue throughout the teenage years.

But youth workers Mark Oestreicher and Joel Mayward realize many parents don’t feel comfortable or prepared to have these kinds of conversations. That’s why they wrote A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex and Dating to equip you to initiate healthy, honest discussions with your teenager. This book will also help you understand some of the relevant trends and issues in today’s youth culture.

Your role as a parent is to do more than provide your teenager with information about sex and dating. You have the opportunity and the calling to help your child live wisely and honor God in this sometimes tricky, occasionally awkward, and always vital area of life.

Order your copy of A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex and Dating NOW!



About the Authors:::

 MARK OESTREICHER (Marko) is a veteran youth worker and founding partner in The Youth Cartel, providing resources, training, and coaching for church youth workers. The author of dozens of books, including Youth Ministry 3.0, Marko is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant. Marko lives in San Diego with his wife, Jeannie, and teenage children, Liesl and Max. Marko’s blog: whyismarko.com.

JOEL MAYWARD is a pastor, writer, husband, and father living in Langley, British Columbia. Joel loves youth ministry, movies, and theology and writes about it all at his blog, joelmayward.blogspot.com.

What in the world am I doing here? I fumbled my way through the Sunday morning lesson while 50 teens chatted and ignored me completely. I couldn’t do this. Why would God put me here where I was obviously not wanted?

Three years after we left volunteer youth ministry, God called us back in. This time as the leaders.

Our church had been without a lead pastor for around six months, and now their beloved youth pastor was moving on. They needed someone to keep the youth ministry going until pastors could be hired. For some crazy reason, God called my husband and me.

It was one of the hardest, sweetest, trying, and tearful 14 months of my life. It was wonderful.

The world of youth ministry was not foreign to us, but the world of leading one was. Without the proper training, our education came from the trenches. Here’s a little of what we discovered:

Own your ministry.

When we came in, we miserably attempted to recreate all the activities that everyone was so fond of. Every single one of them bombed. After about two months we realized that we had to be who we were. Things went much more smoothly after that.

God will provide.

I was convinced that God had closed that door forever on working with teens, and being back was not really where my heart was. I asked God to give me a love for these students because I simply didn’t have it in me. He was faithful to pour that into me, so much so that as the weight of it came over me, I second guessed that desire!

Establish healthy boundaries.

It didn’t take long for ministry to take over many areas of our lives, blurring some of our boundaries and creating a mess. My husband and I had to learn to respect each other and our differences. We established stronger time boundaries which also helped us in our personal lives.

Youth ministry is hard.

Yes, you know that. But seriously, volunteer sponsors really have no idea! We spent hours and hours helping, working, and serving in youth ministry, but still had no idea how much harder it is to be the guy in charge! It’s extraordinarily hard. And every youth pastor/director should be given something really awesome, like ice cream.

Simple can be good.

With our lack of proper training, an existing full time job, and not as many volunteers as we would like (can I hear an amen?) our students had to fill in the gaps. The amazing thing about this was that they did. And they were awesome! They learned and grew right alongside us. They got to experience the difficulties and take ownership of their ministry.

The biggest thing I learned was that God is in control and working bigger and better things than I can ever imagine.

I am just thankful he let me have a part in it.

Melissa Duggan  just wrapped up a year of working as the Interim Youth Director at her church and is now (again) happily being the support guy in student ministry.

My first year in ministry has been incredibly awesome, incredibly hard, and easily the best year I’ve had yet. It has been so great to look back and reflect on all of the successes and… not successes that I’ve had this year and see how much God has taught me along the way. I thought I would share a few of the big things that I have learned this year.

Look Around. I’m an ambitious person. I am always looking ahead at what is coming next and always looking at achieving my goals. This has been really helpful in my career, but at the same time, really challenging. It keeps me from pausing and embracing where I am. It seems like it’s so hard to be present. I found before I started working on it, I was rarely satisfied with where I was or what I had. It kept me from taking a break and trying to see what God was trying to teach at that moment, to see what opportunities He was trying to present. So I learned to not just look ahead, but around as well. I learned to try to find out the purpose God has for me in this stage of my life. It is far more important to achieve God’s goal for my life than my own.

Ministry is a Rhythm. A couple weeks ago, our church’s head pastor spoke to our Student Ministries Team. One for the most impactful things that he talked about was that ministry is a series of rhythms. Sometimes we take the things we want to spend our time doing (family time, personal time, ministry time, etc.) and prioritize it or faction it out. We try to make sure that at all times, every part of our life is getting attention. The problem is that isn’t how ministry works. Sometimes you need to spend more time in ministry. You will spend 60 hours in the office and have an event every night of the week, but that is okay. Its okay because you will (eventually) have a time where you don’t need to spend more time in ministry and you will have more time to spend more time by yourself, with your family, or whatever you need. Ministry is a series of ebbs and flows; give and take. This is guilt-free ministry.

Be Expectant. I was originally going to title this point as “Trust God,” but I think that “be expectant” does the idea more justice. Trusting God is an action, a great action, but being expectant is a mentality and a lifestyle. The last year was filled with uncertainty. Whether it was the success of an event or my future in general, I was so afraid that God wasn’t going to provide and I focused more on being okay with things not working out than expecting God to show up. I wasn’t praying the “big” prayers because I was afraid I’d be disappointed if it didn’t come through. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes God doesn’t provide in the ways that we want and that can be disappointing, but He always provides in the ways that we need. We need to be praying those big prayers and expecting God to show up in big ways.

For most of you, your first year of ministry wasn’t very recent… but you are still learning! What are some of the biggest lessons God has taught you during your time in ministry?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.